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Why I’m Skeptical About BioShock 2

I’ve been a gamer for almost two decades now. I’ve seen things that no manual or guide book can prepare you for, and one of these things is Rapture. Once in a blue moon a game chooses to become something different, it decides to stop playing by the book and invent its own rules and magic. BioShock was a demonstration of what happens when great ideology mixes with great art design. Nothing prepared me, or spoiled me, for what lay in Rapture halls. I can safely say that I emerged from my time under the ocean, changed, not spliced up but more of a resonating change within me. I was no longer a gamer, I was an observer of art. It still remains as one of the most powerful and brilliantly crafted pieces of interactive entertainment.

That is why a sequel was out of the question.

BioShock didn’t have great closure, even an admirer such as myself will admit that. It had a cheap final boss and the ending equivalent of you either being the second coming of Jesus (saving all the girls) or the Devil’s re-incarnation (harvesting them). Some point at the last hour all the creative genius sort of fell apart into another mindless shooter. To keep my spirits high I ended up worshiping every audio diary I found. Yes the ending was a let down but I still think, to this day, BioShock could never have a true sequel. To my discomfort, that sequel is releasing on Tuesday. Today I wish to examine the  four main points of why I am still skeptical.

1. Story and Characters – This is what set BioShock apart from the flock, its characters and rich universe was a giant heap of creative brilliance. Jordan Thomas, the Creative Director of BioShock 2, said that “Rapture is the most fertile place for story and character development.” I completely agree, but I still wish to reply to that with the question “Why go forward in time?”. A whole decade passes by BioShock 1 and 2, and I’m no expert on anything, but there’s always limited supplies of everything. The city must HAVE just totally collapsed at one point, food would have run out, splicers/humans would have all died out. Ten years is a long time, I’m not sure enough people would have survived that long.

This brings me to the main protagonist, you, a Big Daddy. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the fact that the tables turn, with you becoming the big hulk of metal. Of all the videos I have seen, and trailers, the Big Daddy you play as a yellow-glass visor, yet his vision is completely clear. Maybe he was genetically altered in such a way he can see through yellow glass (he has already been given complete free will). Fact still remains, I don’t want to be a Big Daddy. Maybe I’ll see Rapture through someone else’s eyes, a drastic change from being just a human in a dead man’s dream (Rapture). I’m not accusing the Big Daddy change of anything… yet.

Anything change which I wholeheartedly hate is the placement of a new philosophical dispenser/ Ryan-woman. Sofia Lamb. I can already hear those all too familiar philosophies singing throughout the halls of Rapture, I already imagine discovering the audio diaries of Ryan and wishing myself back to the simpler times. Ryan is irreplaceable. There are, apparently, audio diaries of Lamb and Ryan having big debates over philosophy and structure of Rapture.. how come we haven’t seen this before? How come I haven’t heard of Lamb before? I think that Lamb’s name was mentioned in a audio diary but how come… so many questions. I would look at the BioShock wiki to prove myself wrong, but that place is full of spoilers at the moment.

2. Multiplayer

BioShock does not need multiplayer, it never shall and I will stand by this point till the day I die. I’m not sure if this is simply caving into popular demand or wishing to expand the universe, since I actually agree with what it is trying to expand. Multiplayer takes place in the civil war of Rapture, between Fontaine and Ryan. Instead of just a ‘quick match’ option,  you get the opportunity to choose a character and explore their apartment. You can listen to their audio diaries, customize your character and pretty much walk around a piece of Rapture’s history. An interesting alternative to what we usually see, but still a trap. The main focus of multiplayer is to just shoot to kill, which I firmly believe has no place in BioShock. BioShock is more about your own personal experience through the stories and characters, the emotional involvement can never be a social event or something you can experience with friends.

3. Familiarity

The IGN review already mentioned this, BioShock 2 feels too familiar. You can show us new parts of Rapture but you can’t show us new plasmids or tonics, unless those were hidden from Jack’s trek into the underbelly of the beast. You can’t change the Big Daddies, the Adam, anything really. Gameplay itself may suffer from feeling the same, for the most part, you’re using just re-skinned weapons and new abilities with plasmids. I wasn’t expecting a revolution in the gameplay, I welcome all the new changes that will improve the game, one important one is being able to hold plasmids and weapons at the same time. Maybe I expect too much but I think it suffers from being a sequel, it would even suffer from being a Prequel. You know what’s going to happen, although some story elements could have been bent. To me, the time period of the original BioShock was perfect, just at the right point when most of the splicers were alive and Rapture descended into permanent Hell.

4. Sadness

There’s no doubt that the original BioShock was full of sadness and moral decay. A once great civilization turned into the world’s fastest growing pile of junk. When BioShock ended, I didn’t feel full closure, but I understood why it ended. It needed a happy ending after so much sadness and heavy philosophy, you needed time to chew the brain food, maybe too much time. BioShock was such a powerful piece of art, even if it did have a horrible ending, that nothing could ever rival or be based off it. It was an enclosed experience, one that can only be done once. You can never reach the same balance that the original BioShock did.

Even  after all of these points, I want to be proved wrong. I want to look back on this article and wish to trash it, for it to totally blow me away. I know it will never be as good as the original BioShock, largely because it was BIOSHOCK, the game-changing innovation that broke my emotional entanglement with video games. But I want it to be a tribute, a good tribute.

Maybe years from now we’ll have a BioShock 3, and I’ll write the same article. Maybe I’ll say this.

“It will never be good as BioShock 2 but nothing will ever rival the original.

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  • I played through the original and loved it. The story ended without ANY reason for a sequel. Therefore, I have no real desire to play this right away. I can bide my time until it hits Platinum Hits.

    • wertyu

      can you store food in bioshock 2 and use it for later someone please tell me

  • Interesting piece.

    Having just completed by own replay of Bioshock, the need for a sequel– at least in the storyline sense– seems silly. Why go back to Rapture, other than the fact that we can? Perhaps we’ll learn more after playing and getting to know all of the story’s factors, but it’s hard to fathom how the experience can be bettered.

    Multiplayer is a byproduct of the times. The industry has decided for us that we don’t want single-player games anymore; we need to play against someone and shoot the hell out of them, even if the a new story arc has to be created to make it happen. I might play multiplayer, but I know that it was never intended for the game.

    I will say, however, that familiarity might not be a bad thing in certain situations. Some of the best moments from Metal Gear Solid 4 for me were familiar ones, even if there were new things going on in those settings.

    It’s a no-risk situation for me since the game’s arrival is a belated holiday gift from family… but I can see the skepticism angle and your points are quite valid.

  • Doodlebob

    Yeah…I’m sCeptic too. (pronounced, sep tic, right?)
    You spelt skeptic wrong.
    Next time you go on a rant, use spell check.

    • Nathan Hardisty

      Actually you’ll find ‘sceptic’ to be the English way of spelling it. Our site is largely an American based site, and we have many conflicts of language.

      I’m not spelling wrong at all, if I was then my spellchecker would help me out. It’s just I live in England I’m not always aware of the American spellings of many words.

      • lara

        You may be spelling it right, but you’re using it incorrectly. It should say ‘Why I’m Sceptical..etc’. The way you are currently using it makes no sense.

        And the copy-editing in this is atrocious. Not commenting on the content here, with which my views mostly align, but the grammar, comma over-usage by someone who does not really seem to understand how they are deployed, the awkward phrasing and incorrect usage of words…

        It may be useful to ask someone with an excellent command of English to edit these for you before you publish. Certainly not a problem in day-to-day life, but running a professional site this standard isn’t good enough.

        (I’m free and will accept payment in games, cookies or ducats!)

        • lara

          Lest that sound too harsh, I did love this turn of phrase:

          ‘Maybe I’ll see Rapture through someone else’s eyes, a drastic change from being just a human in a dead man’s dream.’

          That was lovely.

  • blah

    “the emotional involvement can never be a social event or something you can experience with friends.”

    I loved discussing bioshock with my friends. The game is so rich with consideration of deep social problems. I welcome another good multiplayer shooter, even if it has little place within the universe of an epic single player shooter.

  • Stephen Stitt

    I will be blunt and upfront. I believe Bioshock to be an incredibly romanticised game. I doubt you could find many gamers who could coherently and convincingly argue against Bioshocks achievements in terms of art direction, however after this does the game really amaze? The gameplay was solid, however combat was nothing special, instead it was competent and the puzzle solving never felt anything other than mildly taxing. Then we come to the story, was it really THAT memorable? A brilliant visionary concieves of an intellectual utopia that falls when set against mans baser nature. As for immersion, maybe it was just me, but I never felt and real emotional connection to the characters or their story. Better examples of the game that bioshock tried to be are not hard to find: Valves Half Life or Bethesdas Fallout 3. So if Bioshock 2 turns out to be ‘just’ a well produced and fun to play FPS what’s so bad about that? That is exactly what the first Bioshock was.

  • bioticste

    I think you shouldn’t judge until you’ve completed the game. I have high hopes. And in English it’s SCEPTIC in American it’s SKEPTIC.

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