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Bioshock: The Retrospective

During E3’s massive presence overshadowing everything else in existence, I decided to rebuild my PC’s system. There was some initial failure but now my system ruins better than ever. Okay, my graphics run slightly better because I can get the new Direct X stuff. So I thought it’d be neat to celebrate my new setup by talking about some games I have on the Xbox.

I’ve always liked the Bioshock games: In a time where regenerating health or shields forced everyone into cover, Irrational Games thought to give us health packs, rpg elements and interactive environments. These ideas weren’t new, but they were a breath of fresh air with the constant stream of “realistic shooters”. However, with the recent release of Bioshock Infinite, in which they got rid of the health packs and interactive environments, I thought it might be time to post a comparative analysis.spoiler

Gameplay:

The first Bioshock was a well-balanced mix of shooting and rpg mechanics. By “rpg mechanics” I don’t mean the Plasmids, or the magic abilities, I mean the ability to upgrade your power. You could win by just shooting guns, but if you wanted your gameplay to be easier and more manageable, you’d take the time to get the best equipment upgrades and powers. Using a healthy mix of shooting and magic could see you through with very little difficulty.BalancedThe second Bioshock actually differed a fair bit from its predecessor. Sure, there were still the same eight weapons and many of the same plasmids but 2K Marin decided to offer more choices while forcing a limitation into the total choices you can make. You can no longer get all of the upgrades for all of the weapons, but to compensate, they gave each weapon a third upgrade that could some interesting things. The end result created a system firmly on the side of RPG. I, personally, didn’t fire a shot after I got the ability to summon security bots.swarm

Bioshock Infinite, on the other hand, thought the best way to continue the Bioshock experience was to focus on shooting guns, and then focus even more on shooting guns. They removed any resource management by getting read of your inventory, special ammo, the large arsenal of weapons, and any strong effectiveness of any of your powers. In return, they gave you regenerating shields and a two-weapon limit. Admittedly, they added in a pretty cool travelling mechanic, but it smacks strongly of the vehicle sections in other realistic shooters… but on rails.Shooting

If gameplay is the lead definer of a game, than Infinite is the least like a Bioshock game. I personally enjoyed Bioshock 2 the most.

Environment:

Bioshock 1 took place in a ruined, underwater, city. It was dirty and dystrophic, dark and dank, dilapidated and destroyed. There are security cameras, machine gun turrets and traps; all of which you can take over and use to win the day. At the very least, you can remove those obstacles to avoid taking a lot of damage. There were also several things scattered throughout the levels to help improve your damage: explodey barrels, puddles of water, and oil spills.Bioshock atmosphere

Bioshock 2 has dank oil underwater blah blah blah. It’s an exact copy of Bioshock’s Rapture, but at least they let you take control of turrets from afar.

Bioshock Infinite decided to go completely in the opposite direction. This game takes place in a floating city that’s not ruined at all. It’s bright and solid and filled with people who don’t automatically try to kill you; at first anyway. However, they’ve removed most of the interactivity. There is no hacking bots onto your side, instead they become the same as any other enemy and can be a temporary ally. You can still get turrets on your side, situationally. You can also spawn hooks to jump to, puddles to shock people in or a floating turret. The puddles are tiny, the turrets die quick and the hooks are… hooks I guess.Bioshock-Infinite-Atmosphere

If you want to define a series by its atmosphere, Infinite is the least like a Bioshock game. Not just for the change in scenery but because of all the removal of the rpg elements in every area.

Story:

Bioshock the former is much praised for its story, and rightly so. The twist wasn’t new but the presentation was great. Up until you completed your long-standing goal, that is, then the game dived steeply into a convoluted mess. You play the brainwashed son of a despot and are called in to kill him. The man who brainwashed you is planning on taking over the city. While that fluid thing that controlled the whole city was emptying out of that steam machine, I was preparing to face several waves of enemies and bots before finally having to face off against Fontaine. But no, the thrilling conclusion happens two chapters and several goal shifts later. I’ve read trilogies with more consistency.Biostory

Bioshock the latter had, admittedly, a silly story. You’re a Big Daddy who’s come back from the dead to save your grown little sister and escape. There was also no flair to the presentation. But you know what it did have? A solid progression from beginning to end. You start off as a lowly and abandoned Mark 4 and have to climb yourself up to taking down an empire. The stakes ramp up with each area you visit, and, just as you reach your goal, you’re slammed into the mud. Y’know, act 2 lowest point, but they didn’t feel it necessary to muck up your overall goal. And at the end, you fight through the most resistance you’ve ever faced, the darkest before the dawn thing, and then soar off into the ending, in which you’ve saved your little sister and escaped.

Bio2storyBioshock Infinite missed the point and thought that we just loved convoluted things. You’re playing a man who’s invading a city founded by himself but not really to save a girl who is the daughter of the you that’s not you but it turns out she IS the daughter of you that is you… and there’s a mechanical bird guy thing. But you don’t even get to learn this stuff until the last 15 minute exposition walk-a-long. The story progression looks like a tangent wave. You rescue the girl and escape. Then something happens and you have to go rescue the girl and escape. You do that again, but something happens and now you have to escape. But then you decide not to escape. The resolution has very little to do with the goal you were working on since the beginning.BioIstory

If you were to define a game by the story… then why not just read a book, you dink? Still, Bioshock 2 would be the least like the other two. But that’s only because the ending is supposed to be shit.

Final analysis is that I’d be treating Bioshock Infinite better if it weren’t a Bioshock game. They cut out all the interesting game bits of Bioshock and replaced it with the blandest game bits of Halo. If they were to remove references to Bioshock stuff and change the vigors to something else, then I would put it on the same level as Modern Warfare or Call of Duty.

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