Bioshock EP14: Who’s Your Daddy?

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 5, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 52 comments

Link (YouTube)

And so it ends. Again. I guess. After two trips through this game I think we’re finally going to let this dead horse have some peace. Here is what Josh had to say about this episode when it originally went live:

But that's all water under the bridge now. In retrospect, this season did provide (in my mind, at least) a fairly compelling counterpoint to Bioshock's overwhelming praise in the larger gaming community. Was it a good game? Sure, I think I can at least give it that. At least it had some fairly surprising twists â€" there are a lot of games with gameplay that's just as bad (or worse) that have no redeeming factors whatsoever. But was it a great game? It seemed like the whole momentum of the game's story relied on those few twists â€" or really just the one â€" and after that truly great moment, not only does the whole game spiral sharply downwards in an irrevocable stall, but I never felt any desire to play it again until we decided to do it for this season.

And yet to play devil's advocate to my own devil's advocacy, it is worth noting that the unanimous praise was largely aimed at the console version. I'm not sure if the gameplay was significantly better on the 360 or not â€" I probably wouldn't be able to tell, playing shooters with thumbsticks is a skill which endlessly baffles me. But I think I can conclusively say that the PC version of Bioshock, at the very least, fails to live up to its hype. By far

I think BioShock is a pretty smart game… for a shooter. Which is like being the sexiest Ferengi, or the world’s tallest midget.

I do wonder what would have happened if they simply ended the game quickly after the confrontation with Ryan. No big boss fight. No long slog. Maybe a rapid tying up of plot threads and a quick set-piece escape to the surface. I’d love to jump into that alternate reality and see how the audience responded. Would people fault the game because you didn’t get to fight the metaphorical mecha-Hitler at the end? Would it have sold worse? Would it have shaken up the genre by challenging the notion that shooters need to end in huge gun battles?

I honestly don’t know. I would have liked the game a lot better, but given our complaints versus the adoration of the masses, it’s really doesn’t matter all that much if the game didn’t work for us.

Thanks for watching. Again.

And yes, I do plan to update the archives. It’s on my to-do list.


From The Archives:

52 thoughts on “Bioshock EP14: Who’s Your Daddy?

  1. Felix says:

    I think people would probably have been fine without the big gun battle at the end. I don’t think it is a genre convention people actually value. After all, two of the Halo games end with big escape driving sequences in which you can’t even shoot, and I don’t think anyone complained about that.

    1. Phantos says:

      The last section of Halo 3(which I think you’re referring to) is the worst thing that ever happened.

      “Okay, you have to drive across a series of tiles on a slow shopping cart made up of Helium. While enemies are shooting at you, and you can’t shoot back. Oh by the way, these tiles randomly explode beneath you, making you fall to your doom, forcing you to try again 80,000 times.

      ISN’T THIS EXCITING??????!!!”

      1. Viktor says:

        The enemies generally aren’t thick enough to kill you there, so I’m not sure why you mention them. Shooting would be a waste of time, which I assume is why they give you a vehicle that can’t shoot. Similarly, I never had a tile explode directly underneath me. I had some blow up right in front of me, but all can be avoided with good reactions. Were you maybe playing on PC? The Warthog works well with thumbsticks but PC driving controls are terrible at best, and for a vehicle as odd as the hog *shudders*

        1. Phantos says:

          That’s nice. I’m happy it worked out for you.

          But your experience was not mine. Those tiles always knew where I was trying to go and were unavoidable drops into oblivion. And those “thick” enemies have plenty of time to kill you when your Warthog tips to the side and forces you out. Then you have to push it back upright and then get back into the driver seat, and wait for the Arbiter to get back on the turret before you can drive at 3 miles per hour away from all of the things shooting at you with unlimited ammo.

          And this happens every 20 seconds, because the Warthog is the most unruly vehicle in any video game. This is a jeep that will do seven flips and land upside-down if you obey the speed limit and all traffic laws. And furthermore-

          …Wait, I should probably be talking about Bioshock.

          Fontaine is a dumbhead!

          1. Ciennas says:

            The Warthog got worse in Reach in that regard.

            I don’t play 4 anymore (Lousy taking features away to make me pay for lesser versions of them…) so I honestly don’t recall, but I think the handling there was more solid.

            Also, yeah, this sounds not like the 3 I knew. if you did flip the vehicle, you could just flip it and continue on (The Arbiter instantly respawned back in the turret with a decloaking effect,) and the tiles that blew up were the same every time.

            It just sounds like you had rotten luck on your first playthrough. Sorry to hear about that.

            1. Hitchmeister says:

              I never played Halo 3, but it sounds like we need a racing game that pits the Halo 3 Warthog vs. the Mass Effect 1 Mako. Any other contenders?

              1. Humanoid says:

                A HK Speedy Bus.

              2. Torsten says:

                Any car from Just Cause 2

              3. ehlijen says:

                The desert bus.

              4. Naota says:

                The ubiquitous truck from Dead Island. Bonus point if there’s a flailing zombie perpetually stuck to the broken windshield.

          2. Where the tiles fall during that last sequence is actually scripted, though there is a timer, I believe, for when the whole thing starts caving in behind you (never dared look back to confirm this however). It sounds like you were just a SOL there. :/

            I will give you the Warthog thing 100%. The vehicles where just all around awful in H3. Flimsy yet more durable than you, and all damage practically went straight to the player as opposed to the vehicle itself. And yeah, the enemies in that last sequence aren’t very good at trying to kill you, but God help you when they DO get you–I remember being in constant fear of a Sentinel’s beam sending me spiraling while in the process of a midair jump.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Yes, tiles were scripted, and yes, the thing was timered.

              Basically, wait too long at any point and the superstructure would drop from under you, leading to a restart of the whole event.

              I’ll be honest- that whole sequence should have been scripted to let the player pick the path, at least on the profile’s first playthrough. the illusion of danger (Say, a panel exploding right after you get off it,) would have kept the emotional tension just right, there, and provided a satisfying conclusion.

              Personally, I’ll blame Microsoft- executive meddling drastically altered the whole story, and we’ll never know how the originally envisioned 3 would have gone.

              (Basically, Microsoft forced Halo 2 to be split into two, and we never got around to the third act.)

              1. Yup. I thought H3 was fine up until the end. So confusing and disappointing.
                “Wait, why is Chief doing what he’s doing?”
                “Oh wait, the Halo’s work differently now? NOW they kill Flood after they spent two games hammering home the point that they can’t? THAT’S why Chief fired the Halo? THAT was the Ark’s secret solution? What? The game didn’t tell me this. Why the major retcon?”
                “Wait, they didn’t answer any of questions regarding the Flood OR the Forerunners? What’s this throwaway line from Guilty Spark?”
                “Oh there IS some stuff answered cryptically in those hidden terminals? I mean, that stuff was great, but why wasn’t any of that in the actual narrative?”
                “What happened to the ‘presence’ at the end of H2? Was that character cut?”
                “What happened to Cortana using In Amber Clad as a bomb?”
                “Wait, Chief is stranded in space around a mysterious planet? WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”

                I don’t hold Bungie blameless, but Microsoft definitely played its part in messing with the universe.

                1. Ciennas says:

                  ‘Presence’? What?

                  I’m a pretty big fan of the series in general, but I don’t remember a presence mentioned in 2 at all.

                  (I remember the novel only Forerunner Crystal that never panned out, but…)

                  Ya know, this is a tangent that would go excellently on the forums…

                  There we go- two excellent topics for the forum

                  ‘Mistakes in Halo’s narrative and structure (And how to fix them,)’

                  But before I run off and make that topic, what presence are you talking about?

                  1. In Chief’s final mission in Halo 2. At some point while making a dash for the Forerunner dreadnought to try and prevent Prophet Truth from escaping, Cortana says:

                    “I’ll do what I can to stall the launch sequence… there’s something on the ship… a presence, it’s… fighting back. For a Covenant construct, it is unusually formidable.”

                    At this point, it’s pretty much accepted fact by fans and creators that the “presence” Cortana was referring to was the remains of the Contender-Class Forerunner AI, Mendicant Bias 05-032. MB is first mentioned by name in the Forerunner terminals scattered across the Ark in H3 (and his story can be read on Legendary difficulty). Basically, he/it was the Didact’s (the Forerunner supreme commander’s) last hope of stopping the Flood before firing the Halo Array. Long story short, MB got into a debate with a life-form originally presumed to be the Gravemind*, and it convinced the AI that its Forerunner masters were the ones in the wrong, leading to its defection to the Flood (you should read the actual debate; it’s fascinating!). MB lead the entire Flood fleet to the Ark, Didact created the AI Offensive Bias to stop MB, then fired the Array. OB defeated MB, but a portion of MB was able to escape on the Forerunner ship we see in H2/3, and spent the next 100,000 years regretting its betrayal. The ship and the AI were later discovered by the San ‘Shyuum Prophet race, leading to the formation of the Covenant. MB later realizes it has an opportunity to redeem itself by returning to the Ark via the only known remaining Gate on Earth (it also unwittingly–and arguably–started the Human-Covenant War, if you read First Contact, but that’s another story). Mendicant Bias, WANTING to return to the Ark to rebuild itself so it could help the Reclaimers (humanity), fought back against Cortana when she tried to stall the launch sequence.

                    If you are able to catch any of Prophet Truth’s broadcasts on the Earth or Ark (frustratingly improbable since he talks while you’re busy shooting–AND his holos can be destroyed in the process), one of the things he mentions is that the Forerunner ship is practically running of its own accord, activating the Gate then later various systems across the Ark. If you’re playing on Legendary, MB “appears” to Chief inside the last terminal and offers to help before it presumably dies–though how it helps is unclear given that it’s just a text-based cameo/Easter Egg.

                    Waaaay back when I was a Bungie forum-goer, I vaguely remember reading either a dev udpate or a random forum post about how Bungie admitted that campaign content was cut in favor of multiplayer stuff due to time/money constraints. Additionally, the content on the terminals was the result of this. I am of the opinion that at least some of that terminal content (including Mendicant Bias) would have been in the narrative proper. The problem with this is I have no definite proof there was ever such a statement from Bungie, or if it was just a rumor. It was long enough ago I wouldn’t know where to look on the website–and I can’t anyway because Bungie did not bother to archive ANYTHING when they did their recent website overhaul. So I have no proof they ever intended the terminals to be anything more than they are, though I’d be surprised if that was actually the case. And I am ever so bitter Mendicant Bias was never introduced as an actual character.

                    If you ever go through with that forum post you mentioned, I have a list of errors, inconsistencies, cut content, and other stuff I would’ve liked to have seen a mile long.

                    *According to the Forerunner novels, it turns out the life-form was actually a surviving Precursor (a being before the Forerunners), but that’s also a WHOLE other story.

                    1. Thanks. I’ll try popping in off and on, but it may be slow as sharing such material requires walls of text per topic.

          3. topazwolf says:

            If you grab it, it is possible to get a brute chopper for that segment which makes it a lot easier.

            1. Ciennas says:

              I have this sudden vision of the Arbiter clinging to the back of the death bike, shouting Sanghelian obscenities at you the whole while.

              It amuses me.

          4. Axe Armor says:

            Super with you. Hated that part. Kept trading seats with my brother whenever one of us got too angry to drive.

  2. MrGuy says:

    I gotta say, I really did hate that “you lost but got saved!” after the crazy easy boss fight.

    I used exclusively the strategy Josh used at the end – I had the chem thrower consumption and range upgrade, and just hosed Fontaine down each time with electric gel. He never got off a shot – just sat there stun-locked until it was time to go back in his…chair?…and get needled. (the technique worked crazy well on big daddies too).

    Really irritating that the guy who couldn’t land a punch somehow knocked me senseless at the end.

  3. Corpital says:

    Now now, I can understand all the hate and bile, it’s not entirely undeserved. But still, putting those poor Ferengi in a comparision related to BioShock is just uncalled for and rude.

    The ending…I can say without a doubt, that I hated every part of the ending in equal measures, but one thing stuck out. For some unspecified raisin, I found it really unnerving, when all the little girls suddenly jumped out of holes in the walls and start stabbing Fontaine with these *awful* needles.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Everything happens for a raisin.

    2. Henson says:

      If raisins were as plentiful as blackberries, I would not give you a raisin upon compulsion.

    3. Bryan says:

      Well, at least they weren’t *hysterical* raisins. Those are the worst.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    The one slight drawback of Spoiler Warning is that Josh is necessarily distracted from giving his opinion, as positively demonstrated by the above giant blockquote. Not complaining! – it is what it is. And these days we have the Diecast, so it’s All Good.

    PS I typed ‘die’ and my iPhone decided (correctly) I must have meant ‘Diecast.’ Interesting that Cupertino both knows you are a thing and also trusts that I’m not about to go on a bloodsoaked rampage.

  5. ehlijen says:

    There are a few games that didn’t really have end bosses.

    Tomb Raider sort of had the huge oni, but the game wasn’t 100% over after that. The actual big bad was just a QTE :(

    ME3 didn’t have a big end boss, and thankfully so. Unless you count Marauder shields (certainly nothing past him counts as gameplay anymore).

    Freespace 2 doesn’t have an endboss. The final mission is really more of a mood piece that really suits the story.

    Overall, having an end boss or not is a question of tone for the game. Some games benefit from them, others don’t.

    And big end boss doesn’t have to mean ‘shoot the weak spot for massive damage’. XCOM’s end boss was simply a tougher ethereal. You use all the normal tools to overcome him, but he hits lick a ton of bricks and takes more killing until you do.

    Tomb Raider and ME3 did not have good endings, but while ME3 would have suffered (probably) for having one, I think Tomb Raider needed more closure against Matthias. Meanwhile, Freespace 2, an action arcade space shooter, succeeds without needing one because the story is set up that way.

    HL2 probably did away with a big boss because the Nihilant was, frankly, not a very good one. And let’s not speak of that thing from Opposing Forces. In fact, even by Blue Shift they didn’t really have a boss anymore. Maybe Valve just doesn’t know how to make fun bosses that still fit into their worlds? (Which can be a challenge unless whackyness is part of the tone).

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I think the dlc for human revolution did the end boss quite well.Its just a guy that you can one hit kill/stun if you approach him,but he is surrounded by others,and has a good weapon.

      1. Ravenred says:

        The thing about him being an end boss is that he was actually a BOSS (i.e. a commander) and a well-conceptualised one at that rather than a tougher enemy you have to kill to progress. That’s one of the ways in which the ME3 sucked. The reapers there weren’t personalised like Sovereign so there was no real sense of having conquered over them.

    2. Hydralysk says:

      While those games might not have specific end bosses, they do have what you could call final boss areas.

      The last 20 minutes of tomb raider is a giant gauntlet of dudes followed by a the toughest mook yet. The ending to mass effect 3 was a giant gauntlet of dudes followed by massive exposition. The Last of Us has a giant building full of dudes to kill right before you could progress to the climax of the story. In Freespace 2 the last few missions are probably the hardest in the game because of the sheer amount of ships assaulting you and your mostly fragile charges.

      I’m not sure if I’d say these are the same as boss battles, but they do both try to give the player the hardest and/or longest combat challenge to go alongside the climax of the story.

      If we’re talking about games with nothing resembling a final boss I’d say Gone Home is a good recent example because there’s no ramp up in difficulty when you reach the end. There’s no super hard puzzle to solve, no person to confront, you quite literally just walk up to the end of the game exerting no more effort than you did walking into the first room of the game.

      1. ehlijen says:

        They are hard, yes. That difficulty comes from just making the player do more of the things he’s been doing (and hopefully) liking so far at once.

        I mentioned the super Oni, but the other big fights are not all that different from some of the bigger ambush fights you’ve already gone through several times. Just maybe with a few more guys at once.

        The big climax of ME3 is when the reapers start using elites as mooks to take out the thanix missile trucks. But it’s not a boss because you’re still killing lesser enemies in large numbers instead of chipping away at one big one.
        It had Kai Leng, but fighting him was still nothing compared to Saren, or Husksaren, or even termireaper.

        Freespace had a kinda boss fight with the Juggernaught prongs, but it still doesn’t behave any different than pretty much any capital ship you encounter before then.

        Games get more difficult as they go on, yes. But true boss fights tend to have many of the following qualities on top of being hard (or easy, sometimes):
        -you fight only one thing, and it’s frequently tougher than any single thing should be (all the DOW2 ‘Alpha’ tyranids)
        -it’s the lynchpin of the bad guy’s efforts (Saren, Bowzer, Nihilant etc)
        -it requires other skills than the ones you’ve learned until then (HL2 striders and tripods)
        -it has stages of tactics changes that require timing or technique adaptation (The high dragon in DA2)
        -it’s the last enemy you fight (at least in that stage) (doesn’t need examples, does it?)

        Not all bosses have all of these traits, of course, but there is a distinct difference, I feel, between games that have bosses and games that ramp up the difficulty by other means.

        Each has it’s own pros and cons, and genres to fit into. But overall, having a boss fight implies a certain amount of unrealism for your game’s tone. That can be what you want, be it a mythical (gods, sith) or whimsical one (jetpack mechahitler), but it can also be what you don’t want (the half atlas at the end of Mech Assault 2 (before mech assault, the BT universe had been pretty grounded in realism, as far as mecha games can be anyway)).

  6. Ravenred says:

    Bioshock as a genuine RPG would have been interesting rather than as primarily a shooter.

    Give it a Fallout-esque open world (where some sort of society and economy still function), make the factions a bit more defined (rather than ghostly voice 1 sending splicers at you vs ghostly voice 2 sending splicers at you) and actually leveraging the intersting aspects of the world rather than just having them as backdrops for the plasmid action and the setpieces…

    Well that’s gone, in any case. The Atlas/Fontaine reveal was quite good for me, but everything after the death of Ryan was more or less filler…

  7. I think this and the Jaron Namir bossfight from Deus Ex demonstrate that whenever you’re basically facing off against a naked dude, the reasoning behind the setup will be harmful to your brain should you dwell on it for too long.

    1. Ithilanor says:

      Lucifer in Dante’s Inferno is another case that comes to mind.

  8. WillRiker says:

    I gave up on Bioshock even before I got to Andrew Ryan–watching this season of SW was the first I even saw it. I just found the game incredibly tedious; go into a room, fight a bunch of sploicers, go into the next room, shoot a bunch MORE splicers, rinse, repeat. It got old FAST.

  9. Phantos says:

    At the time, I didn’t mind the boss fight with Fontaine by itself, on its’ own merits independent of the rest of Bioshock. Hardly imaginative, but I didn’t see it as being easy or too hard.

    It just didn’t belong in the game that came before it. It wasn’t really a Boss Fight kind of game to begin with. And it’s too bad that Infinite learned all of the wrong lessons from this when they made the Handymen.

  10. anaphysik says:

    So, Josh, you’re afraid of opening up a coding book and seeing pipes?


  11. AyeGill says:

    Now I want to play a game a la Octodad, in which you play a Big Daddy dressed in a tuxedo who has to raise the little sisters while pretending to be a completely normal single dad. So, obviously the little sisters know your secret, but you have to, with their help, trick everyone else into thinking there’s nothing off. So, you’d have to take them to kindergarten while taking care not to step on someone else’s child, go to school meetings and try to cover the fact that you can only talk in echoing grunts, etc. I think this has potential.

    1. Corpital says:

      I like that idea and I’m sure nothing could possibly ever go wrong.

  12. Neko says:

    Bioshock really needed to end after Andrew Ryan. Perhaps you ran around the city a bit, wrest control of its systems back from Fontaine, perhaps find a way to kill him in his bunker without directly engaging in a fist-fight – the ending of Thief 2 comes to mind. Flood his part of the city, switch off the oxygen, dump his module down a trench, anything other than the ludicrous Street Fighter boss fight that we got.

    Edit: I think the weird dichotomy between Fontaine’s regret that you two could never be close now and the fact that he motherfucking tried to kill you several times already probably stems from all the voice-acting being recorded ahead of time and then major plot points being rewritten. They might have wanted to preserve some of their pre-recorded audio even if in hindsight it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense once the final revision of the plot was in place.

  13. Kelmomas says:

    Every time a developer reveals gameplay telemetry data, it invariably turns out that only a minority of the players finished the game. Often a small minority.

    I’d be curious to see those stats for Bioshock. It may be a fairly short game but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of players never even made it to Andrew Ryan in the first place.

    1. jarppi says:

      Your comment made me curious so I looked the stats we have available, steam achievments in other words. It seems like even at maximum only half of the gamers actually finishes these games and that is neglecting the 20-30% of game owners who don’t even play the game at all (don’t even have the first achievment unlocked). Unfortunately Bioshock doesn’t have achievments so we can’t get any answer. I just assume it would be somewhere around 25%…

  14. I would like to point out in fairness that the Halo games since 2001 have always had a good aesthetic–well, except for Halo 2; that game was hideous, but their development ended up being rushed (doesn’t change the fact it was ugly and claustrophobic, but still). Though Bioshock, I think, was certainly the first of its aesthetic and style we’ve seen on the market: underwater Steampunk/Art Deco (as Mumbles called it).

  15. Jeff says:

    ” it is worth noting that the unanimous praise was largely aimed at the console version. I'm not sure if the gameplay was significantly better on the 360 or not”

    It’s context. It’s always been about context. Halo or Goldeneye had far less of an impact on PC gamers, in contrast to how they were regarded by console gamers. It’s not just if the console version of Bioshock had significantly better gameplay then the PC version, but what the games are being compared to.

    In any case, an FPS on a console will be innately different from an FPS on a PC, due to the reduction of precision for aiming (thumbstick vs mouse) and the increase in precision for movement (binary WASD vs thumbstick).

  16. Tim Charters says:

    Well, a few people did actually complain that ME3 didn’t have a final boss, even though the final boss they had planned really did look terrible. For all the jokes about that Casey Hudson interview where he said he felt a final boss would have been “too video-gamey,” I actually think he was exactly right, and that not having TIM turn into a ridiculous Resident Evil style boss monster was one of the few good decisions made regarding the ME3 ending.

  17. Abnaxis says:

    ((WARNING: Philosophical anti-Objectivism stuff follows. Feel free to nuke me if I go to far.))

    While I think the final boss-fight needs to die in a fire, I would not have been happy if the game ended at Andrew Ryan, at least not without some restructuring.

    My favorite area in the game was Fontaine’s House for the Poor, because that is the place where the actual faults of Objectivism are discussed.

    I had a really long post all queued up but it’s probably too incendiary. In brief, I think the downfall of any hypothetical Objectivist society would be precipitated by the emergence of a class so destitute the only commodity they have left to trade for living essentials are their fundamental rights. When that happens, Objectivist society stops being Objectivist and turns into something characterized by a lack of freedom, rather than an abundance of it.

    The line of logic I follow is portrayed almost exactly by the logs in the Center for the Poor, albeit delivered by the anachronistic meat-head Fontaine. In those logs, he lays out exactly what caused Rapture to collapse. It wasn’t the riots, or the violence, or the crackdown–it was when an ambitious man like Fontaine figured out he could own people’s very lives for the price of bread.

    When people talk about how Bioshock addresses Objectivism, however, this never comes up. Most focus on events and behaviors that happened well after Fontaine crashed the whole thing (which are portrayed at the start of the game, incidentally), after Ryan went from visionary to despot. That’s understandable, because those parts of the story were delivered with impact and finesse. However, it is the otherwise-ham-fisted delivery of Fontaine that contains the real conversation about Rapture.

    Part of me wonders if they didn’t make the character over the top on purpose. You yourself have talked about Objectivist you know who liked the game–I wonder if the response would be different if Fontaine had been eloquent instead of crude?

    1. I wish I could find it, but I once read an essay about why an Objectivist (or Libertarian) society wouldn’t work in a closed system like a spaceship or maybe an underwater city. It had to do with someone eventually gaining monopolies on vital commodities (air, water, food) and being able to then become basically a despot as well as cause problems with the production of those vital items more easily than in other systems.

      It was kind of a “who cleans the toilets?” concept combined with “what happens when the toilet-cleaners can’t afford the market price for air?”

  18. evilmrhenry says:

    So, when you become a Big Daddy, there are multiple indications that this is a one-way trip. (An audio log from an engineer that the process is much more complicated than just sticking someone in a suit, Fontaine saying something like “You’re an idiot; you’ll be stuck as a Big Daddy”, plus the whole throat mangler. I might have forgotten something as well.)

    Then the ending comes, and apparently it is just a suit you can take off.

    What it feels like is that they were going for a “you won, but at what cost?” ending, but they chickened out.

    1. Tom says:

      Before the end, actually – from the video it seems the circular porthole view magically vanishes, without comment from anyone, as soon as you enter the Fontaine level?

  19. Zekiel says:

    Someone wrote a brilliant alternate ending for Bioshock that I read somewhere after I finished it – sadly I can’t recall where. But it pointed out that the numerous references to the poor state of repair of Rapture never pay off – and so this ending used that by having Rapture flooding at the end and you have race against time either to save the Little Sisters & Tannenbaum, or yourself (at their expense) while Fontaine tries to stop you.

    In order to do this you have to make the grotesque sacrifice of becoming a Big Daddy. Because Fontaine has now taken control and therefore is the only person who can use vita-chambers, you then get this wonderful gameplay reversal: rather than you being the weak(ish) character with access to infinite respawns, fighting the big monster, you are now the big monster and Fontaine can respawn infinitely.

    I thought it was very clever. Of course Rapture flooding does rather make Bioshock 2 impossible…

    1. Tom says:

      They really missed a trick with the maintenance references and stuff; they could, and probably should, have made flooding an entire game mechanic, rather than just another part of the art style. I think it’s a good case study of a complete failure of environmental storytelling: in an underwater city, any leak, no matter how small, should be shit-your-pants terrifying. Like, even in the middle of a pitched battle, there should be a good chance both sides will actually stop fighting each other long enough to fix a leak that springs up, due to the sheer, crazy, apocalyptic danger a leak represents to everyone. People, even deranged splicers, should be very edgy about just firing weapons anywhere in the direction of glass windows, and a leak shouldn’t be just a splash; at that depth, the jet of water through a small hole should be like an iron bar, and cut you in half as fast as a welding laser if it hits you. They could have gone that way. Anyone remember the meat circus level in Psychonauts?

      Instead, they sloshed water everywhere. Every level, everywhere, has perpetual streams and cascades of water gushing about, without harming anybody, and no rising water levels, and running water thus very, very rapidly becomes just part of the background as a result. It’s not scary, heck, you don’t think about it at all, because you’re always seeing it, and it’s a total non-event when you do. Rapture should be DRY everywhere. Water should be something you DREAD seeing on the wrong side of the glass. Even the presence of glass itself should make you nervous. Heck, it’s crazy when you really think about it, that the biggest hook of the whole game is the underwater setting, and then they barely do any environmental storytelling with water, except maybe the bit with the plane tail at the start, which isn’t scary because it’s clear after about two seconds that you can’t die in that part no matter how long you take.

      System Shock 2, for all its trailblazing brilliance, made the same mistake – you’re in space, for crying out loud, and space itself should be scary even before the monsters turn up, yet they only had a decompression scare once, at the start, and they botched it because they did it too early – you’re too busy being bewildered and stumbling around trying to learn the controls and just get into the game at all to really be scared by it. Dead Space, on the other hand, even though it was pretty weak on sophisticated scariness and had to basically survive on jump scares and body horror after the first couple of levels, got the scariness of space itself right – open a door into a spaced room, with that oxygen meter counting down fast, and suddenly after the initial rush it gets eerily quiet, and then it gets scary for real.

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