Obligatory Bioshock Post Follows

So like every game designer in the world, I picked up Bioshock last week and completed it this past weekend. Now, I must preface this by saying I absolutely loved it. I am sucker for anything with a good story and Bioshock delivers. I’m just a little sensitive to the hyperbole going around about it.

– The widescreen HUD issue is unacceptable. Not the FOV issue, the FOV was fine. But to ship a game where the HUD elements bleed offscreen to widescreen users is ridiculous when a large portion (dare I say majority) of your base will be playing in widescreen. I had to pause the game to see how much Adam I had and radio/diary names/titles would bleed offscreen. Did no one test this?
– Looking out any corridor to the sea shows an obvious skydome – there’s no depth to art at all. Many times it looks quite low-res.
– Absolutely terrible “splash” flat-looking textures/particles, especially given the great-looking water.
– You can’t tell what tonics/plasmids you have without going to a gene pool, you can’t tell how many auto-hack tools without hacking, you can’t tell how many invention items you have without going to a U-INVENT. This isn’t so bad, but is a little frustrating.
– You can’t tell how many of an item you already have when inventing. Often you will use up invention items inventing something that you cannot carry, especially when you get the double invent plasmid.
– Bad achievements. The “listen to every audio diary” achievement reminds me of Dead Rising’s “put up with Otis” achievement. This one wouldn’t be so bad if the designers: a) gave you a count of how many diaries you had vs. overall diaries and b) didn’t put two diaries in the first level to where you cannot backtrack. (I may be wrong about the backtracking, but I am pretty sure you can’t.) Additionally, the “Ironic” achievement is buggy and the game gives you no hints that would allow you to get into Sander’s room w/o looking at a walkthrough (which also puts the maximum weapon upgrade achievement off-limits on the first playthrough). I’ve seen worse, but I’ve seen better.
– Arbitrary bad/good path. So you can harvest or save the Little Sisters. Harvesting gives you an extra 40/3 Adam, but also puts some good tonics off-limits. This isn’t much of a trade-off. This good/evil choice affects very little in the game, even creating a “What-The-Hell?” story hole moment in the late game if you choose the evil path. I’ll leave it at that to curtail spoilers, but I was dissatisfied.
– Every Little Sister calls her Big Daddy “Mr. Bubbles”? With only a dozen or so Sisters in the game, you would think they could record some additional tracks for different names. It just doesn’t make sense for every single one to have the same pet name.
– The game has an amazing soundtrack, yet the special edition ships with only three truly awful remixes.
– Big Daddys can’t see trap bolts? There are some real easy ways to cheese the Big Daddys.
– I’ll try to post this last one without too much in the way of spoilers: How did the final boss expect to go back to the surface looking like the Oscar statue?

With that said, here are some daring design decisions that I absolutely agree with:
– No radar. Many (most?) FPS games have radars. But in games with radars like Rainbow Six, you spend much more time studying the radar than you do checking your surroundings. If you are trying to make something realistic or immersive, radars kill it. You don’t have to be careful or aware, just kill the dot.
– No multiplayer. I had a discussion with a coworker who was being all curmudgeonly about Bioshock. “How can Madden get docked a dozen points for not having an online franchise mode which no football game ever really has and this game gets 100s without any multiplayer at all which every FPS has?” That is a pretty consistent argument I think, but I am quite happy without multiplayer. This game is about the story, not about the shooting. If it was a game about shooting with a story attached, rather than visa versa, this makes sense. Halo and Splinter Cell would be half the game w/o a full multiplayer mode. Bioshock simply does not need it. And what sense would it make within the world?

I’m torn on the uber-hype. It is a great game – one of the best on the 360. But it isn’t perfect. Giving it a 100 says “This is it. The pinnacle.” It isn’t. We can and will do better, don’t you think? I wish every good game got this amount of attention.

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