No BioShock for Me

By Shamus
on Jan 13, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games

People keep asking if I’ll be getting BioShock now that I have a Xbox 360. I didn’t want to open up this can of worms again, but the question deserves an answer:

I can’t bring myself to play it. The game is dead to me. I played the demo and was completely underwhelmed. (And hoo boy did that cause a flamewar. I had to close the comments. Some regular commenters left, and I never saw them again. I’d rather not repeat that.)

Keep in mind, System Shock is my super-extra-special favoritest game ever. I wrote a novel about it. BioShock is supposedly the “spiritual” follow-up to that, but it’s missing all the parts that made the series appeal to me. To play System Shock without the inventory, the mad AI, the electronic music, the cyberpunk setting, the taut resource management, the level-up abilities, and using thumbsticks instead of the mouse? No, I will not do that.

I don’t begrudge those that love the game. I understand the story is good. But the game I loved is dead. I’m not going to go and snuggle the corpse for old time’s sake. Leave me to my grief.

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202020426 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. MintSkittle says:

    I haven’t played System Shock or Bioshock, but I did read your novel a few months ago. That’s some good stuff there.

  2. vbigiani says:

    I wouldn’t have gotten Bioshock due to the DRM issue, but relented and bought it it because of the discounts on Steam – at 5 euro, it costs less than seeing a movie at the theater.

  3. RR says:

    As a fan of System Shock 2, you made the right choice. Bioshock is a good game, no question. But for 2K Games to call it the spiritual successor to SS2, was a stretch.

    I wanted to believe. I bought the game, played it . . . it was fun at first. But once the novelty of the glossy shine wears off, you realize that what’s underneath isn’t all that great. It was like seeing an old friend on life support.

    A strange analogy, but it’s like you said. Bioshock is dead to me, as well. I struggled through to the end, and haven’t played it since. There’s no replayability for me. Just a lot of “what’s another cool but pointless way to kill someone”. Serious Sam, made a little more serious.

    And now with 2K bigwigs talking up Bioshock as a franchise, and the possibility of 6 games? Not interested.

    http://www.joystiq.com/2009/01/07/bioshock-has-potential-for-numerous-sequels-suggests-2K-boss/

  4. Adam Greenbrier says:

    I think you made the right decision. I’m a huge fan of System Shock 2, and I wish that I hadn’t played BioShock; I kept expecting something that I wasn’t going to get. It’s odd, but I think I would have enjoyed the game a lot more if it hadn’t been billed as the spiritual successor to System Shock. I still wouldn’t have called it a great game, but I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.

  5. lebkin says:

    I wish they had never brought up anything about System Shock 2, simply because it ruins the experience. BioShock is a definitely one of the best console FPS in many years. But it is also definitely not System Shock 3. Those kind of expectations are nearly impossible to match, especially when Bioshock wasn’t really designed to match them. Despite what 2K may have claimed. Bioshock was designed to fight against the Halo’s and the Gears of War’s of the world (and it does really well against those). Against the best PC FPS have to offer? Not a chance.

  6. Al Shiney says:

    I got Bioshock used from Goozex and enjoyed it, for awhile. Then it got monotonous and stale, exactly in the way that GTA IV got stale for me … which is odd considering the former is on rails while the latter is a sandbox. :sigh:

    Both games got old and tired in exactly the way that Far Cry 2 has NOT, because I’m still enjoying that game’s sandbox and am only 50% completed. So needless to say, the prospect of more Bioshock games leaves me with a quiet meh.

  7. Maiven7 says:

    I really don’t understand how people get that worked up over a game.

    At any rate, I can’t say I blame you. I played and enjoyed Bioshock on the X-Box, taking it for the story as a fairly straightforward shooter with added neat stuff. I took the idea of it as a spiritual successor with a fairly large dose of salt…knowing going in that there was no way they were going to try and put that much complexity into a 360 FPS.

    Not terribly soon.

    So I enjoyed it for what it brought to the table, and then I set it aside. I even played it twice. Now it lives on my shelf, awaiting the day I have a working X-Box again, and then the day I’m tired of Mass Effect and…pretty much everything else I’ve got.

    All of which reminds me, I havn’t played System Shock 2 in a week or two. Anyone else played with SecMod?

  8. Factoid says:

    I think the biggest mistake they made in creating that game is calling it “Bioshock” and actually promoting it as a spiritual successor to System Shock.

    It is its own game and deserves to be judged on its own merits, which is just impossible to do once they started down the path of comparing it to System Shock.

    It’s a fantastic game and I loved every minute of it. It really didn’t NEED to be called Bioshock. That title forever chains it to people’s System Shock expectations, which is too bad.

    I don’t blame people who don’t like it for not being enough like System Shock because they brought that on themselves. If you don’t like it because you didn’t care for the gameplay, that’s fine too.

    If they had just titled it “Rapture” and didn’t go out of their way to mention “From the creator of System Shock” every five minutes would people have liked it more?

  9. krellen says:

    Will game developers ever learn to stop trying to cater to fanboys without actually catering to fanboys?

  10. GuiguiBob80 says:

    Bioshock was for me the perfect example of why death in a game can be bad, and why immersion is important. I’m so poor at FPS that I kept dying against a Big Daddy. When I finally killed it, no little sister in sight. I finished the part then was prompted a message telling me I missed a little sister and the game would be harder.

    I Never finished SS2 but I loved it and I agree, Bioshock ain’t SS. I remember SS2 as the game where I hid under a cupboard in the game to hide from an enemy.

  11. qrter says:

    I think the biggest mistake they made in creating that game is calling it “Bioshock” and actually promoting it as a spiritual successor to System Shock.

    It is its own game and deserves to be judged on its own merits, which is just impossible to do once they started down the path of comparing it to System Shock.

    I agree. But I also think that people should stop sulking about the stupid comparison – it’s just another case of dumb game hype to be ignored, we’ve all come across plenty of that before, let it go and enjoy the game for what it is.

    This coming from someone who loves SS2 and Bioshock!

  12. Clint says:

    Speaking of your book, Shamus, I have a late Christmas present to give you. Could you possibly get ahold of me at the email address I used to post this message?

    Clint

  13. Ben says:

    Surely going around not playing games because they’re worse than System Shock 2 is a losing proposition?

  14. Miako says:

    Anachronox’s creator maybe sometime gets a gig? *hopeful*

  15. Miako says:

    me, I’m playing Majesty right now. Barbarian Hordes!

  16. Robyrt says:

    You can tell that Bioshock was made by the same people who made System Shock 2. The copious environmental details, the audio logs, the rushed ending, the hacking, everything. But it is NOT System Shock 3.

    I was captivated by Bioshock for all the reasons you would hate it: no inventory shuffling, no experience points, no wonky mouse controls, no space marines.

  17. Sydney says:

    Surely going around not playing games because they’re worse than System Shock 2 is a losing proposition?

    ^ This is exactly my opinion too. All this BioShock hate is basically you going “I wanted System Shock 3. This is a good game, but it isn’t System Shock 3, so I hate it.”

    If the game had just been called BIO, I bet you’d be quite a bit happier. So you’re going one step simpler than judging a book by its cover – you’re judging a book by half of its title.

    That’s a bit counterintuitive because you’ve played the demo, but think about it. If you’d played that demo without ever having heard of System Shock, you might not have liked it – but it wouldn’t have unleashed this barrage of rage. So the only thing that makes you hate the game, instead of be ambivalent or even liking it, is five letters in the title which somehow invalidate the very existence of the game and call down the scorn and fury.

    If this happens every time you go into a game with expectation A, and get result B, it’s a miracle you play anything at all. I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time, and follow it daily, but whenever you get on this BioShock tantrum, it’s a bit disappointing. Full disclosure, I get the exact same feeling you get from BioShock – normally, your posts are intelligent, well-thought-out, and meritocratic. Then, every few weeks, out comes “THEY LIED TO ME, PRECIOUSSSS…

    The difference is, when your next post comes out, I won’t be thinking “But the BIOSHOCK RANTS! How can I sit here and read this post when THE BIOSHOCK RANTS?! He’s a great writer, buTHE BIOSHOCK RANTS!! I CAN’T BE HERE!!!

    You’re being wildly irrational here. I had great friends in high school, and my friends here in university, I don’t get along with nearly as well. But do I tell them all that “You aren’t Arielle and Dani, begone from my sight”? Of course not.

    Should I, d’you reckon?

  18. Oleyo says:

    *This is exactly my opinion too. All this BioShock hate is basically you going “I wanted System Shock 3. This is a good game, but it isn’t System Shock 3, so I hate it.”*

    Hardly. Most games aren’t trying to be System Shock Next. Bioshock definately was.

    I feel ya, Shamus. I can see why it might leave a sour taste in your mouth.

    What I *don’t* get are people who can’t understand how someone could possibly dislike something that they do like. Individual taste varies so much that such thoughts baffle me.

    This is a strange phenomenon in discussions of music and movies too.

  19. Oleyo says:

    *double post* deleted

  20. mrmurphy says:

    @Sydney

    Your new friends don’t come up to you and say,” I’m the new Arielle! I’m faster, stronger, prettier, and funnier. Sure, I cost more to hang out with, but its worth it, right?”

    I’m also loving the intense hyperbole. Barrage of Rage! Tantrum! Allusions to demented, fictional multiple-personality half-beasts! Wildly irrational! (Woo! Pot! Kettle!)

    There are plenty of reasons to be upset with a game being heralded as,” The next X” or “A spiritual successor to X”. Principal among them in my mind is that if it is -called- that and -isn’t-, there is still this belief that that niche has somehow been filled when it is still as vacant as it was before. The very existence of Bioshock and Fallout 3 makes the likelihood of ever seeing a legitimate successor to the franchises even more remote than it was originally.

  21. briatx says:

    I never could put my finger on why Bioshock left me cold. I think I was just expecting too much.

    @GuiguiBob80:

    Bioshock was for me the perfect example of why death in a game can be bad, and why immersion is important.

    I’m not sure I get this. Bioshock is incredibly forgiving, and there is essentially no punishment for dying at all.

  22. Sydney says:

    mrmurphy:

    What I don’t get is how something not directly inside the game can make the game experience worse.

    Boiling my argument down to a few sentences:

    System Shock 2 was fantastic, says Shamus, and I agree 100%. BioShock is…let’s say “mediocre at best”, for the sake of argument. But somehow, System Shock 2 being fantastic makes BioShock fall from “mediocre at best” to “unplayable and intolerable”. What?

    I don’t understand how this works. This isn’t rhetoric or speechmaking – I am legitimately confused as to how press releases, in the past, make a video game, which exists in the present, worse.

    And yes, I got a bit verbose above. It frustrates me when people make claims, don’t support them (or, in this case, support them with seemingly-irrelevant premises), and then swear at people who disagree (see the end of the comment thread for the Rant entitled BioShock: Demo for the “tantrum” I was talking about earlier).

    Finally, when did BioShock (a non-sentient collection of bits on a disc) ever say anything to Shamus himself? As far as I can tell, that was all done by hype professionals. I would understand if this was a rant against those people for lying. I would understand completely. And if someone told me that my new friends are better than my old friends, I would probably make it a habit to ignore that someone. But I do not understand how what some bloke said a year ago changes, somehow, what is happening on your computer now.

    I was annoyed in my previous comment, for reasons already stated, but please don’t assume I’m trying to be inflammatory now. I honestly don’t know where the connection comes in, and I get the feeling that if I understood the missing link, I would be much less annoyed by what currently seems to be shunning (and loudly, repeatedly bashing) Arielle for what James said in 2007.

  23. briatx says:

    I am legitimately confused as to how press releases, in the past, make a video game, which exists in the present, worse.

    It doesn’t affect the game, IMO, but it affects your experience of the game. If you expect something great and get something good you feel disappointed. That doesn’t make the game bad, but it makes it less enjoyable.

  24. Nihil says:

    I think BioShock’s gameplay was somewhat inferior to that of the System Shock series, due partly to the console-brought simplification and partly due to a slightly excessive game length compared to the rate at which you get new abilities (I think you would get a better game by cutting at least the Arcadia level).

    I also think BioShock’s story, setting, and art direction were leagues beyond anything you could find in either System Shock. Sorry, SHODAN, you are great, but you can’t hold a candle to Andrew Ryan and Sander Cohen. And while I did cower in fear a lot of times in the Citadel Station and on the Von Braun, nothing I found on either ever got me close to tears like BioShock’s audiologs did.

  25. Sydney says:

    briatx:

    To play System Shock without the inventory, the mad AI, the electronic music, the cyberpunk setting, the taut resource management, the level-up abilities, and using thumbsticks instead of the mouse? No, I will not do that.

    Disappointment is one thing, but that ^ is something else. The quoted passage is, I think, telling: That is Shamus deciding that BioShock is System Shock 2, and any differences are like surgery done to that same body. But it isn’t supposed to be “System Shock 2 2” – it’s BioShock. The two are separate, except that a bunch of dudes with suits on drew a tenuous connection to sell a game. This whole argument started from the expectation that the whole point of BioShock was to be System Shock 2, unchanged and untouched, with any divergence being a blasphemy.

    At the risk of being mocked again: It reminds me of those movies where a widower can’t go around women ever again because none of them ARE his ex-wife. And then there’s the climactic realization where he realizes that they aren’t supposed to be, because they’re not his ex-wife.

    Am I just completely missing the point of what a “spiritual successor” means (my take: In the same vein, but not as similar as a “sequel” or “remake”)?

  26. Namfoodle says:

    Shamus:

    Corpse Cuddling. Ewwww!

    Hilarious, but ew. And it’s aliterative! I’m going to have to work that phrase into conversation. Hmmm. I’m running a D&D game this weekend, so I’m sure the opportunity will present itself.

    I’ve never played the System Shock game, but I would like to.

  27. Maybe something is wrong with me, but I liked the original System Shock way more than I liked Shock 2 – which seemed to me to be inferior to the admittedly later Deus Ex. But perhaps that’s because it took so much effort to find and run System Shock 2 on my Vista computer, whereas System Shock worked almost flawlessly via DOSBox.

    Ben

  28. Factoid says:

    @Nihil: You’re the very first person I’ve ever heard argue that Bioshock was TOO long. Almost anyone that makes mention of its length at all says it was too short, much as all games are getting too short these days. A few will say something like “I loved it so much I WISH it were longer”…and a very few will say “It’s just the right length for the story they told.”

    Personally I’m somewhere between wishing it were longer and just right. There are a couple sections of the game I wish were longer, especially near the end, but most of the pacing was dead on.

  29. Namfoodle says:

    Sydney:

    Dude. Shamus has a family and a job. And a blog. He has both a right and a need to pick and choose which games he plays. If some of his criteria seem petty, whatever, it’s his entertainment time.

    Besides, for any game that Shamus plays, a few blog posts and comics are expected. If he would rather rant on Bioshock than play it, I’m cool with that. I come here for the entertainments, and it doesn’t matter much to me whether he plays a game or rants on it or whatever. I can always get a second opinion from Yahtzee.

    Please, don’t be mad at Shamus if he won’t Cuddle the Corpse.

  30. Maiven7 says:

    A large part of the problem really seems to stem from the idea that Bioshock was billed as a spiritual successor to System Shock.

    Which it may very well be.

    But what do you think when you hear the words ‘Spiritual Successor’? I know a lot of people I spoke to tended to leave off the ‘Spiritual’ bit, and got themselves worked into an optimistic frenzy over the idea that the new game will be everything the old one was, with added Win. It doesn’t help that those words kept coming out of the woodwork constantly every time corporate felt the need to tug a little harder on the fanbase. And let’s be honest: Bioshock was very much targeted towards fans of the old IP.

    Hype leads to expectations, leads to bitter disappointment when we realize that, at best, Bioshock is it’s own game with a certain…je ne se quoi? In feel to the classic. They didn’t set out to reconstruct the complete System Shock experience because that would have been futile and let to another complaint: It’s already been done.

    They created a new one based around some basic elements of the old that contributed to a similar environment. One of claustrophobic, isolated terror…where your only ‘friend’ is a distant voice with it’s own agenda that may or may not include your health and wellbeing.

    Oh, and really no choice but to trust them because everyone else is dead, insane and/or murderous in thirty-nine distinct flavors.

    In terms of storyline and display, Bioshock’s only real sin was in perhaps giving us too many prospective allies and too much help. It wasn’t as lonely or hostile as SS2. It didn’t exactly hold your hand, but it never took away your safety net.

    Despite that, they still managed to bring about an aura of social isolation and impending despair in smoldering ashes of petty human triumph. In that, Bioshock succeeds System Shock very well. It does what it came to do, and what it does it does very well without getting too hung up on what it didn’t bother with.

    Yes, I felt that things were missing from the gameplay, but I too came in expecting a more System Shock experience.

    Taken by itself, however, from the idea that it was a cinematic FPS with a few Shocklike additions, and it’s actually quite complete in and of itself. Is it perfect? Not remotely.

    But, and I am fully cognizant of the sacrilege I make in saying this, neither were either of the System Shock games.

    Shamus, I’d encourage you to give it a try from a different perspective. Think of it less as cuddling with System Shock’s corpse than hanging out with System Shock’s more outgoing, uncomplicated or shallow kid brother whose IP still has a lot of maturing to do but in whom one may yet perceive the potential for greatness while we wait for the third coming of our FPSRPG Godot.

    It won’t dull the disappointment of that greatness’ failure to manifest, but you might while away an enjoyable hour or two discussing the latest trading card phenomenon.

    As it were.

  31. Sydney says:

    One of claustrophobic, isolated terror…where your only ‘friend’ is a distant voice with it’s own agenda that may or may not include your health and wellbeing.

    Well, at least SHODAN got a “spiritual successor”. At least, in some form, our old friend is,

    uh,

    still alive.

  32. PhoenixUltima says:

    You’re right that Bioshock doesn’t really compare to SS2, but it’s a decent game in its own right. The best thing is to think of it not as the spiritual successor to SS2, but rather as Generic FPS Brand #57. On its own, the game shines. It’s kind of like how Deus Ex: Invisible War wasn’t as good as the first Deus Ex (universal ammo? are you shitting me?), but taken on its own it’s really a pretty good game.

    Also, the demo is really pretty bare. Once you get further in and start snapping pictures of stuff for SCIENCE and getting gene tonics and plasmids all over the place the game becomes much more fun.

  33. Shamus says:

    Sydney:

    I tried to make it clear that System Shock is important to me. It resonates on a deep level, deftly plucking at strings in my subconscious that no other game has been able to find. BioShock gropes ineptly, trying to ape the success of the former. Its clumsy efforts are so far off the mark as to be offensive to me. I can’t just forget what BioShock is trying to be and enjoy it on its own, because every time I turn around its reminding me of the magic of the earlier game. From the audiologs to the pipe wrench, to the hackable turrets, it is constantly driving home the point: This is what I got instead of System Shock 3.

    The magic of System Shock has ruined me for BioShock. That’s not fair to BioShock, but that’s the way it is.

  34. nilus says:

    Bioshock was one of the few FPS in a long time I could sit down and play and enjoy. To many of them now a days are all generic military FPS X. Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, etc. They all are just about Army guys doing Army things and that gets boring quick. Bioshock at least was something different, something we had not scene in a while. See also Left 4 Dead, which is also a FPS that I can play over and over for completely other reasons but also doesn’t fall into that safe FPS territory so many other console FPS go.

  35. Magnus says:

    Personnally, the talk of “spiritual successor” seemed to me a way of sucking in the fans of system shock without actually providing what they were looking for, it was just lip-service. They hyped it as being a FPS/RPG hybrid, when it was really just a shooter with a decent story. On its own merits, it is lacking in certain areas, and god only knows how it got such high scores (although that seems to be a reviewing problem of the past couple of years, in my personal opinion).

    I would tar Fallout 3 with this brush also, since they harped on about how much it was going to be like the first two in the series, and yet it is a quite different game in many ways.

  36. Veloxyll says:

    Personally with Bioshock, I had a total disconnect with the character at the start and couldnt’ continue on.

    Spoilers incoming (even if it is the first 10 minutes of the game) At the start, the plane crashes. Fine. I swim to a lighthouse. Also fine. Then I’m supposed to follow the creepy lights as they come on and Pull a lever in a room for NO APPARENT REASON WHATSOEVER. Okay fine I’ll jump through your hoop.
    So I’m in underground city. there’s freaky girls jumping about and breaking my water-lift. Then I walk up to some vending machine, get a blue thing with a needle in it, and INEXPLICABLY immediately jab it into my forearm, then proceed to stagger backwards and fall off a balcony. 5 minutes after that I just went “No.” and stopped playing.
    Incedentally, my friend, who had never played SS2, disliked the game for the fun breaking boss fights.

    And re: everyone telling Shamus he’s being irrational and should play the game because it’s not System Shock but it’s still good: If someone comes up to me and offers me something, saying “This is the new chocolate, but it’s better.” And I eat the sample and it’s inferior to the chocolate we already have, I’m not going to want to buy it because every time I eat it I’ll be thinking, “Man, real chocolate is so much better.” Shamus presumedly has a similar problem, he was underwhelmed by the demo, and he knows if he played the full game he’d constantly be comparing it to SS2 and, more importantly, not having fun. As for a bunch of guys in suits saying it’s the successor (spiritual or otherwise) to SS2, they’re not just a bunch of suits, they’re the guys MAKING and SELLING the game, who we can expect have some actual knowledge of what they intended Bioshock to be.

    tl;dr version: Shamus would expect System Shock 2 all the way through Bioshock and experience 20 hours or whatever of continual disappointment.

  37. Magnus says:

    @Veloxyll: There is an explanation given for the rail-roading later in the game (you may have been told already), I just let it go after a while, and when you get given the explanation THAT was the point that really pissed me off. I continued and completed the game, but I doubt I will ever play it again. Which is probably a good thing, since I would only have a few installs left anyway, not that I can sell it either (damned PC version).

  38. To play System Shock without the inventory, the mad AI, the electronic music, the cyberpunk setting, the taut resource management, the level-up abilities, and using thumbsticks instead of the mouse? No, I will not do that

    For a moment I thought you where describing Mass Effect, as it has all those elements. *laughs*

    (well Mass Effect on the PC uses keyboard and mouse though, never checked if it had gamepad support)

  39. MadTinkerer says:

    In some ways I feel Portal is actually the spiritual successor to the System Shock series. There’s no inventory, but:

    1) GLaDOS is like SHODAN’s spoiled daughter. She’s trying to do the malevolent scary AI thing like her Mom, but involuntarily crosses the line from Scary to Hilarious Gallows Humor.

    2) The Portal Gun is The Most Awesome Superpower Ever. Forget Psi powers and Plasmids. The Portal Gun is more awesome than all of them put together. You don’t even need conventional weapons with the HPD, and if you do play the HL2 levels with the HPD, beating the game becomes ridiculously easy (but somehow still fun) even on maximum difficulty.

    3) No real leveling up, but it’s great when you get control over both portal entrances.

    4) Distinct true-cyberpunk atmosphere. The beginning of the game represents the clean dystopia, but when you escape into the grimy “undercity” and directly take on the inhuman system oppressing the people, it’s suddenly more cyberpunk than Bladerunner.

    As for Bioshock, maybe my problem is that I beat SS1, but never got very far in SS2. For some reason, I certainly have no problem enjoying Bioshock. It might have something to do with GLaDOS satisfying my “insane AI” cravings. Or maybe I’m able to accept that certain series will never get sequels and move on.

    Originally, I disliked System Shock because it wasn’t Ultima Underworld 3, but I got over it. There still is no:

    Master of Magic 2
    Magic Carpet 3
    Ultima X
    Dungeon Keeper 3
    Populous IV

    …and so on.

    Shamus, “forcing” yourself to play Bioshock is a recipe for disaster. Let it go, and maybe some day down the line when they publish a PC version with absolutely no DRM in it you can try playing it with a fresh outlook and appreciate it for what it is: A shooter set in a retro-sci-fi 1960s where you can buy superpowers from kiosks and bludgeon homicidal teleporting doctors to death with a wrench. No more, no less, and a fun game if you can judge it purely on it’s own merits.

    It’s like comparing Nethack and Diablo: the latter started as merely a shallow pretty version of the former, but developed into it’s own thing. Also see AD&D and D&D4. Also, any MUD you care to name and WoW. Also, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Also, Traveller and Mass Effect.

  40. MadTinkerer says:

    Incidentally, I was originally put off Magic The Gathering because it was clearly a Master of Magic ripoff, but I also got over that one. Half Life 2 doesn’t have any Snarks, Displacer, Gluon Gun, Barnacle Gun, Tau Cannon, or usable Sniper Rifle. Halo is nothing like Goldeneye or Perfect Dark. Rollercoaster Tycoon is a blasphemous usurper of Theme Park’s throne. Sin Episodes turned out to be a tragically optimistic name for a series with just one episode (though we did get Left 4 Dead as a result).

    Then there’s games like Anachronox, Psychonauts, and other unique gems that don’t even get imitators.

    But eventually, with the exception of Halo, I came around to pretty much every game that’s been a “pretender to the throne” unless it’s genuinely bad. Halo, and most post-Halo console shooters, is unplayable because all of the control schemes are incompatible with my muscle-memory. (But Goldeneye and Perfect Dark aren’t.)

    Also, I ran out of time to edit my previous comment.

  41. Freebeema says:

    Master of Magic 2! Yeah. Awesome.

  42. Anaphyis says:

    Well, to quote Yahtzee, never stick your dick into a pudding. It might still be good pudding and you can spend all afternoon explaining that but no one’s going to eat it BECAUSE YOU STUCK YOUR DICK IN IT.

    2k went out of their way to remind everyone: This is the spiritual successor to System Shock. This wasn’t just alluded by fans in the wishful thinking kind of way. No, they actually reminded us at every single opportunity of it.

    The result is simply Hype Backlash by transference on top of the standard Hype Backlash you got through hyped public opinion in the first place. You are practically saying “This game will be as good or better then the game which is ranked your #1 of the hundreds of games you played so far in your life.” Something might be good in their own right – to bad that isn’t worth a dime because there is no objective value to gameplay. The amount of joy you get of a game – or any kind of media for that matter – always directly depend on your expectation and former experience and thus the things you bring into it. And if these things are grand expectations fueled by hype, consoletarded gameplay elements you already did to dead and the association with your gaming equivalent of Jesus you might as well not bother.

    Playing the preexisting fanbase joker is rarely a good idea. Even if you deliver on your promises (and Bioshock didn’t) you’ll still fall short because you have to compete not only with the original game but with loads of nostalgia shoveled on top of it. That and the general tendency of fanbases, when left alone to simmer for a while, to become utterly unpleasable.

  43. Brandon says:

    Why are there 42 comments on this? There’s a great big world of games out there to play. Bioshock does not absolutely have to be one of them. His “hang-up” about this game is the perfect excuse for him to simply move on to bigger and better, or failing those, more entertaining (for the readers anyway) things.

    Guess what! I didn’t finish Final Fantasy VII because I thought it kinda sucked! W00t! If you want to get pissed over a controversial OPINION go after that one.

  44. Yar Kramer says:

    I personally haven’t played Bioshock, both because of the whole DRM issue and because I’ve never had hardware that could run it (I have an old laptop, only slightly newer than Windows XP SP2, with an integrated RAM/CPU/graphics card, and my most advanced console is a broken PS2). My own personal philosophy is to always approach a game, movie, or whatever source of entertainment, with the resolute intentions of enjoying it on its own merits without other considerations. I don’t consider other games in “the series”; this was mostly because for a while, Final Fantasy was “the gaming scene” for me, and Final Fantasy doesn’t have “sequels” as such (well, it didn’t until Final Fantasy X-2), and every game is a “spiritual successor.”

    The only time this attitude has ever failed me, that I can recall off the top of my head, are The Matrix: Revolutions, I Wanna Be The Guy (though in this case it was for entirely different reasons — Kefit is actually a quite brilliant game designer, he merely chose to use his powers for evil instead of for good), and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. And, of course, there’s plenty of games I haven’t played because I knew I wouldn’t like them …

    I dunno. I guess what I’m trying to say is … just do whatever you want. If you think the association with System Shock will be too big a burden, don’t try to force it on yourself.

  45. Anaphyis says:

    I Wanna Be The Guy (though in this case it was for entirely different reasons — Kefit is actually a quite brilliant game designer, he merely chose to use his powers for evil instead of for good)

    QFT, made me laugh. Still, who is Kefit? Strange Typo for Kayin?

  46. =Dan says:

    Bioshock is definitely its own game and not at all related to System Shock 2 (despite the “spiritual successor crap”). Unfortunately the game doesn’t inspire me to the levels that SS2 did, it became monotonous quickly and was too linear from the get go (my main complaint for all FPS).
    I never finished it because I didn’t care about the character I played nor did I care about the failed utopian society (and its crazed denizens)…Maybe my expectations were too high because of the way it was sold to me…

  47. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh man!And here I was hoping that youll play it and then destroy it,and its dog,in a few pages.*sigh*!Well,heres hoping for you to play mirrors edge or dead space soon.

  48. LintMan says:

    I never got around to playing SS2, so I didn’t have that mental baggage when playing Bioshock. It’s certainly his prerogative, but it;s a shame Shamus can’t play it on its own terms, because I’d love to read his analysis.

    My own take on the game is conflicted. I really enjoyed the elaborate backstory (for an FPS) and how they neatly wove the Ayn Rand philosophy into it, the plot and the emotions/reactions it evokes, and the beautiful scenery/architecture. How they conceal a plot twist using your expectations of the game mechanics was fiendishly clever. All very impressive.

    And yet, the game itself wasn’t very fun. Bioshock’s RPG elements can charitably be described as weak, at best – this is primarily an FPS. But it’s not that good an FPS, either, at least by PC gaming standards.

    So Bioshock wasn’t really a lot of “fun” for me, but somehow it remains in my mind a worthy “experience”. As a game seems to be a triumph of style over substance, but with so much style (and just barely enough substance) as to make me recommend it despite its shortcomings.

  49. Jansolo says:

    I like Bioshock. I played it in PC.

    Just a suggestion: never play a FPS in a console.

    By the way, Shamus did you play Deus Ex?

  50. Jansolo says:

    Thanks, I had forgotten that post.

  51. K says:

    Bioshock is a typical game for the 6th generation of consoles (mind you, I’m using the malstrom numerics, meaning, PS3 and Xbox360 are 6th, Wii is 7th): A copy of a great game, dumbed down brutally to be playable on crappy controls and utterly disemboweled of what made SS2 great (story, atmosphere, leveling up, inventory management). Oh, and it has great graphics in exchange. I played it and did not finish it. It’s just mediocre, like Mass Effect.

    Also, even if bioshock was different from SS2 in a good way, meaning, some *improvement* or *innovation*, I’m sure shamus could look at it with different eyes. But Bioshock has no improvements except graphics, which we don’t give a poodlepoop for. It is either exactly like SS2 or worse. Even the story is identical, except harder to understand before the Great Plot Twist because nothing makes sense and you don’t connect to your own character.

  52. Mark says:

    My impression of Bioshock was that it was so competently done that if the team had wanted to make a System Shock 3, they would have. They didn’t want to make System Shock 3, and the idea that Bioshock is anything of that sort is an invention of Marketing.

    As for what it does better than its non-predecessor, well. Console gamer that I am, I appreciated the fact that I never had to spend more than two seconds at a time looking at an inventory screen in a game that is ostensibly built around the idea of interacting with the world rather than with one’s own pockets, but your mileage may vary. The setting, atmosphere, and art direction, however, are pretty much as good as games have ever gotten – and don’t pretend like an interesting and well-presented setting are just window dressing, possessing no more merit than a few hundred extra polygons on a zombie’s ass. The gameplay was strategic and varied, allowing you to confidently approach any nail with any of a number of hammers, according to your preference, without being bogged down in the interface.

  53. Pi says:

    I played it on 360, because I don’t have a computer sufficient to the task of running it, and it:

    (1) Confirmed my belief that FPS and console don’t mix
    (2) Would’ve been far too easy on a computer
    (3) Took me a while to get back to after I set it aside for a while, to go ahead and push through
    (4) Rewarded me for my efforts with the scene with Ryan

    Really, it brings nothing exemplary to the table other than ‘a good solid story’ and ‘a decently accomplished atmosphere’. It’s not a groundbreaking game, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, even on 360.

    It seems odd to me that you can on one hand celebrate Fallout3, while on the other refuse to give BioShock a non-demo shot. If you want to wax college-intro-class-philosophical, Islam is the “spiritual successor” to Christianity is the “spiritual successor” to Judaism, but that doesn’t mean the person making the claim is RIGHT.

  54. MadTinkerer says:

    Incidentally, I was under the impression that the main reason the Bioshock team didn’t do System Shock 3 was because they didn’t have the rights to do so. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought it was like Cryptic and CoX (Or Molyneux and the Bullfrog games or Garriot and Ultima) where they left their publisher and oops-we-signed-away-our-rights-to-our-game.

    Pi: First thing anyone needs to do when playing Bioshock on PC is turn of Vita-chambers in the options menu. Turning them off ramps up the tension a lot while only moderately ramping up the difficulty. The existence of Vita-chambers is nicely worked into the fiction, and is even a subtle part of the Big Plot Twist, but they’re a major mood-breaker. They would have worked much better as classic save-points than trying to wedge a Prince of Persia mechanic into a FPS.

  55. Shamus says:

    The rumor I’ve heard of the years is that when Looking Glass went out of business, they had a fire sale and their IP was snatched up by Various Parties. System Shock was apparently somehow split – maybe someone had the rights to the old games, someone else had the rights to the IP itself, someone else had (say) the rights to make SHODAN-brand breakfast cereal (or whatever) and with the IP fragmented it would be nearly impossible for a sequel to be made.

    That’s what I’ve heard. But I also heard that SS3 is being considered.

    I actually think that the SS story is done. I know SS2 ended in a lame-ass cliffhanger, but I’d rather they wipe the slate clean than keep resurrecting their villain. Like Doom 3 or Batman, the series would be better off with a reboot.

    Ah. Who am I kidding? Given current trends, SS3 would be a loud shooter with a grizzled protagonist, a sexy female sidekick, and the gameplay watered down to Deus Ex: Invisible War levels.

    Gotta go. I have to stomp my feet and pout for a bit.

  56. krellen says:

    Don’t forget that said sexy sidekick would be SHODAN, Shamus.

  57. MintSkittle says:

    Related to Jansolo’s question and Shamus’ response about Deus Ex:

    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/28286.html

    This video is over a year old, and I don’t know the state of development, but I’m not optimistic about it.

  58. Leonardo Herrera says:

    Shamus, regarding your novel: I can’t stand reading HTML texts, so I took it and formatted it as a nice book. Would you like to have it? You could put it on Lulu.com…

  59. Tom says:

    It was a really bad idea to call Bioshock the “spiritual successor”, whatever the hell that even means, to System Shock.

    If that reference had never been made, many like Shamus might well have played it and, while almost certainly not being bowled over by it, might at least have deemed it passable. “From the developers of” might have worked, barely, but to effectively call it “The Next System Shock” (which is probably how everyone was supposed to read “spiritual successor” but sufficiently ambiguously worded to be lawsuit-proof), simply set the bar far, far too high for anything other than a literal System Shock 3, and even then, it’d have to be really, really good – I mean better than the original, not merely as-good-as*, and Bioshock, which I find quite creative in many respects such as game world and art design but nevertheless entirely average and rather simplistic in terms of actual gameplay, didn’t even come close to matching System Shock.

    As for what System Shock 3 might look like, I’m gloomily inclined to agree with Shamus’ last post – it’ll be some lacklustre rehash with all the most memorable, defining features of the original stripped out or at least insultingly simplified. I wouldn’t actually like to see System Shock 3 – I’d like to see, as he put it, a reboot of System Shock 2. SS2 was basically going in the right direction, but had a lot of misfires for every hit – the weapons were mostly rotten, the level design was rushed and repetitive towards the end (and actually a little bland even at the start – limitations of the Dark Engine, I’m sure, but much more noticable than Thief because everything’s much better lit), the ending sucked, there was no cyberspace, and there were even a couple of “what were they thinking?” bits like the bizarre shopping-mall-on-a-starship, which I thought was daft (not, perhaps, in concept given the corporate future of the game but because of its ridiculous size compared to more important areas on the ship) and also, if I recall correctly, took hours and hours to repeatedly comb over for a few tiny, mandatory quest items. I’d love to see a proper remake of SS2, with modern graphics and all the mistakes fixed – balanced, more realistic weapons, better AI, more varieties of enemy, cyberspace, more consistent level design, and a proper, satisfying ending – which is not to say an unambiguous one, just something better than the “oh no, here we go again!” thing they had in the original (dare I wish for multiple endings, even the option to join one of the antagonists to see what happens?). Come to think of it, and here I realise I may be treading on very thin ice, I’d also like to see a straight remake of SS1, with absolutely nothing changed but on a modern engine – SS2, with the various high-poly and high-res mods, looks OK, but SS1, despite being an awesome game, has an interface and graphics that are just too antiquated, even for me, and I’ve played plenty of pixellated DOS hogs in my time – that said, there’s still a chance I’ll finish the original one day.

    *”as-good-as” sequels only really seem to work if they come out very quickly after the original, so that they’re almost more of an expansion pack than a sequel, like Thief 2.

  60. Jeff says:

    I agree with Tom.

    It’s why I never played it, even when it was on sale for 5 bucks this past New Year on Steam. It aimed too high, and then I couldn’t really reconcile the final product.

    Kind of like FO3’s ending. I expected a slideshow, maybe even an actual CGI now that so many years have passed, but slideshow is all I needed… but they REGRESSED in quality for the slideshow.

    Marketing hype that actually drove people away, how ironic.

  61. Zanfib says:

    What shamus is saying here is that BioShock is just like System Shock 2 with all the good bits removed.

    Sort of like how Master of Orion 2 is just like Master of Orion 1 with all the good bits removed.

    Zing!

  62. Yar Kramer says:

    er, yeah, I meant Kayin. Sorry, I don’t know what I was on there …

    You know, I really ought to get around to playing the System Shock games, since obviously they’d be able to run on my system with a little work. Though I suppose it just wouldn’t be the same, seeing how … well, it’s been spoiled to hell and back. It just wouldn’t have the same impact, since I know in advance that “System Shock” is actually the name of SHODAN’s sled when she was a young AI.

  63. Pidmon says:

    Strangely enough, I just got done replaying Bioshock on the 360.
    Not because of any real attraction to the game, just because I knew I could 100% of the achievements in one go on my friend’s account.
    … so I finish and then there’s 1 secret acheivement left, which would make the total an odd 51.
    “Brass Balls”
    Go through the entire game, on hard, without dying.
    So my friend is NOT getting more than 1000 gamerpoints for that little gem.

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