Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Guest article: Bioshock

(Many thanks to Desmond Mayer for writing this article. We all look forward to working alongside you!)

Bioshock : How it changed a generation

"A man has a choice, I chose the impossible. I built a city where the artists would not fear the censor, where the great would not be constrained by the small, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. I chose to build Rapture. But my city was betrayed by the weak. So I ask you my friend, if you live with pride, would you kill the innocent? Would you sacrifice your humanity? We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us." – Andrew Ryan

This is not a review of Bioshock.  Just my memories of why I fell in love with it and how I believe it created waves in the gaming ocean.

I will start this with a bold statement which has caused many arguments; Bioshock is one of the greatest games of the last generation and we would not be where we are now without it.

Cast your mind back to 2007.  A few years into the generation, the Xbox 360 and the Wii were dominating, the PS3 had just launched and the market was empty of creative games.  First person shooters were few and they all had weak stories, linear gameplay and lifeless characters.  We did not know any better at the time and this we accepted this.  If you wanted something a little different you got yourself a Wii and Twilight Princess.

But, on the 24 August 2007, everything changed.  The all mighty Bioshock was released and we all danced!  At this time in my life, I was a student living at home and not that deep into gaming as I am now.  I brought my Xbox 360 for a whole pound the month before and I was just drawn straight to Bioshock.  I remember returning home and being so excited that I had to play this game straight away.  I locked myself away for the entire weekend and completed Bioshock.  From the moment the game started I fell in love with it and enjoyed everything right up to the end.

I refer back to my opening statement and explain my reasons.
First off, the story telling.  Bioshock was the first game I had played which did not need lengthy cut scenes to tell a story.  The final scene was only just over a minute long.  It amazes me still that a game with such a bold story could finish like this and still leave you feeling satisfied.  The story was full of twists and turns which keep you involved in the story right to the end.  As you fight your way through Rapture you get rewarded with audio logs which give you the back story of Rapture and even yourself.  The twist that you were born in Rapture, you mature quicker due to mutations and you are hard coded to follow orders still blows my mind today.  It is such a complex conclusion to why you are there, but it was delivered perfectly.  Hints were dropped but I did not put them together as you are convinced that all the events were happening due to the corruption of Rapture.

 From the start you are convinced by Atlas that Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture, is the reason for all this and that he must be stopped.  I know this statement it kind of true as Andrew lost control of Rapture but Fontaine did not help either.  But this is what makes the story so good.  The fact there is no “good guy” or “bad guy”.  We have always been led to believe that this is how a story needs to be told.  Bioshock moves away from this and proves that all you need is a good narrative to tell a story.  There are many aspects in the game which can be used in the real world.  

The one which sticks in my mind are the final words Andrew Ryan says; “a man chooses, a slave obeys”.  Moments later you are ordered to kill him and you obey.

One section which I think about to this day is when the greatest artist of all, Sander Cohan, traps you and invites you to Fleet Hall for a performance.  

To leave this area you have to complete Cohan’s task of killing those who have betrayed him and placing their photographs in his masterpiece.  This is all to prove your worthiness to him.  This whole section sticks with me as I believe it is the darkest part of the game and it was just filler.

Think about it, you are tasked by a raging lunatic to kill four people who have wronged him.  Do you know this for a fact or is Cohan just paranoid?  By completing the task you are no better than the current inhabitants of Rapture.  But the question is; would you complete this crazy task just for your freedom?

Secondly is how the game builds an incredibly tease atmosphere.

Welcome to Rapture, and underwater Art Deco paradise full of the best of the best.  Well this is what the vision was.  Residents of the “perfect Rapture” felt that it would offer them a better life but it did not.  So a Civil War broke out and now even though the grandness of the Art Deco is still there,it has been brought to its knees.  It has been destroyed by the human condition for power and beauty.  There is also another creature wandering the halls of Rapture.  The Big Daddies.  Their one job is to make sure that their Little Sister can carry out their twisted task of collecting ADAM from dead bodies.  

There are not many enemies in games where, even with a full arsenal of weapons, you would run away without a second thought.  Look back on the first time you encounter one of them.  How did you feel?  I felt like dropping everything and hiding in a corner, crying, hoping it would leave me alone. 

The sound they made, the size and the power of them was just outstanding.  But, after overcoming the first one, I could not wait to find the next one and conquer it.
The biggest part of creating tension is by limiting your supplies.  Bioshock does this perfectly.  Items are in very short supply and can either be found around Rapture andbrought from vending machines.  The challenge is managing these supplies during fights.  If you use everything you have got a group of enemies or a Big Daddy then you have a serious disadvantage if you run into something else.  

Also if you die, your supplies are not restocked.  You start again with what you died with.  So the game forces you to plan ahead and to use your ammo conservatively.  There were many times I found myself running around rooms mashing the action button to quickly search for items.

Finally, the rewarding but simple choice system.  During the game you have one of two choices when dealing with the little sisters.  Either Harvest or Rescue.  Which did you choose and why?  Mine was to save them.  Why?  I have no idea – I seem to always choose to be the “good person”.  There have been many discussions on many forums about this and peoples always have their reasons for what they choose.  Either way, in game, there are rewards and benefits for both options.  If you harvest you get given a lot of ADAM all at once but if you Rescue you are rewarded little and often throughout the whole game.  Another thing the choice system gives the player is multiple endings.  

Personally, I think the good ending is fantastic.  Up to that point in my life, only films have moved me but that ending was powerful.  It showed that a child born for the wrong reasons has the power to overcomeanything.

So, three reasons why I believe that Bioshock is the best of a generation.  If it was not for this gem, games like Dead Space, Arkham Asylum or even The Last of Us would not have shone bright.  They all contain elements from Bioshock, whether it is the storytelling, atmosphere or choice system.  I believe it also helped developers create strong, believable characters.  Imagine The Last of Us where all characters were incredible dull.  It would have been a whole different game.

When I finished Bioshock I searched for another game similar to this but I could not anything which satisfied me.  The next game which left me with the same impression was Arkham Asylum, but that there is another story to be told.

To do this day Bioshock has won many awards.  Including Game of The Year, Best Story, Best Shooter and Best Visual Art.  On top of these, it also won the Bafta for Game of The Year in 2007.  In 2012, IGN gave Bioshock the top spot in a list of the top 25 Modern PC Games.  That is all games from 2006 onwards.  Even Time Magazine named it one of the top 100 games of all time (2012).  Of All Time!  What more proof do you need that this game is fantastic?

So, in the end what do I think of Bioshock? – I Love It!


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