Bioshock EP12: Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 29, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 33 comments

Link (YouTube)

NOTE: Eagle-eyed readers may have caught the mistake I made earlier today: For about ten minutes I did accidentally post episode 13 instead of episode 12 here. My bad. In my defense, I was in another window, writing you a post about something unrelated to BioShock. So you kind of win either way.

At any rate, here are my original comments for this post as they appeared way back in 2010:

The Big Daddy transformation was a cavalcade of lazy plotting, supported by a layer of contrivances, and glued together with a few pounds of sloppy videogame logic. I think it actually undermines the earlier themes about free will. Now that you’re no longer a slave and you’re free to think for yourself, the game requires you to do something dumber and more illogical than anything that you did while you were supposedly under control of others.

This section of the game very nearly wins the title of “Most Obnoxious Plot Door”, a title which currently belongs to Neverwinter Nights 2. But BioShock gets off the hook because this plot door only takes about thirty minutes, not five hours.

It’s a shame we had to cut this sequence in the middle. We point out the rest of the flaws with the Big Daddy Quest in the next episode. Then there’s one more mini-episode after that one where we wrap this series up. We’ve already selected our next game, so your pleas are futile.



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33 thoughts on “Bioshock EP12: Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before

  1. GM says:

    this is the part of Bioshock i hate or despise,becoming a bigdaddy ugh.
    i did finish Thomas Was alone which starts strong then gets weaker in storytelling the music is always calming which is awesome.

    1. Eleion says:

      I agree with Thomas Was Alone. I liked all the characters but I was hoping for more character interaction at the end of the game, not for them to remove the characters entirely.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait,why did you upload episode 13 before 12?

    Oh well,double the spoiler warning for me,so I wont complain.

    EDIT:Ah,I shouldve read the comment first.My bad.In my defense,I am rash and lazy.

  3. Humanoid says:

    Hopefully this mystery game you’ve selected for the next season is less repetitive, less contrived and less railroady.


    1. Corpital says:

      Yeah, this is very confusing. First, we are asked if we would prefer Knife of Dunwell or 400Days and then they just decide and don’t tell us about it.

      I just hope, it won’t be Mass Effect2. Even though it has one thing going for it: you can’t spoil, what’s already rotten.

      I also have to agree with past-Shamus, this part has to bee one of the three worst scenes, I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Makes my head buzz.

  4. That is a really terrible plot door. It’s such a lame excuse for a collection quest that doesn’t actually make sense.

    I think the main problem with these plot doors (especially this one and the Neverwinter Nights one) is that it requires you to do something ridiculous in order to fool people into helping you.
    They could have just gone with a “Oh-no, this door needs 5 keycards to unlock it, go find the 5 keycards” and it wouldn’t have anywhere near the number of problems. Sure, it’d still be a stupid plot door, but at least it wouldn’t be forcing you to mutilate yourself and it doesn’t need to deal with why you can’t just ask the little sisters to help or why you can’t collect the stuff from just one big daddy.

    And they could have disguised the plot door as well. Take, for instance, the massive tentacle things in Half-life 1: they block your path ahead, while also being a massive thing that you have no real way of dealing with – explosives won’t work, bullets won’t work, you can’t crowbar the door open because there isn’t a door – it’s something that’s actively blocking your progress and until you can switch on all the subsystems and activate a rocket engine right into it, you can’t get passed.

    Actually, I retract my previous statement. The main problem with these plot doors is that they are literally just doors. Things that really should be able to be dealt with quite easily.
    Alternatively, you could have a puzzle to open the door (but this game doesn’t really have puzzles, so introducing one would be incongruous).

    1. Eleion says:

      I haven’t actually played Bioshock myself, so I could be totally off base here, but this scene feels to me like the designers wanted to force you to go through this really emotionally traumatic scene. I think the goal was less to create a arbitrary plot door, and more to create an arbitrary emotional journey.

      Which almost makes this scene more troubling, because of how stupid it is. I can imagine ways in which a scene where you are forced to mutilate yourself in order to continue on your path could be incredibly harrowing and powerful (not quite the same, but the end of Walking Dead feels like something along the lines of what they were going for), and instead your just destroying yourself because the character can’t be bothered to think of a better solution.

      1. I haven’t played it either, but it doesn’t really seem they were really aiming for that – there’s not really any sympathy from Tenebaum. While mutilating yourself is obviously a terrible thing, it isn’t really presented as such – in fact, your plasmids are probably a cause of worse mutilation at this point.

        And if it was about mutilation, a better option would be to focus on the mutilation, rather than the collection of bits from a big daddy suit + mutilating yourself.

        I don’t know, it just feels off.

  5. I enjoyed most of this game, even the repetitive combat and scavenging. Once I suspended my disbelief, I was fine with most of the plot, as I don’t have a high bar for plot in video games.

    This section really took the fun out of it for me. I spent close to an hour wandering round the level, trying different things all to get round becoming a big daddy. The boots / helmet I didn’t mind so much as they were not too encumbering, but particularly the voice mod, really hurt for me.

    This is a little strange for me as I don’t watch much in the way of films or TV because the plots are too boring, and the set pieces aren’t enough to hold me in, but as long as the action is reasonably good, I will play any crazy plotted game.

    I think the difference is not only the gaping logical hole this presents, [Why can’t you get a friendly little sister / crowbar / battering ram / explosives / welding gear (that we have seen used elsewhere) to open the door] but also we are asked to do something that is stupid, but also self harms.

    From what Atlas was saying about being betrayed, despite doing a ‘help little sisters’ run, at this point I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was doing the right thing, and whether I was going to be betrayed or not – but there was nothing that I could do about it.

    I wanted to finishing the game, so I stood in front of the throat mangler, saved the game, then went for it.

    And everything after that was bliss. With more shooting.


    Edit: for the record, I didn’t mind the plot door in Neverwinter Nights 2, because while a logical issue, at least it wasn’t self harm, and at least the things you were given to do were interesting.

    1. guy says:

      Not all of them were interesting

      (With apologies to the NWN2 LP, which did this first).

      1. Flock of Panthes says:

        Any chance you could link the LP?

          1. Chauzuvoy says:

            Here is the relevant update.

  6. jarppi says:

    After three more years Rutskarn’s joke about Episode 3 development time is still relevant… Duh.

    Anyway, this is the part that killed Bioshock for me. I already was forced to tweak the fov through .ini files and then they drop the helmet on you. It was almost unplayable. I propably could have forgiven the fov f*** you they did, but story and pacing at this were just too much. I finished it because I knew I was almost at the end but there is just no reason for me play the endgame ever again. For a couple of times I’ve picked up the again and played it until the massive plot twist. And them pretended it was the end of the game.

  7. WillRiker says:

    You guys praise Valve here, but I have to point out the vehicle sections in HL2, especially the buggy, were *very* long and got pretty tedious. Which is to say nothing of Xen (shudder).

    It’s obviously nowhere near as bad as Bioshock, but Valve doesn’t exactly have a spotless record here.

    1. TraderRager says:

      The vehicle sections in HL2 were perfectly fine. They were varied, well maped, and lasted just long enough for them not to overstay their welcome.

      1. Hydralysk says:

        For me the vehicle sections did drag on too long, and they weren’t very fun to drive. I wasn’t very fond of them at all. Though on the flip side, I LOVED Xen, probably my favorite part of Half-Life.

        On the original subject though, the reason behind all the valve praise probably stems from the fact that they did the silent protagonist shtick much better. Gordon Freeman never felt like the braindead pawn of various NPCs after their own goals, he was made out to be a hero that everyone depended on because he was the most insanely capable individual ever to graduate from MIT.

        Half-Life worked because each new task made feel like I was inching closer to my goal of overthrowing the Combine, whereas Bioshock forced me to complete sidequests for NPCs just to open a door so I could get back to the main story.

        1. guy says:

          I found the beach portions of the buggy ride to be infuriating, but the parts where you weren’t getting continually swarmed by Antlions whenever you made a mistake were pretty fun, and the airboat was pretty wonderful.

        2. Yes, that’s what I was looking for: progress.

          The problem with plot doors is they prevent progress. They stop you from feeling like you are getting closer to your goal, and rather have to waste time overcoming a nuisance of an obstacle.

          A feeling of progress is one of the most important things for engagement (in every medium of fiction). If the characters don’t progress, then when you come away, you think “What did they do just then? Nothing.” And that’s deflating and creates a sense of boredom, which means people want to stop. And people will stop, unless they have some other personal reason for finishing – e.g. they always get to the end of the game, they are socially obliged to finish, The story so far has been interesting and engaging enough that they want to find out what happens.
          But usually, a lack of progress will just kill it for the audience.

          1. MrGuy says:

            I think this is a bit of a tricky balance. If there’s no impediments to your progress, games are too easy and probably too short – letting you walk into the baron’s castle the morning after he kills your parents and shoot him in the face would be satisfying progress, but not much of a game.

            Progress needs to be a slow burn to be engaging. And for that to happen, there have to be impediments to your progress. There need to be intermediate goals, obstacles to overcome, twists in the path. Done well, these make a game feel like a rewarding challenge.

            You need to EARN your sense of progress sometimes, and sometimes that means being deliberately blocked.

            The problem, I think, is with LAZY obstacles. Obstacles that are arbitrarily placed in your way with no reason. Obstacles whose solutions don’t make sense in game. Obstacles that take you so far out of the “goal you’re trying to accomplish” to be exercises in yak shaving. Obstacles reminding the player “this is a game and you’ll do what I say because I’m the designer!”

            I like a lot of the obstacles in the Tomb Raider series – they impede my progress temporarily, but I feel a sense of accomplishment later when I’ve figured them out. I tolerate obstacles like midget Napoleoon’s crazy plot door in RE4 or Sander Cohen’s level in Bioshock because even if they’re a little arbitrary, I found the levels and gameplay required to get around them interesting and engaging. And I HATE this plot door in Bioshock because it’s dull to solve, and worse it’s pointlessly dull to solve because it’s so obvious I’m carrying equipment that could solve it more easily.

            It’s not presenting a challenge to my progress, it’s wasting my time.

        3. MrGuy says:


          Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had barely earned the distinction of his Ph.D. at the time of the Black Mesa Incident. I have good reason to believe that in the intervening years, he was in a state that precluded further development of covert skills.

  8. wulfgar says:

    i feel like i’m wearing big daddy helmet while playing console ports and terrible PC games that don’t have FOV settings

    1. Neko says:

      It makes me feel like a Dalek.

    2. Bryan says:

      …But you repeat yourself…


  9. Spammy says:

    The repost makes this the most meta titled episode. Why yes, I have heard this before, three years ago when the episode was posted.

  10. anaphysik says:

    Went straight for the lungs? The killer must be a werewolf, Jim.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Huh. I’d like to meet his tailor.

  11. silver Harloe says:

    Where does the harping on self-mutilation come in? When I played, I was under the impression it was just a disguise, a suit. I thought the voice thing was external to your body, and the rest is clearly external/worn/sprayed on.

    1. Tse says:

      Well, yea, all except the voice box. If you look at the apparatus that applies it, it’s pretty obvious that its function is REPLACING your own larynx.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        I guess protesting “but I’m a silent protagonist” wouldn’t work. Because then Tanenbaum would point out you just said that.

        1. Tse says:

          If you weren’t before, now you are!

          1. Spammy says:

            Except since you’re a Big Daddy you’re probably not actually silent by force in-universe. If you wanted you could walk around going BRWOOOOOOOO. In fact I think that after you get the voice box “upgrade” the game does play Big Daddy hurt groans when you’re damaged.

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