Friday, September 7, 2007

BioShock: Post-finishing thoughts and splitting hairs

It's no secret that BioShock has, in many minds, lived up to expectations and is considered a game of the year candidate in all circles. You know that a game is good when fans gripe about it getting a lowly 90% score from a website (Gamespot being the criminal in that one, if I remember properly). It's good enough to get almost the whole audience to say "YES!" when a fan asked if it was deserving the hype during the 1up Yours live podcast taping at PAX.

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Here, Big Daddy, Big Daddy...I still hear your footsteps in my nightmares.

Yes, we all know it is a brilliant game. But as much as I absolutely love it, it does have flaws. First off, there's not enough of it. Okay, I know that makes me the typical greedy gaming fan, but it's true - it seems like the ending came very quickly. I went from the GREAT BIG TWIST (involving meeting Rapture's maker) to the ending in about four hours, and I was hardly rushing; maybe I feel like there should be slightly more conflict before the ending comes? I don't know. I have no problem with how everything wrapped up, it just seems like it comes too quickly.

the other real problem I found on my play-through is, at least on normal difficulty, once you get close to being fully plasmid'd-up, normal enemies become almost too easy, and the brilliant combat slips to being something of a routine. So you're still whirling around, doing about fifteen different things at once between plasmids, and turrets, and security cameras, and then all the damn splicers...but the chaos and scariness has sapped away. Part of this was due to being focused on a few specific enemies in the storyline (fuck the main bad guy, HARD), but it also was because I felt my no-name avatar had gotten too powerful. Especially once combat and other boosting plasmid slots open up and you have about three bonuses to health in the physical side and a few for the wrench in the combat side, life becomes a lot easier. In one particular section in Fort Frolic, I was one-shotting a series of spider splicers and though it was fun, it wasn't as straight-out frightening as combat is near the beginning when ammo is scarcer and plasmids are weak.

let me address the next point, as already discussed by The Escapist's "Yahtzee" in his online video column: Yes, you never really hurt for ammo, and those Frito Bandito-looking ammo stations are nearly fucking useless. Most every kind of bullet can be found lying around in the world, and any others you need can be made at U-INVENT machines with the other plentiful invention pieces you pick up. The only real limit to ammo is that sometimes one weapon - in my case it always seemed to be the damn shotgun - is out for you, so that means locking and loading with others (often the machine gun - I was almost always full-up on that ammo).

This just means that you can and will put the money toward buying Eve hypos and first-aid kits and trying to stay full on those.

Ok, so the game has some gameplay balance flaws, the enemies aren't always terrifying, the Big Daddies begin to go down easily...and in some cases some of the grand, earth-shattering ideas about new combat aren't quite as earth-shattering as possible. I mean, the trap bolts are only an inconvenience and are neon "FUN STUFF HERE ONCE YOU GET THROUGH" signs in the game, and I never set out traps for my enemies (others might, your mileage may vary). So it isn't 100% completely and utterly raw, unrefined awesome; somebody added baking soda to the mix so you're not getting the pure shit.

Is that such a crime? Maybe I'm sounding like an apologist fanboy, but this is still easily the best game I've played this year, the best single-player action game I've played since Gears of War (at the least), and easily the best story-driven game to come out since Zelda last year. It does 9 things brilliantly but falters on the tenth, so to speak, and though I try to not get caught up in the hype bearing on the other side and being too much a negative Nancy does the game a disservice. It is sheerly, utterly brilliant, an amazing experience worthy of the cinema, but provided better as a video game. I'm so glad I went out and bought it and supported what turned out to be an incredibly worthy piece of entertainment and, daresay, art.