on Sep 10, 2008
I wasn’t going to write an article on this at all, but now people have forced my hand. In the comments of my previous post people were shocked, shocked(!) that I dumped on BioShock after playing just twenty minutes of the demo. I claimed it was shorter, shallower, and an example of what was wrong with PC gaming. Surely I needed I play for longer than that to make that sort of call?
No. Actually, I could have written those claims without even starting the game. I knew this was an empty husk the moment I opened the key bindings screen and saw it had about the same number of inputs as (say) Doom. Or Serious Sam. You can tell the experience is shallower before you even start it up.
No map. No inventory screen. No leveling. No research. No open levels with multiple paths. No economy. No hacking for supplies. As soon as you click on a food item you consume it on the spot. (Think about the many ways in which that flattens the game out. Suddenly instead of managing supplies, you’re just picking up healthpacks. Like Doom.)
I know what I’m talking about when it comes to System Shock 2. I can’t count the number of times I’ve played through the game. I could sit down and draw the entire floorplan of the Von Braun right now. I’ve explored every aspect and every activity the game has to offer. I know System Shock 2 personally, and BioShock is no System Shock 2.
And of course the game is eight hours long, instead of over twenty-five. Okay, I cheated on that one. I didn’t play through to check, I just listened to every single person everywhere who ever commented on the game length. Feel free to set me (and everyone else) straight if there was another ten to fifteen hours of gameplay tucked away in there that they missed.
Infected by DRM. Eight hours long. Stripped down to a shallower experience. Based on a popular franchise of the past, while abandoning key features and depth. BioShock is the poster child for everything that’s happening to PC Gaming. I’m sure the game is fun for many, and it’s certainly got more going for it than a straightforward shooter, but it needs a lot more than that to step into the legendary shoes of its System Shock grandsires. Which is exactly what it pretended to do.
It’s okay if you like it better. Maybe you don’t go in for all that leveling up nonsense and inventory management. Fine, fine. But the game is simpler. End of story. Full stop. I don’t need to play the whole thing to see that. If my comment “disappointed” you, then you must think I’m a profound idiot. Because you’d have to be pretty thick to need more that a few minutes with BioShock to notice that half the expected “Shock” gameplay is gone. Maybe you don’t miss those features, but they’re still gone and I noticed.
Someone even had the nerve to compare me to the idiots who denounced Mass Effect as SimPorn without ever looking at it, which is what set me off here. If you want to debate the merits of the game, go find some other site and talk about what an irresponsible hate-filled slacker Shamus Young is, because I don’t think I’m dedicated enough at this to hack my way through every tepid stub of a videogame before I’m allowed to tell you I didn’t enjoy it. I’d just as soon you write me off now than hassle me about this. I don’t need people telling me I need to eat the whole pizza before I’m allowed to point out that it’s three inches wide, cold, soggy, and covered in insects.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.