“We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.”
August 22, 2017 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Did BioShock Define the Last 10 Years of Video Games? [A.V. Club] “Ten years ago today, Irrational Games’ sci-fi first-person shooter BioShock [YouTube] [Trailer] was released, and its story of a ruined undersea city and the brutal objectivist that led it to its doom was instantly canonized as one of the medium’s strongest artistic statements. The art-deco-adorned city of Rapture was realized with a depth and vision few games had ever approached and populated with some unforgettable characters, like the twisted artist Sander Cohen and the city’s power-hungry founder Andrew Ryan. Its grappling with Randian philosophy gave the dialogue a high-minded and dramatic flair, all of which culminated in its iconic twist and commentary on the futility of choice in video games. In the years since, BioShock’s shine has waned. So many of its most foundational elements found their way into games of all genres and scopes, and its flaws practically became more talked about than its merits.”

? Does BioShock Still Matter 10 Years Later? [US Gamer]
“Today's games have borrowed more than a few things from the original BioShock, and Irrational's closing flooded the market with indie games "from the makers of BioShock." More than that, a generation of game critics have risen from the depths of BioShock's influence, forcing writers, traditional media, and video essayists to consider whether or not video games are art (the new discussion seems to be whether or not that matters). The reaction to BioShock at the time of its release feels particularly interesting since despite sharing a release year with games like Portal, Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Assassin's Creed, and Super Mario Galaxy, BioShock feels singled out. Any one of those games could be cited for contributing to video game history in some way, whether it's the economic significance of games like Modern Warfare and Halo, Portal's place in the history of Valve or women game designers, or Uncharted's cinematic approach to gaming. But BioShock asked the big one—about whether video games could be a legitimate artform, a question that seems so shallow now a decade later.”
? How Environmental Storytelling Shaped Bioshock [Only SP]
“Speaking to Gameumentary recently, Gardner explained how the creation of Rapture was a highly-iterative experience, beginning as a tropical island before moving underwater for an industrialised cityscape and finally settling on the art-deco aesthetic that permeates the final game. Throughout this process, environmental storytelling became a key factor in many design decisions with Gardner saying that the team leaned on the strengths of the concept, which were “the storytelling, and the narrative and the immersion level that the game had.” These elements helped Bioshock to stand out in a crowded market because “most shooters were… just run down a hall, blast a bunch of demons, or monsters, or aliens, or whatever, and then you move on. You don’t care about it.” Irrational Games considered the ‘corridor shooter’ design philosophy “a waste” because it failed to make use of the unique ability of games to convey considerable amounts of information through the setting. Early builds of Bioshock contained sections that were “rip[ped] to shreds” by playtesters, with the developers realising that poor guidance and pacing were among the most notable issues. As a result, the development team “took a step back and really focused on how to sell” the fiction.”
? From the Seas to the Skies: A Look Back at BioShock 10 Years Later [Tech Raptor]
“The concept of utopia, despite its near universal appeal, is one that, upon closer examination, may ultimately be no more than a fantasy. Time and again, humans have proven to be too fundamentally different from each other to agree upon what a perfect society would look like, to say nothing of the corrupting influences of greed and power. When one man says “No Gods or Kings, Only Man,” another might say “I am a divine Prophet; follow me to this New Eden.” This ultimate flaw forms the backbone of the BioShock series’ story; a story that has been hailed as exceptional and worthy of commemoration, even if the gameplay itself wasn’t particularly revolutionary. After all, it’s not often that within 15 minutes of starting a game that you are greeted by a plane crash followed by a mildly thought-provoking video that explains the logic behind the pure capitalistic society of one of the most unique video game environments at the time, perhaps even of all time, an underwater utopia ominously called Rapture. As you progress through BioShock, you meet a wild assortment of characters, each of whom are rather representative of some of humankind’s greatest qualities if they were unshackled by morality and laws. Naturally, a number of them turn out to be rather insane, but there are plenty of ways that you can get a glimpse of their past life, provided that you pay attention to the story and your surroundings, and run into a few Audio Diaries along the way.”
? Minerva’s Den is the best way to experience BioShock’s iconic Rapture [PCGamesN]
“Minerva’s Den is named after the location it’s set in - Rapture’s high-tech sector, home to the city’s central computer, known as The Thinker, as well as various other bleeding-edge - for 1968, anyway - businesses. The player is cast as Subject Sigma, an experimental Big Daddy similar to the protagonist of BioShock 2 proper, Subject Delta - indeed, the story of Minerva’s Den takes place at the same time as its parent release’s narrative is unfolding elsewhere in Rapture. There is little explicit crossover between these stories. However - and this is a minor spoiler - key character Brigid Tenenbaum, the peerless geneticist and the discoverer of ADAM who stars in the stories of both BioShock and its follow-up, briefly appears in person at the end of Minerva’s Den. We won’t reveal anything else here. If you’ve never played this DLC before but are aware of the first game’s famous twist, you’re in for a treat. There’s a fairly big revelation in Minerva’s Den, and it is - for our money, at least - more impactful than the BioShock twist game critics will probably still be discussing in another ten years.”
? 'BioShock' is Still Great, 10 Years Later. Here's Why. [Waypoint]
“The game holds up reasonably well today, played especially with an eye for its immersive sim DNA and less as a straight shooter. It's especially fun to hack machines and make them do the work, or let your wacky environmental powers wreak havoc on the ecosystem—bait splicers out to a shallow pool and electrocute them, or enrage a big daddy and lure them into a circle of death. It's nowhere near as deep an immersive sim as its cousins in the Dishonored or Deus Ex series, but those elements are still fun to play with, and add needed variety to subsequent playthroughs. I still enjoy its grand, theatrical style—Sander Cohen descending the staircase at Fort Frolic, the pivotal "A Man Obeys" scene, and the statues and banners and signage about the world that are the opposite of subtle, but they sure make their mark. This is a grand, jazz-hands flailing vision, and where it can be accused of being corny, it was never ashamed to go all the way.”
? BioShock Proved That Video Games Could Be Art [NY Mag]
“It seems like such a simple choice: It’s a character in a video game — why wouldn’t you harvest her and reap the rewards? Cute as she may be, the Little Sister doesn’t exist; your choice doesn’t have any actual consequence in the real world. Yet, there’s something undeniably visceral that takes over when you’re sitting there, controller in hand, staring up at the face of a whimpering, scared little girl. By requiring you to make the decision — harvest or rescue — the game has made you think about her as something more than just another NPC. She all of a sudden becomes unmistakably real. And — if you’re like me — you can’t bring yourself to click harvest without triggering an existential crisis of epic proportions. The emotional impact of moments like these within BioShock are reminiscent of the sort of feelings that arise when watching a good film, or reading a book. It stands out against the sea of other casual, rational choices that exist in the majority of other games.”
? Designing the Opening Level of Bioshock with Bill Gardner [YouTube] [Documentary]
“While we were in Boston filming our second documentary covering the Story of the Deep End Games and Perception, we took some extra time to speak with Bill Gardner about his time working on the Bioshock series. The opening level to Bioshock is arguably one of the most iconic game openings of all-time, and we spent over half an hour speaking to Bill Gardner on how Irrational designed it.”
posted by Fizz (65 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
It annoyed me at the time by not being System Shock 3. Great story though.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:30 PM on August 22 [9 favorites]


A neat bit of tangentially related trivia: given the game's use of Randian objectivism and what the game has to say about player choice, it's odd to think that Rand created one of the earliest instances of interactive fiction.
posted by juv3nal at 1:32 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Heh. Was just noting the other day that it and Portal 2 were the last two non-mobile games that I had time to sit down and play all the way through, so for me I guess it did.
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


(Also: Fuck I'm old)
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


GallonOfAlan: "It annoyed me at the time by not being System Shock 3. Great story though."

I actually bailed on this game a couple of hours in because it just seemed like a reskinned System Shock 2.
posted by octothorpe at 1:34 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I remember the first time I played - just how shocking and brutal the game was. It's absolutely gorgeous - yes - but I remember having to put down the controller and closing my eyes for a second after killing my splicer - which entailed bashing a woman to death with a pipe to get my first gun. I was nauseous - and the real moral choice I had to make was whether I was going to keep on playing.

The choices within the game (harvest or not!) were pretty false in that it only seemed to effect the ending cut scene than. But man - was it ever immersive and all consuming. It's rich, layered, and disturbed story telling was not matched by any of it's sequels.
posted by helmutdog at 1:46 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Thankfully, Prey(2017) came out so we now have an actual System Shock 3. It only took eighteen years.
posted by selfnoise at 1:55 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


But man - was it ever immersive and all consuming. It's rich, layered, and disturbed story telling was not matched by any of it's sequels.

This. Very much this. I came to the game about 7 years after everyone else had already played but I still fell in love with the universe. It felt like I was stepping inside of a SF novel and it's the kind of immersive gameplay I craved since my childhood.

Games like Deus Ex, Dishonored, Fallout and Prey have continued to satisfy that itch. But Bioshock was pretty groundbreaking in the way it threw you into this other universe.
posted by Fizz at 1:57 PM on August 22 [7 favorites]


The main disappointment to me after coming from System Shock 2 was that time stopped when you were "hacking" things or using stores. The terror in System Shock 2 was always knowing that you were positively risking dismemberment if you dilly-dallied too long in one place.

I actually bailed on this game a couple of hours in because it just seemed like a reskinned System Shock 2.

I prefered nearly everything from System Shock 2, but come on, the graphics comparison is incomparable. You can't just call it a re-skin when one looks like a shitty Half Life and the other looks like, well, a modern game.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:59 PM on August 22 [7 favorites]


Games like Deus Ex, Dishonored, Fallout and Prey have continued to satisfy that itch.

Gosh I wish I felt like modern Fallout games still did. Other than New Vegas, it's been all downhill since Bethesda bought it. What I wouldn't do to go back to the open world isometric RPG days of yore with Fa---, Oh, I guess there's Wasteland 2. Didn't like the tactical take on it, though, but true to form, many quests were fundamentally broken, so there's that.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:01 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Games like Deus Ex

It's the other way around: Deus Ex predates BioShock by 7 years. William Hughes makes this point in the Onion AV Club article, that BioShock's strength wasn't so much innovation as taking what had been emerging in games like Deus Ex (and, of course, Levine's own System Shock 2) and polishing those ideas to perfection.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:11 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


I prefered nearly everything from System Shock 2, but come on, the graphics comparison is incomparable. You can't just call it a re-skin when one looks like a shitty Half Life and the other looks like, well, a modern game.

Graphics in games aren't really a thing that I worry about too much, I'm not really there for sightseeing.
posted by octothorpe at 2:17 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, Prey(2017) came out so we now have an actual System Shock 3. It only took eighteen years.

I thought I was going to have to be the first one to mention Prey. It has its faults -- mainly that it feels like it was a bit rushed and it doesn't last quite long enough -- but it's totally the new System Shock that we were all waiting for.

Bioshock never felt much like a proper successor to me -- too linear and too much emphasis on the (rather clunky) action. Player choice is limited to tactics instead of strategy. The production values and story were ace, of course.
posted by neckro23 at 2:20 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


I missed that bit Sangermaine, thanks for your comment. I also came to Deux Ex later than most other players. I only played through Human Revolution a few months ago. So I have all my time-lines all messed up because it's only within the last few years that I've had a PC that was powerful enough to play these older games.
posted by Fizz at 2:21 PM on August 22


The choices within the game (harvest or not!) were pretty false in that it only seemed to effect the ending cut scene than. But man - was it ever immersive and all consuming. It's rich, layered, and disturbed story telling was not matched by any of it's sequels.

Hah, I literally just commented to this effect on the Undertale post, but it's relevant here. I've always thought that the falsity of the choices was part of the point:

The game gives you the kind of choice that other games often do - do you harvest the little sisters or let them go? The game initially presents this as you giving up a reward for doing the right thing, but people who have played this kind of game before might suspect that this is just a Marshmallow Test, and that foregoing the immediate reward will lead to a greater one later. They are correct - the supposed moral system turns out to be a little bit of a sham.

But then the 'would you kindly' reveal indicates that all of your choices are a sham. Importantly, after Ryan tells you what's going on and commands you to kill him, the game gives control back to you, and just won't move forward until you do what he asks. It's always seemed to me that the hollowness of the moral system with the Little Sisters is essential to making this point - that choice in games is always an illusion, because you're constantly forced into actions because otherwise the game doesn't progress.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:29 PM on August 22 [13 favorites]


If you're a Bioshock fan, I recommend finding and glancing through the PDF Bioshock: Breaking the Mold. Very cool iterations of character, object, and environment designs. If it's no longer online, I think I have it around here somewhere...

(Also, Ragged Richard, you may want to add a spoiler warning there).
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 2:35 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I was playing this game alone in the dark for some reason (especially bad idea if you're easily spooked like I am) and there's one section in the game where you go into some kind of morgue area. I knew there was probably going to be some kind of jump scare so I was creeping super slowly, found whatever was in there, and started heading out a bit more nonchalantly. That's when the game became entirely dark and all I could do was shoot wildly at enemies I could hear but not see and I must have jumped five feet in the air or something, but the only audience was our Corgi. One of the spookiest damn moments in my life.

A few days after that our XBox got stolen and I never got the nerve to start a new save once we got another console.
posted by kmz at 2:38 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I was so disappointed when I found the you couldn't exit a level until you dealt with the Big Daddies and Little Sisters. There's even a videogame-ass counter for how many remain! It's not like you even need the powers, you can do all the same things with guns (ok, maybe not shoot bees), and theres no penalty, no interesting choices, you just get everything.
It's a good game, but a few steps back from games of the 'Shock' lineage.
posted by rodlymight at 2:43 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I was so disappointed when I found the you couldn't exit a level until you dealt with the Big Daddies and Little Sisters

I never knew this, which means that I never tried to do it even a single time in 10 years. That sounds about right for how I approach games, to be honest.
posted by figurant at 2:54 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


(Also, Ragged Richard, you may want to add a spoiler warning there).
Missed the edit window, and the same twist is spoiled in at least one of the articles, but if a mod wants to add one I'm cool with it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:56 PM on August 22


I prefered nearly everything from System Shock 2, but come on, the graphics comparison is incomparable. You can't just call it a re-skin when one looks like a shitty Half Life and the other looks like, well, a modern game.

This didn't feel like a reskin of SS2 to me because it took a major component of what made the first one tense and simplified it. SS2 was hard, in great part because it limited your supplies of just about everything. So not only did you feel like you couldn't linger (baddies respawned), but you also could run out of bullets and have to try and survive with a pipe wrench. You had to sneak around and risk ammo to find chemical elements to build stuff. Your stuff broke down as you used it. You didn't really feel powerful until you got near the end of the game. Bioshock took away much of the feeling of vulnerability and made you powerful very quickly. The narrative elements were very similar, and I loved that part of it. However, I felt like it compromised what made the first one so awesome in order to appeal to a broader market that may have not had the patience to try and really survive by being careful, rather than leveling up stuff. I loved the game, but I found that disappointing. I felt like it abandoned something in its heritage that I was really looking forward to, and didn't end up happening.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:04 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Bioshock never felt much like a proper successor to me -- too linear and too much emphasis on the (rather clunky) action. Player choice is limited to tactics instead of strategy. The production values and story were ace, of course.

I totally agree. Bioshock doesn't have a whole lot in common with the exploration-based Deus Ex or System Shock series. It has one big twist and the rest of the game is fighting splicers in corridors. The Big Daddies are interesting enemies in combat, but that's about it.

Mass Effect came out the same year and didn't have the same kind of smooth polish as Bioshock but I would argue it's just as influential and a better game as well.
posted by demiurge at 3:06 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I played SS2 only a year or two before Bioshock came out. The first I had to force myself to step away from to get sleep or food or work. The second I had to force myself to finish.
posted by thedaniel at 3:22 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Did BioShock Define the Last 10 Years of Video Games?

Millions of kids glance up from playing Minecraft and say, "Rapture? Wasn't that the cool underwater base someone built in that one server?"
posted by straight at 3:25 PM on August 22 [21 favorites]


My big moment in Bioshock was when I got to see the "angels" and "butterflies" without the imposed vision.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:25 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I am currently playing Prey and it could be called a, ahem, spiritual successor to System/Bio Shock and Deus Ex. It doesn't have the same polish, is much easier than its predecessors and frequently crashes but it's the closest thing I've played to both franchises in years and I really like it despite its flaws. Maybe the sequel will fix its shortcomings.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:34 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


The System Shocks are still better than anything that has come since (and there is a System Shock remake hopefully out by the end of the year) but yes, Prey is way closer to that spirit than any of the Bioshocks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:55 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Following up a little more seriously, I'd say Bioshock has proved to have been mostly a dead end both creatively and commercially. The sequels never managed to build on Bioshock's strengths in significant ways. Irrational closed shop and Valve, one of the other giants of this kind of big narrative & environmental immersive shooter has abandoned the genre and moved on to other things.

What really seems to have defined video games in the past decade are the ones that create systems and environments for players to make their own stories -- single player open-ended stuff like Minecraft, the Sims, GTA (which has a story, but seems mostly popular for the free-form screwing around gameplay), Breath of the Wild -- or multiplayer games like Minecraft again, eSports like League of Legends & DOTA, Rocket League, Call of Duty, Overwatch, DayZ, etc.

In 2017, video games are predominantly sandboxes, playgrounds, and sporting arenas.
posted by straight at 3:57 PM on August 22 [9 favorites]


I felt like it abandoned something in its heritage that I was really looking forward to, and didn't end up happening.

Your comment articulates my feelings about the game, too. What I also really miss from the game was the short-lived multiplayer, which started as a broken mess and ended as a more broken mess, but I loved that it had a class system and the co-op allowed you to have different people pursuing the different classes, and because of the scarcity of resources, which didn't increase with more players, you had to be careful about splitting up resources appropriately to whom could use them more effectively.

single player open-ended stuff like

Strangely, what you describe could also easily describe the very games we are talking about, the original Fallout/Baldur's Gate/Deus Ex/System Shock. They were limited by the time periods they existed in, surely, but they all attempted big, relatively non-linear worlds you could explore in a variety of ways. So, to me, that's single-player open ended, and I suppose it confuses me why such games aren't "going back to the basics" as it were because it seems the stuff that really made those games great is the stuff that gets glossed over and forgotten.

Although, I guess that's not always the case, as Obsidian made at least a dent with Pillars of Eternity, showing it's still possible to make a fairly open-ended isometric in-depth RPG.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:23 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


To me the difference is whether the most memorable moments are scripted by a writer or emergent from the game's systems. If your most memorable moment of Baldur's Gate was a particular battle where a risky strategy paid off or the heart-breaking loss of a character caused by your own decisions rather than a plot event in a cutscene, then I'd say it counts.
posted by straight at 4:30 PM on August 22


I downloaded BioShock for the PS3 expecting to love it, but the claustrophobic POV made me stop playing after about 30 minutes.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:40 PM on August 22


Honestly, I don't think the sequels managed to "build on Bioshock's strengths" because it didn't have any to begin with. The idea of Rapture failing really isn't interesting (because of course it would, absolutely immediately), the execution of the plot is both exceedingly obvious and really, really tedious, the dialogue is embarrassingly amateurish, the gameplay is trivially easy and really boring, and for a game that's trying to really sell you on its setting they sure didn't make any effort at all to make Rapture feel like a place that was designed for anything other than corridor shooting. It does not feel like a place where anybody did or even could live. I was very surprised at how shallow and weak the whole experience was after hearing so many people be so excited about it. Even worse, it kept me from playing System Shock 2 for a long time because every time I considered it I would remember how uniformly bad Bioshock was and how people kept saying they were so similar. I did eventually play SS2 years later, and to this day I can't understand how anyone thinks those two experiences belong in the same breath. That's not even a quality judgment; they're just... not the same. Bioshock is more like Doom than it is like System Shock.

Bioshock's big moral dilemma is that sometimes you have to decide whether to save a little girl's life or crack her open and drink her spinal fluid, and they thought this was something that anyone anywhere might feel at all conflicted about. And then EVERY ELEMENT of the game has roughly that amount of thought put into it. I can hardly believe this game made money, frankly.
posted by IAmUnaware at 4:56 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


. . . the execution of the plot is both exceedingly obvious and really, really tedious, the dialogue is embarrassingly amateurish, the gameplay is trivially easy and really boring . . .

So, just to be clear, you didn't like the game?
posted by jeremias at 5:45 PM on August 22 [12 favorites]


I think I would say Bioshock is closer to a System Shock/ Call of Duty:MW* than a System Shock / Doom. It came out in a period when the acme of game experience and technology was the 'cinematic' feel and both Bioshock and the CoD series are tilted towards showing you moments in a guided experience. Bioshock attempts to split the difference, which is not surprising given the pedigree, but doesn't quite succeed, I think in part because of the memory restraints imposed on games running on that generation of consoles (and in UE 2.5 to boot).

This is part of why Prey (2017) feels so odd.. it takes the restraint imposed by technology on System Shock 2 and makes it a deliberate virtue. It creates an enormous, incredibly detailed world that is coherent both in function and aesthetics, and then it just... leaves it there. You get a little shove out the door and then... good luck!

I really like Prey.

*I don't mean to denigrate either game, both of which were amazing achievements of their day.
posted by selfnoise at 5:51 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


I think if any game took the thematic (rather than mechanical) ideas of Bioshock and really developed on them, Spec Ops: The Line did. And, like Bioshock, there's one particularly "moral choice" that everyone gets hung up on discussing just because it's a particularly obvious one even though the rest of the game has so much else to say.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:02 PM on August 22


I suspect I'm in the minority, but I thought Bioshock 2 was really underrated. Kept the lovely setting and combat systems, wildly improved the geography of the big encounter spaces (big shortcoming of the original I thought) especially in boss fights, and IMO had a more layered story while still wearing its moral framework on its sleeve. Not a huge departure from the first but better enough I was surprised people didn't rave about it more.

Thanks for the great post (and the reminder to go back and play Minerva's Den)!
posted by churl at 6:37 PM on August 22 [4 favorites]


This is also a good opportunity to link to this fantastic article/proposal Tom Francis wrote about how he would fix the ending of the original Bioshock. It's so good it has basically replaced the canonical ending in my head.
posted by straight at 7:02 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's a bit on the nose with its Ayn Randian philosophical overtones, but the story of Andrew Ryan and his vision of Rapture is what always had me fascinated. There's something lovely about this ugly universe.

Like many young adults, I went through an Ayn Rand phase where I read Atlas Shrugged and then spouted out some quotations in an attempt to show off my brilliant and my views on politics and the economy. I outgrew this once I started to actually think about the ideology behind Ayn Rand's vision of America/world.

Despite outgrowing this part of myself, the world of Bioshock was fun to play around inside of and explore. I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say here but there's just something about the writing of this world that kind of hooks you and you want to learn more about this ugly paradise. It's a safe way to explore the distasteful ideas that Ayn Rand and Andrew Ryan have put forth in their philosophies.
posted by Fizz at 8:13 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


There are thousands(?) of YouTube videos of people recreating Bioshock in Minecraft and zero videos I can find of people trying to recreate Minecraft inside Bioshock. I can't figure out what side of the "Which game is more definitive?" question that is evidence for.
posted by straight at 10:58 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


It's a safe way to explore the distasteful ideas that Ayn Rand and Andrew Ryan have put forth in their philosophies.

Ugh, reading that back, I realize how awful this sounds. It says something about the darker part of myself, that I view this as a kind of playground. It's a horror show. Hmm...interesting.
posted by Fizz at 11:07 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I just started trying to play bioshock this weekend! But it turned out that I really couldn't handle how brutal it was - the very first combat you see, inside the bathysphere was nasty, and then I found myself uncomfortable killing splicers, so stopped not long after the medic bay.

I think maybe I'm a lot more squeamish than I used to be, though. I really enjoyed the combat of dead space, but the never ending limbs got to me so I didn't finish that either.

In contrast, I loved system shock 2! Are there tense, exciting games with less of the horror overlaid?
posted by fizban at 11:53 PM on August 22


@fizban

Well, you can certainly play Dishonored 2 that way. I don't think I killed anybody in the whole thing, just sleepy time and dumped in a corner.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:18 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


If it's just not wanting to kill other characters in gruesome fashion, you should check out the Dishonored series. You CAN kill enemies in gruesome fashion, but you don't have to kill anyone... in either game. There are some people who enjoy the combat but I just stealth through and choke/sleep dart people because that's what I enjoy. If you're good enough, you can just sneak through the whole game and not even choke anyone out. Those games do have a bit of non-player gruesomeness, though.

Prey is scary but is a bit more antiseptic and less blood-drenched than Bioshock (or Dishonored on the violent path, for that matter). It's not really more violent than SS2, despite the graphics differences. You can avoid killing human-looking enemies entirely if you are a little careful about it. Most of the enemies are freaky black goo or robots.

You might also try the 2016 Hitman. It's violent, obviously, but not very graphic about it, and the game has a bit of a comedy angle. But it can be very tense.
posted by selfnoise at 4:19 AM on August 23


The Metal Gear Solid games after the first one also allow for, and even reward, no-kill missions. My personal favorite is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, because of its Cold War setting and (more) overt homage to James Bond films (though on a recent replay, I was reminded that the times when one can enter first-person view to ogle female NPCs is squicky).
posted by Gelatin at 5:26 AM on August 23


GTA 3 may have been the first with a radio and licensed music but I remember Bioshock as the first game where the soundtrack had cool old-fashioned music. It was the first to introduce me to e.g. Django Reinhardt, The Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, The Andrews Sisters ... The game itself I got bored halfway through.
posted by yoHighness at 5:40 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I love all 3 Bioshock games. I almost never replay games, but I've replayed those. Bioshock Infinite was one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had with a video game.
posted by exolstice at 6:37 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


GTA 3

You just reminded me that back when I first played GTA 3, I drove by one building that was one of those fancy glass-walled health clubs on two levels. You know the kind--bikes and weight machines in neat rows and all that.

I remember thinking "Hey, i wonder if I can--"...and the thought wasn't even fully formed before I was driving my car through the front window, up the stairs, and out the back window and onto the next street, laughing like a school kid.

It's probably for the best I don't have a car these days, really.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:04 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I love all 3 Bioshock games. I almost never replay games, but I've replayed those. Bioshock Infinite was one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had with a video game.

I keep meaning to formulate an AskMe on "What video games are deeply satisfying on easy mode?" with Bioshock Infinite as one of the key examples. I'm not good at games, but I'd like to play more games where I can enjoy a good story and immersive environment while Easy-Moding my way through it.
posted by Shepherd at 8:03 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Nobody here is going to mention the fact that System Shock 3 is actually getting made? With Warren Spector at the helm?

Haven't really played any of the new immersive sims (Prey, Dishonored, etc...) but it's great they're getting made. I hope the new Underworld is good, too, since I backed that out of guilt from only making it 10 minutes into Ultima Underworld 1.

BioShock 1 and 2 were fun and aesthetically amazing, but I think I expected something better than SS1 and SS2 in more than just graphics, and instead they felt like more of a rehash.
posted by ropeladder at 8:13 AM on August 23


I think the Dishonoured games might be some of the few where the "evil is the easy option" idea is actually well-represented. The "low chaos" runs are actually pretty hard to pull off without essentially save-scumming, because you (obviously) haven't invested in combat and therefore need to either scramble hard or just reload a save if you're ever caught. Going "high chaos", on the other hand, gives you the tools to win straight-up fights, so you don't need to stress as much about getting caught during the sneaking portions, but it also makes the world itself more dangerous, which preserves the difficulty progression that players expect.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:17 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Anyone else replay the first level of Deus Ex as no kill after getting back to base and having all your team mates express horror at all the rocket murders you just committed?
posted by Artw at 8:19 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


FPSs have never been my thing. I've played about three of them to the end over the entire course of the genre - Doom 2, with heavy cheating, System Shock 2, also with a ton of cheating, and I want to say there's something else but I can't think of it. Oh, right, Half Life. Also with much cheating. And maybe one of these days I'll get back to that nearly-finished no kill, no alerts run of Dishonored 2 and turn that into four.

Bioshock? I watched my boyfriend beat a decayed party-goer to death with his fists, from an angle, on a small screen, in a friend's cramped apartment. And I was viscerally repulsed and never had any interest in playing the damn thing. I guess I made the "moral choice" the game tried to sell itself as being full of right then and there.
posted by egypturnash at 10:08 AM on August 23


Nobody here is going to mention the fact that System Shock 3 is actually getting made? With Warren Spector at the helm?

I've found that not participating in the hype, not preordering stuff, and waiting for the first steam sale are good ways to manage my expectations, especially when it comes to revered franchises.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:39 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


All respect to Otherside but they haven't shipped the Underworld reboot yet. I'm not holding my breath for a game that only exists on paper helmed by a (cool) designer who hasn't shipped a game like this in thirteen years.
posted by selfnoise at 11:24 AM on August 23


(By "like this" I mean an immersive sim. I originally wrote "good game" but YMMV)
posted by selfnoise at 11:26 AM on August 23


If you like the wandering around reading people's diaries thing, and don't want the violence and horror aspects, then Fullbright's recent Tacoma is wonderful. Really great character and location work, with a solid (though not amazing) plot.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:57 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Gosh I wish I felt like modern Fallout games still did. Other than New Vegas, it's been all downhill since Bethesda bought it.

There are two types of people who play video games; those who recognize that New Vegas is the only ultimately satisfying Bethesda (engined) game from FO3 onwards, and those who are badly deluded.
posted by Justinian at 2:17 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


For context, I put like 100 hours into Fallout 4. Got about 85% of the way through the main story, did all the base building, etc etc... and then one day I'm looking at the icon and thinking about clicking on it and just said "what the fuck are you doing?" and uninstalled.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on August 23


90% of New Vegas is literally just empty desert, which would be fine if the game didn't make you go the long way around just to hide how thin the main plot is, the Caesar part of the storyline is half-baked (everybody makes such a big deal about it being a gender-segregated society, except for the part where nobody has any problem with a female Courier becoming a fucking Legate or whatever), and most of the stuff people like about it is just a bunch of edgelord horseshit about cannibalism and prostitution.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:55 PM on August 23


I see tobascodagama belongs to the second kind of gamer!
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on August 23


The Boomers were cool, though.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:57 PM on August 23


I actually belong to the third class of gamer: I have never been able to get NV to run without crashing at startup.
posted by selfnoise at 4:16 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


I see tobascodagama belongs to the second kind of gamer!

Strong disliked that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:43 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


> But man - was it ever immersive and all consuming. It's rich, layered, and disturbed story telling was not matched by any of it's sequels.

This. Very much this. I came to the game about 7 years after everyone else had already played but I still fell in love with the universe.


I came to it late too and I really liked it, but then I didn't finish it and lost my saves. But this post inspired me to go back and start over and actually finish it this time (I'm playing the Remastered version, which looks great but unfortunately fixed the Extra Little Sister Bug). I'm really enjoying it and it holds up quite well imo, though I don't play a lot of FPSs so I can't compare it to most (The last FPS I finished was Far Cry 4, which was a lot of fun. OTOH I simply lost interest in the latest DOOM. I never played System Shock but I plan on playing Prey next.) I'm currently in Hephaestus trying to get into Ryan's office.
posted by homunculus at 12:39 PM on September 22


> I keep meaning to formulate an AskMe on "What video games are deeply satisfying on easy mode?" with Bioshock Infinite as one of the key examples. I'm not good at games, but I'd like to play more games where I can enjoy a good story and immersive environment while Easy-Moding my way through it.

You might want to try >observer_, or as the RPS reviewer calls it, "David Cronenberg’s Bladerunner." It's not a shooter: it's a horror/mystery that's slow, creepy and trippy, and instead of fighting you have to sneak past danger, which isn't too difficult. It's also only about 9-10+ hours. I really liked it.

(One of the reasons I started playing Bioshock again is because >observer_ gets really tense at times, so I'd periodically take breaks to relieve the tension by battling splicers and Big Daddies.)
posted by homunculus at 12:39 PM on September 22


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