Comments Off In the cold womb of the ocean
Many would rather patrol genre borders than to explore their undefinied wastelands. This is why, perhaps, the reason Bioshock stirred such enthusiasm and weirdness in equal measure. A curious phenomenon, then, to see a game provoking philosophical discussion about free will but realizing that when it came to playing it, was about slapping around mutants wearing rabbit face masks who ran up the walls. All because Ken Levine took it upon himself much of the burden of claiming Bioshock was “simply” a first-person shooter while everyone elese talked about how it was “more” than that. Nothing new in ludic territory, then: once again we had a design of emergent pedigree (Thief, System Shock, Deus Ex) hiding bigger issues behind the simplicity of its play mechanics and once again we had a 19XX design becoming popular again in 20XX. To a certain elite of PC gamers, it was worthy of scorn; to the console gamer masses, it was a diamong shining brighter than the drab shooters they were used to.
Which was certainly a stroke of genius: above all, it was a way of saying that System Shock, over a decade later and wearing different clothes, was still a game capable of captivating us. If in this fast food world the greats of yesterday are the worst of tomorrow, and if certain games or genres’ lineage lose some of its power due to the continuous burial of our memory as if history were a disease, the game was enough proof that things don’t always have to be like that: it was (is) still possible to reconcile the past and the present. Far from perfection but very close to restrained ambition, Bioshock was more than enough evidence that design can be timeless while there’s a spark of savoir faire, and as such, was also more than enough evidence of Levine and Irrational’s talent.
A talent which seems absent of Bioshock 2.
Put it another way: Bioshock 2 is a better first-person shooter than its predecessor. It’s simply not a better game.