When Big Daddies Cry Rape
This Penny Arcade strip, while aimed at the current Big Evil Boss of the gaming industry, accurately sums up my feelings about the new Bioshock game that Irrational have just announced. Bioshock started out as a spiritual successor to one of the most claustrophobic, terrifying, brilliantly written FPS/RPG hybrids in PC gaming. Yes, it had to come out on 360 to be financially viable. Yes, it pulled back from showing the consequences of the most important moral action in the game. But it was a solid, well put-together shooter, with well written characters and, until the finale, an interesting antagonist.
And it should have stopped there.
But it didn’t. 2K liked the sales figures so much, that we got Bioshock 2. Except, now that we’re done with the truly interesting, we’re going to gimmick-land. BE A BIG DADDY! MORE POWERS! MORE GUNS! WALK AROUND UNDERWATER! And it had to have multiplayer, and it was considerably shorter than the original game ( I have finally pushed myself through the equally turgid ending), and it was a bit shinier. It was sequel-itis. It was something we frankly didn’t need. Just as SHODAN can no longer be terrifying, having fallen twice, Rapture, even new parts of Rapture, could never generate that cloying, art deco atmosphere properly.
And now we have Bioshock: Infinite (Please, dear Gods, let this be a working title, like Bioshock 2’s “Sea of Dreams” prefix was dropped…).
You’re in the airborne city of Columbia. It is the World’s Fair city of 1900, a technological marvel… except it went wrong (again). There are… things, going wrong. Early trailers have hinted at steam-punk monstrosities that are just human enough to be scary (again), a ideology taken to horrific extremes (again – in this case, it looks all very Manifest Destiny and Might is Right), and fantastical (genetic? not currently clear) powers (again).
But this time, we have A BUDDY. Her name is Elizabeth. You have to protect her and get her out of the city. She can do, as a trailer showing her brewing up a rainstorm for your electro-zaps to exploit shows, rather impressive things – which, as the same trailer shows, cost her – she suffers a heavy nosebleed after such a leverage of power, invoking thoughts of Pratchett referring to magic as using your mind to push a bloody big lever – push too hard, and your brain might come out your nostrils.
Forgive me, but right now, it basically sounds like Bioshock: 1920: Air City. With a buddy.
I appreciate as much as the next person that publishers exist to make money, but we are slowly but steadily coming to the point where, outside of big franchises that are molested to the point of no return, the only people doing a huge amount of innovation are indie devs, modders and freeware types.
I’m not dismissing Bioshock: Infinity out of hand. It’s not coming out till 2012 at the very earliest, and we don’t know much. But please, Irrational, 2K… do something else afterwards. Let sleeping monsters lie.