Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Do People Love Bioshock?

by Dexter Jaekel

So I have a confession to make.... I never finished Bioshock. Please don't throw your stones at me, I have a legitimate excuse, sort of. Whenever someone gets sick right after eating a particular food, most of the time they don't like the idea of eating that food again because they attribute it to being sick (even if it was something else that made them sick).
Well, whenever I was making my way through Bioshock, my Playstation 3 gave me the Yellow Light of Death. I know it is irrational to think that the two events are related, but I still couldn't make myself go back and finish (especially since I lost all my save data because this was back before Playstation Plus and Cloud Storage was a thing).

Now that Bioshock Infinite has come out, there has been major hype in the media about this game. All the commercials say things like, "From the creator of the highest rated FPS of all time," and so on and so forth. This is something that has bothered me for quite some time. Why on earth does everyone love Bioshock so much? What is so innovative about it? Why has it received such high praise? And now that Bioshock Infinite has come out with Glowing Reviews across all media outlets, I am really intrigued.

I played the original Bioshock for approximately 6-8 hours before it murdered my Playstation. During that time, the only innovation that I witnessed was the mix between using firearms and special powers. However, now that several years have passed and I have played nothing but bland FPS games that fail to innovate on even the most basic levels, I can see what everyone was raving about.

I started playing Bioshock Infinite last night, and kept playing into the early hours. What makes Bioshock such a refreshing shock to the system is multifaceted.

Refresher Number 1: Life
The fact that everyone in the game is living their lives. They have all been scripted to live a life independent of what you are doing, except for whenever you interfere or get in their way. Of course the enemies know that they should attack you, but they aren't always alerted to your presence. There was one situation where I just got done with a heavy fire fight and had traveled a decent distance away via the sky-track. I snuck into a house and found a cop questioning a lady about what she had seen and if she could describe my appearance. This level of life that Irrational Games has breathed into this world is astonishing. They make you want to actually slow down and enjoy the scenery and interact with the people that aren't shooting at you.

Refresher Number 2: Strategy
Bioshock gives you an array of firearms to choose from (Infinite limits you to being able to carry 2 weapons where as the original allowed you to carry as many as you wanted) and eight powers. The guns are fun and upgradeable, but the real strategy comes from the powers (they are called Vigors in the game). So as you are being surrounded by the enemy, you have the option to throw a barrage of crows in one direction while you turn and shoot the guys coming from the other way. And if you really wanted to turn up the heat, you could catch those crows on fire to increase the damage that they do. In addition to this, you are able to jump on sky-tracks and quickly travel form one spot to another while shooting and attacking your foes. This is even useful for attacking the many enemies that come at you from airships. But wait, there is still more! You have the ability to call things into the world that will help you fight in  battle. For example, you can call in a billboard to provide you with cover, or a torrent to give you added support, or you could call in a box filled with health. These options are situational, but still add to the strategy. And of course, Elizabeth is always throwing extra ammo, health, and money to you for even more support.

Refresher Number 3: Presentation
These games rarely give you the opportunity to sit back and watch what is happening. The story is propagated as you live it. You will be walking down a hallway and have a conversation, or listen to an audio tape, etc. The game is constantly engaging you and drawing you into the experience. You never feel detached from the experiences. There are only a few times where you don't have control over the events, but the majority of the dialogue happens while you are in control of the main character.

Refresher Number 4: Universe
The city itself is so unique. A city hidden deep down inside the ocean? A floating city in the early 19th Century? Who the hell thinks of this stuff? It's so much fun to find and discover all the little details that have been emblazoned into the cities of Rapture and Columbia. Just looking around, it feels like people live (or used to live) in these environments.

All this and more are things that I missed out on when playing the original Bioshock. I wasn't fully aware of the desolate nature of the First Person Genre. The Bioshock games are First Person Shooters by definition only, the similarities end there. Yes, Bioshock is unique and deserves praise. I think more devs should not be afraid to make something special and unique like our friends at Irrational Games, have done. Hopefully you will get the chance to play these games, if you haven't already, because they now rank as high as Heavy Rain, Journey, Persona 4, and Metal Gear Solid in uniqueness. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite deserve to be played.

Written by Dexter Jaekel
Editor-in-Chief of


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