Written by: The CinCitizens
Hint: It's not Bioshock. Except for the fact that it totally is.
Two of the world's foremost minds in the world of video-gaming come forward this week to debate Bioshock's place atop CC2K's list of the best video games of the year. Defending the greatness of Bioshock is Austin Pearl. Arguing against its majesty is CC2K Video Game Editor Big Ross, who despises Bioshock so much that he himself named it his game of the year.
So in the interest of intellectual gymnastics, please read on to see Big Ross attempt to dismantle his own arguments in favor Bioshock, while Austin Pearl dissents.
Arguing against Bioshock is CC2K Video Game Editor Big Ross:
1. Bioshock does not live up to its potential. Bioshock certainly offers gamers an enjoyable single player experience. But let’s be honest here. Role-playing elements aside, Bioshock is a first-person shooter (FPS), and often games in this genre live and die by their multiplayer component. Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare are just two examples of FPSs released this year, both of which offer excellent multiplayer components. It would be one thing for Bioshock to have mediocre multiplayer content; that it is lacking any whatsoever is reprehensible. How awesome would it have been to be running and gunning through the dilapidated environs of Rapture in a team death match? Think of all the maps that could have been generated from locations left unexplored in the single-player game? Or what a kick ass experience it would be to have the combination of augmented weaponry as well as powerful plasmids at your disposal in a heated free-for-all? We’ll never know, and that is most unfortunate.
2. Bioshock is not as original as it seems. While lauded for its originality and uniqueness, Bioshock is perhaps not as deserving of such regard if one considers how uncannily similar it is to System Shock and System Shock 2. The developers of these games and Bioshock are one and the same, and they have even stated that, “Bioshock is a spiritual successor to the System Shock games.” There are several comparable gameplay elements: plasmids in Bioshock serve the same function as "Psionic Abilities" in System Shock 2; the player needs to deal with security cameras, turrets, and drones, and has the ability to hack them; ammunition conservation is stressed as "a key gameplay feature"; and audio recordings fulfill the same storytelling role that e-mail logs did in the System Shock games. The phantom images seen replaying tragic incidents from the past are an element used both in System Shock 2 and Bioshock, as do modifiable weapons with multiple ammunition types. Additionally, Atlas guides the player along by radio, in much the same way Janice Polito does in System Shock 2, with each having a similar twist mid-game. Both games also give the player more than one method of completing tasks, allowing for emergent gameplay. None of this makes Bioshock a bad game or detract from it being a great game, but with this in mind, how is it any different from some of the other sequels that came out this year?
3. Bioshock suffers from a fatal flaw. That is, simply put, death is meaningless. In most FPSs there is an auto-save feature or some kind of checkpoint system. At certain points throughout a game your progress will be automatically saved. If you die before you reach the next checkpoint, you will have no choice but to reload your earlier save point, retread you steps, and attempt not to repeat that unfortunate bit of history. In this way games insert a sense of danger where really there is none, because unlike in The Matrix, if you die in-game you do not die in the real world (though can you imagine a future where such gaming systems are possible? Yikes!). Yet in Bioshock, even this small sense of danger is lost with the inclusion of a series of regeneration pods scattered throughout the game. They work like checkpoints, but there is a significant distinction. When one is activated, if then get killed by some powerful enemy, you respawn in real-time. This means while you are rejuvenated with full health and the same arsenal, whatever enemy caused your untimely demise is still bearing any damage you inflicted before t did so. Essentially this means that even on the highest difficulty the game is not very challenging, and that tends to take all the fun out of it.
The case against Bioshock rests.
Austin Pearl, in defense of Bioshock:
1. A great man once said "It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea, it was impossible to build it anywhere else"; and I'm saying that while it was not impossible to include multiplayer, it was impossible to make it live up to the rest of the game. While the thought of battling it out with buddies in previously unseen dilapidated environs of Rapture sounds sweet enough to make any gamer giddy (yes, we are like excited children playing with new toys), consider the most likely scenario: Bioshock would have released with an amazing story, graphics, and gameplay; but the multiplayer would have been mediocre. The decision by 2K to not include multiplayer ironically probably contributed to Bioshock receiving many a 9.5s and 10s as opposed to 9.0s (on a 10 point scale for those of you who are "challenged") by reviewers. The developers had a concept: tell an amazing story from the first person that is scary, lasts long, looks amazing, and has enough substance that we'll be talking about it for years. There is no doubt that had 2K spent the time and effort on multiplayer, the aforementioned qualities that make Bioshock game of the year would have suffered. Furthermore, Bioshock as a multiplayer game would have had to compete with Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 as multiplayer games – a tall if not impossible order. As these games include vehicles, environments that are perfectly suited for battle (all of Bioshock's environs are enclosed levels as opposed to open hilly fields since it takes place in a giant man made structure), and gameplay mechanics that are intended for multiplayer (such as sniper rifles as opposed to plasmids). Because Bioshock shines as much as it does where it was intended, it is irreplaceable for any gamer's library.
2. As someone who has never played the System Shock games I cannot point out what gameplay mechanics in Bioshock are new because they may have been in System ShockBioshock such as hacking turrets and psionic abilities may not be new – there is extraordinarily little in games or movies that are. I Am Legend, for instance, is on its third iteration of the same story! The revenge plot of Gladiator has been told more times than one can count, yet how many of us loved it? We loved it because its presentation was incredible, and nowhere is the presentation more incredible than in Bioshock. Furthermore, although Bioshock uses several tools that are included in prior games by the same developer, a very small number of people have actually played those games, so they're still original enough to earn Bioshock critical acclaim (On a side note, I just thought of something, I think we need more exploding barrels in video games; developers get out your notepads). To answer the question: The other sequels that came out this year regurgitated gameplay mechanics that weren't nearly as original to begin with. Lastly, the most innovative element of Bioshock is the story itself, which is as innovative as any movie that came out in the last year. In fact, it's debatable if a movie iteration could even be done because it may not even be necessary. (and then I'd look pretty stupid). So I will say this: While some of the gameplay mechanics in
3. While Bioshock's death system will be a legitimate criticism for some (such as that Japanese kid at the arcade who would always beat everyone using Dhalsim), this was another decision by 2K that suites the type of game Bioshock is – an eye popping epic that is meant to tingle the senses, and a story that is meant to be experienced by ALL who play it. As someone whose quit quite a few games due to difficulty (including the original Super Mario Bros because I would always run out of time on level 8), I thank god for those regeneration pods… I found the difficulty level (played on medium), length, and pacing of Bioshock perfect to wow my senses, hold my attention, and then give me a sense of satisfaction upon completion.
Yes, Big Ross is right, Connor Macleod did say “There can be only one," and for 2007 it is most certainly Bioshock … and you know what else? Um … well … errr … WE DIDN'T LAND ON RAPTURE, RAPTURE LANDED ON US!