Friday, December 2, 2016

Bioshock Remastered...Thumbnail Review

Okay how many of you would inject yourself with a random bottle of Glowing Red Shit just because some guy on a radio, who you have never seen before, said you should? -- Cataline Sergius



Bioshock is now nine years old.  Wow, think about that for a second. That much time has crept up on us since the first Bioshock game came out.

2007 was a different world.  Twitter existed but no one was polluting the internet with it  America had not yet endured the misery of a single day of Obama in the White House. You could still play Captain Kirk with a clam shell cell phone.  And PC gaming was on life support.

Consoles ruled the electronic highway with an iron hand. Game devs regarded the PC market as a back water that was clearly dying out.  You can't really say they were wrong either.

At that time PCs constituted about fifteen percent of the gaming market.  Enough that it was still worth porting games from consoles but not enough to pour resources into making games specifically for them. About the only original game I can think of that was a PC only release that year was Command & Conquer 3. (*Don't bother to correct me if I'm wrong.  I don't really care*) Everyone was convinced that PC games were dying out.  Given what they knew it wasn't a bad bet.

Games were designed and built with consoles and only with consoles in mind.  PC ports were clearly something that were deeply resented and performed only unwillingly.  When they were done at all.

Enter Bioshock.  A Game of the Year that no one on Earth plays anymore. There is more than one reason for that.

First of all the original PC port of Bioshock was a disaster.  While PC graphics were potentially better than on consoles, who the fuck cared? Because it was almost impossible to make the bitch run.  Your only real hope for getting Bioshock to run reliably on a PC was to install it on a brand new computer and never do any updates...on anything.   I spent many an hour on gaming forums trying to find out what reconfiguration would finally do the the trick. I got to go through the usual infuriating ritual of seeing an exact description of my problem, a few suggestions offered and then the original poster saying, "nevermind, I fixed it." THREAD LOCKED

I eventually did get it to run by the way.  And played it through to the end a couple of times just to unlock the various endings.

Time passed and my disk copy got damaged.  So about three years ago I picked up Bioshock for a song on a Steam Sale.  Once again I couldn't get it to run and this time I said, "fuck it."

However, last week I saw a new tab next to my old Bioshock tab that said Bioshock Remastered.  It was free so on a whim I hit Install.

This time it actually loaded and ran without any trouble at all.  Which was a refreshing change.

What was not refreshing was the game itself.

Back in 2007 the Doom Clone had morphed into the much more console friendly FPS.  Speed and precision were replaced by cover tactics, due to the clunky, inaccurate and slow console controller.  Fans of the PC Doom Clones got bored fast.

Gaming had other problems as well.  This is from my review of Bioshock Infinite:

Gamer Gate got it's start in the 1990s.  Gaming mags were taking off but had a major problem.  A typical review usually read something like, "This is a good game. I like it very much."  There would follow two or three pages of technical prattle and that would be it. 

Editors decided that they could either teach gamers how to write or teach writers to play games.  They made the wrong call.

Writers could learn to play games no problem but it would never be their passion.  Writers care about characters, plotting and story structure.  They find game mechanics dull and tedious. They liked good graphics though.  They were super keen on those.

Oh and left wing politics, so you had better have those too.

Consequently, they started reliably giving good reviews to games  with a good story line that leaned left and looked pretty. 

Bioshock passed these tests with flying colors.  I will grant that at the time I actually enjoyed the game.  The Anti-Randite politics were annoying but I so used to being bombarded by lefty messages I barely objected to them back then.  

And the producers had clearly studied up on Rand.  It was a Cliff's Notes version of Objectivism by someone who clearly hated Objectivism but they got a lot of it right.  You can even make the argument (*weak as it is*) that Andrew Ryan's betrayal Objectivist philosophy was what lead to the fall of Rapture.    

There were attempts at making characters that were multi-dimensional.  Like the insane Sander Cohen who ruled Fort Frolic and would have made the Joker envious with his dedication to "Art." There was Ryan's close friend Bill McDonagh who eventually tries to kill Ryan to save Rapture and is executed for it.  Then there was Brigid Tenenbaum an Aspie-Russian-Jewish-Nazi-War Criminal, (*trying a bit hard there guys*) who eventually discovers her humanity through her maternal instinct.  
The second map is in some ways the most interesting part of the story.  As it traces the rejection of Ryan's atheism by the common workers for Christianity.  However, this is not and was never meant to be a Christian story.  The underground Christians are clearly to be viewed as desperate, ignorant and pitiable.  And you never hear about them again for the rest of the game.

The interesting thing about this game and indeed about all of the Bioshock games is that they are all about paternal relationships.  

And about Nihilism.  Let's not forget about that.  Atlas turned out to be just a conman who just wanted to take over the joint.  Never believe in anything is the battle cry of this series.

Bioshock isn't that good of a game and that is the truth of it.  It's an FPS built with consoles in mind. The action is slow and clunky. The automatic regeneration feature makes the combat pretty much pointless.  The Adam/Plasmids thing may as well be magic.  The mini-games are just annoying.

But then it was never really meant to be a game, now was it?

Bioshock was always an interactive movie.  The game part just came along for the ride.

As for the Remaster itself.  They honestly didn't need to put the work into it that they did.  Just making the game actually playable would have been enough. However, they have sharpened up the graphics quite a bit. They added little things here and there, like starfish on the walkways and a school of jellyfish that I don't remember being there.  There is a walkthrough Museum of stuff that was cut in development. And a director's commentary that I refuse to listen to on general principle.  None of this adds to or improves the gaming experience because it can't.  Bioshock is at it's core a weak game.

2007 will be a decade ago in about 30 days. Obama is about to vanish off the stage never to be heard from again. Almost every cell phone is now a computer.  And Computer Gaming not only isn't extinct it will have exceeded console game sales by a billion dollars this year.  Now everyone is murmuring about the looming death of the console.

 Steam has rebuilt the entire PC gaming market. There are independent games all over the place.  Tales from the Borderlands have drawn a deeper line between games and interactive movies. And you can find actual Doom Clones again.

I had to ask myself.  Is this why the rebuild of Andrew Ryan's world feel so unsatisfying?  And I decided, no, that wasn't it.  The reason I don't like it is much simpler.

Bioshock was never that good in the first place.  It was over rated because of it's Left wing politics.

1 comment:

Mocheirge said...

If you haven't already, go play System Shock 2. Bioshock games are consolized, dumbed-down versions of SS2. I never finished the first Bioshock; I lost interest around Tony Podest-- err, Jeffery Dah-- I mean, Sander Cohen.

And if you don't like SS2, I'm afraid I will have to commit social media atrocities like ignoring you on Gab or starting rumors that you're secretly #NeverTrump.