Way back in May I was looking for an easy game to play*, and I found the Remastered editions of BioShock and BioShock 2 in my Steam library. They appeared there for free when those editions were released, because I owned the original games. My original plan was to play BioShock 2, because I have owned it since the Christmas sale of 2010 and have yet to play it, but I didn’t remember the original story very well so I started up the first game instead.
I first played BioShock in 2008, when I wrote this about it:
If you’re one of the six or seven people who haven’t played it already, it’s a very cool game. It’s not a very long-lasting game, though, as is typical of the gaming industry these days. And it’s not the hardest game in the world, either. I played it on all three difficulty settings, and on the hardest setting, it started out kind of hard, but I got used to it after a while and it became rather easy to beat down the splicers. On the easy setting, it was ridiculously easy. Fun to whack everyone with the wrench, though.
Ten years later, all of that is still true. I remember it as a fantastic shooter with a gripping story that I couldn’t wait to consume, with a mind-blowing pay-off at the end. (For a game, that is.)
My memory paints it a bit better than it actually is. But it’s still a very good game, and I dare say it’s one of the seminal works in the genre. I can’t recall too many shooters having such strong, artistic story elements before BioShock (certainly none that had a “twist”). Half-Life was the first shooter I remember that even had a story arc, but BioShock took it all to a new level with quality voice acting and a very original setting that would undoubtedly draw a lot of fire in today’s more polarized political gaming climate.
With fresh eyes I have a few criticisms of the story now. It starts very strong, like I remember it, but now I’m noticing that the pacing slows down considerably through Neptune’s Bounty and Smuggler’s Hideout, and drops entirely off a cliff when you reach Arcadia and Fort Frolic.
The first part of the game is all about helping Atlas while Andrew Ryan learns of your presence and starts to impede you. You reach the climax of helping Atlas at the end of Smuggler’s Hideout, and then your goal simply becomes to find Andrew Ryan. As a player, at this point, I’m very interested in learning the story behind Atlas and Ryan, and me.
You are told Ryan’s “just up ahead,” except you have to stop off in Arcadia and Fort Frolic first, and those two zones feel like a series of unrelated diversions that serve only to delay you from reaching Ryan. You don’t learn anything relevant to you, Atlas, Ryan, or anyone during those levels. We meet two brand new characters in Dr. Langford and Sander Cohen, who have very little connection with anything else.
After Fort Frolic, we reach Haphaestus, where at first we are relieved to see a sign pointing to Dr. Ryan’s office. But once again we are set upon with delay after delay. First there is navigating the maze leading to his office door, then once there, we have another groan-inducing puzzle to figure out because we have to assemble a gizmo and dismantle a contraption before we can get in. When you’re only playing the game to refresh your memory of the story, particularly when you’re playing it on Easy to get through it as fast as possible, all of these machinations feel pointless, and the waves of bad guys feel redundant.
After that, it’s better. I just think it would have been a tighter story if they had combined Neptune’s Bounty and Smuggler’s Hideout, and deleted Arcadia and Fort Frolic entirely. Of course, then the game would have been about four hours long, so, I guess I’m asking for a lot there.
Incidentally, I don’t know what is actually different in the “remastered” edition. I have no screenshots or video of the original game so I have no reference for comparison. It looks and runs fine for me (although it did crash once and I lost two hours of gameplay because I forgot to save my game), but I can still tell it’s an older game. (Mainly because the right mouse button does not default to the zooming/iron sights function.)
* At the time, the joints of my left hand were a bit sore, so I thought a controller game would help alleviate the pain of pushing the keys of a WASD game. Oh how naive I was those couple of months ago.