September 01, 2008

This may get a little arsey and arrogant in places. I'd like to say I don't intend to be, but in this case I absolutely do. Below is a real look at exactly why I feel BioShock is so criminally underrated by a lot of people who will read this feature, or essay, or whatever you might want to call it. If you don't like BioShock, and you feel I'm being a little heavy in my claiming that you're wrong... well, that's kind of the point. Imagine this blog has turned into the HonestGamers debate society for a while, and this is my opening speech.

Hopefully it'll spark some interesting responses in time for the PS3 version, anyway. Enjoy!


I got it wrong.

My review of BioShock for the PC was glowing. It's rare for me to enthuse as shamelessly as I did over that title. Now, approaching a year after release and with the PS3 version looming, the reception's worth revisiting. I've spoken to a number of people in preparation for this article, almost all of whom say BioShock is at its finest on first, novel play-through, when the weapon/Plasmid combo tricks are still fresh, when the big plot movements are still unexpected, and when Rapture is still so shocking around every corner. They're wrong too. They aren't looking hard enough, and nor was I. My over-critical analysis did it no justice. BioShock is more special than any of us gave it credit for.

2k Games' masterwork started bouncing around my mind again after reading Mike's review of the X360 version. I read his excellent piece again and again, and what struck me was that we agreed on practically every point other than the overall level of enjoyment provided by BioShock. The only feature we disagreed about was the inclusion of Vita Chambers, which regenerate the player in a nearby location upon death, eliminating the need for frequent saving and loading. Yet Mike, despite awarding a decent score, felt significantly less compelled by the title than I did. Why is this the case? I could never be entirely sure but, having spent weeks considering it, I can present a pretty thorough idea…

"BioShock is no masterpiece," Mike wrote. "It's simply a solid FPS that just happens to look and sound incredible." He got it wrong. We all got it wrong. With a dramatic number of spoilers, here’s why:

BioShock is the first true anti-game in the world. To go with a plot that hinges around a lovely piece of frank satire about the nature of the videogame itself is a brave move, and by informing the player that they are not free to do what they want, are forced down a linear path and will do what they are told without question, BioShock cements its notion right from the start. Complaints about the lack of motive early on, or the inability to wander off around the city, or the fact that much of the gameplay involves completing tasks from people that you really can't be bothered with totally miss the point. You're not supposed to like these things about BioShock. For now, you're supposed to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the blasting. When Andrew Ryan forces you to kill him with a golf club, you know something's up. Once you've defeated Fontaine in a glorious moment of symbolism, you sit back, and you think. Then you play it all again - and it's magical.

BioShock does essentially demand two plays, and I'll accept this as criticism in a world where many gamers struggle to find the time to blast through a lengthy shooter even once. But the result of this is an astonishingly rich, effortlessly intelligent game that has a strong enough core to remain in people's minds for far longer than almost any other videogame on the market. It's the first game I've ever played where completing it was only the start of my emotional journey with the thing. It made me consider every action I'd taken in Rapture. It made me want to read page after page of interviews with the people who had created this astonishing range of characters. It made me want to go and read classic literature to ensure a better understanding of the world should I choose to return.

Stop. A computer game made me want to read classic literature so that I understood the game better?

Yeah. Exactly.

Rapture is an astonishing place, and the more time I spend there the more I realise it's clearly the greatest videogame setting ever dreamt up. Half-Life 2 pushed the boundaries for 'environment as a narrative device', but BioShock absolutely defines that concept as 'something that just works'. It's almost a shame that we can listen to so many audio diaries that fill in the blanks, but even many of these are presented in a truly brilliant and slightly ambiguous way, allowing us to interpret them ourselves. A fabulous example just before the famous Ryan sequence is one that will stick with me for a long time. "Break that sweet puppy’s neck," Dr. Suchong commands. In floods of tears, a boy obliges. It's shocking at the time, but ten minutes later when you’re struck by the sudden realisation that it was you who killed your pet, it's you who was the mind control subject who's been referenced a few times throughout the game, and it's you who's being used, beyond your control, at this very moment... well. That's just a little bit good.

The world itself, though, is the crowning character of Rapture, explaining a whole lot more than any of the game's NPCs manage. I was speaking to someone recently who'd bought BioShock on my recommendation. A couple of days later, I asked him for his impressions. "It's okay," he said. "It's a lot of fun, but the story's rubbish. I have no idea where I am or what's going on." I was confused, until we spoke more about it. He'd been playing it like a Quake game, finger constantly on the 'forward' button, paying no attention to any of the intricacies BioShock scatters about its universe. Once I pointed them out, he began to understand.

One of the first sights of the game is a huge statue of a man's head, situated above a banner reading "No gods or kings; only man." Practically the next thing you see is one of said men being repeatedly stabbed by some sort of psychotic and mutilated woman. From this point onwards, nothing is shoved in your face, but it's still omnipresent. On my second play-through, I took to spending a good few minutes after slaying any Splicers in each area just soaking up all the detail. The face of Andrew Ryan at every turn, a faux-socialist with an ulterior motive. That picket sign, a protest from the now deceased against their delusional ruler. The reams of posters advertising a product so unethical that it would be frowned upon by the majority even today, let alone half a century ago. The horrific reality of what this advertising is actually saying, beyond its words alone. "Is your daddy as strong as my daddy?" one video clip asks. The fundamental wrongness of this horrific human GM experiment being manipulatively marketed to children is something I didn't pick up on to begin with - but it sure as hell affected my playing style from the moment I realised.

People regularly praise - let's grab a relevant example - the Deus Ex series for being proud and learned enough to actually make a statement. The first game provided a governmental stance, the second a social commentary. Both were considered glorious for doing so, but then each was an open-plan, non-linear, immersive simulation, and that sort of highbrow stuff is what draws people into the genre. I wonder if it's clouded by the fact that BioShock is 'just' a first-person shooter, but it makes enough political statements at both ends of the spectrum to blow the Deus Ex series, along with any other game of its type you may like to mention, completely out of the water. Whenever I actually consider all the dimensions of the plot, I constantly have to remind myself that BioShock is indeed a computer game - an example of the medium most commonly associated with children, but one that has the guts to tell us, in such a horrific and genuine manner, that it doesn't believe socialism works. And then it shows us why, in a more remarkable way than almost anything else you’ll find on the shelves of HMV or Game - or, for that matter, Borders.

Hell, even the fact that, as despicable a man as Ryan is, he's not even the most fundamentally bad character in the game is a gutsy story to tell in itself. It's brave, thoughtful and absorbing at every single turn – and it's so effortless. It's smarter than you or I will likely ever realise.

So all this isn't ingenious because it's a linear game created by a team renowned for non-linear game development? It's worthless because you have to backtrack sometimes? Or because the AI system isn't the finest ever crafted? Or because you can't outright die in this world?

Well, actually, maybe Mike was right. Perhaps it's not a wonderful 'game' per se - but it's important to realise that BioShock is so poignant because of its computerised nature. The film version that has recently been licensed will need to be very careful not to betray this, and at the moment I worry that it may be an impossible task. Movies have no choice but to directly show us stuff. Videogames have the distinct advantage of allowing our own exploration to tell a story. What's more memorable - watching a travel programme, or visiting the country yourself? Crushingly, I can think of only a handful of games that acknowledge the obvious answer to this question, but BioShock is not merely 'one of them', it's the absolute definition of how to implement this idea into a game. And you know what? As a result, it's given me more emotional and philosophical mileage than anything else I've played, seen or read in a long, long time.

Does any of this matter? Who knows? Super Mario Galaxy resides at the opposite end of the spectrum, but in its classic approach lays an equally marvellous game. All of us here will disagree over which direction, if either, the videogame industry should take, but BioShock, finally, provides us with perfect ammunition against those who say gaming is a brain-dead pursuit.

I bet half the people who claim that don't even know what 'Atlas Shrugged' is, let alone how computer games can expand upon it.

Most recent blog posts from Lewis Denby...

bluberry bluberry - September 01, 2008 (12:45 PM)
man, I was around for lilica's Final Fight review and this is still the most pretentious drivel I've ever fucking read on this site. does MGS2 get a 10/10 for what it did, or can one really write off everything wrong in No More Heroes--which I still quite liked--as satirical commentary on videogaming or something? somehow I didn't see grinding and pop-in as masterful revelations.

I liked BioShock's setting and premise, don't get me wrong, it was cool. but the difference between that and something like Deus Ex is that Deus Ex was actually a well made game on top of that. in BioShock's case, what I wasn't able to forgive above all else was the absolutely crap pacing. as I said in my review, things go wrong in Half-Life 2 as well, but HL2's idea of things going wrong isn't a door locking that you have to go spend an hour unlocking. you're "about to meet" Ryan two hours into the game and you're still "about to meet" Ryan ten hours in. I see the point of dealing with the gardens or with Fort Frolic but the way it's executed, they're annoying little side trips that feel like a forced way to make the game longer.

BioShock isn't even that cogent. big plot reveal--you've been taking orders from some dude! gameplay after the big plot reveal--you're taking orders from some chick! and you'd think that for all it tries to do it wouldn't end on a cliched, distinctly videogamey boss battle. HL2 had the courtesy not to.

also, what does "BioShock is the first true anti-game in the world" even mean? seriously. I still played it, in the end.

go play MGS2 and Killer7 and get back to me on that. they're frank satires about the nature of videogames themselves if I've ever played one.

I also don't remember BioShock having much of anything to say about socialism, but maybe I'm just a mongo. its gun seemed completely focused on pure free market capitalism.
Lewis Lewis - September 01, 2008 (01:23 PM)
Absolutely the type of response I was expecting and hoping for. I hope you don't think I'm really enough of a git to think I know better than everyone else about any game. I'm a big jester, really... :)

I'll expand a little. I don't think BioShock is a 10/10 game at all. As I acknowledge, as a pure game it's full of flaws, but as a concept it's marvellous, and I feel few people have given it enough credit for its scope and ambition in videogame storytelling. For what it's worth, while Deus Ex is one of my favourite games in the world, I think that has just as many, if not more, pacing issues and gameplay niggles than BioShock. I agree wholeheartedly that the Ryan meeting is held off for far too long, and I meant to mention that actually. System Shock 2 made that same twist work a lot better by placing it early in the game, but I suppose BioShock tries to make you angry that you've spent, ooh, a good fifteen hours being lied to. For what it's worth, the fact that you're annoyed by it means it's succeeded, although maybe for the wrong reasons.

I'm not sure what you mean about MGS2 and Killer 7. They're videogame satire, certainly (though I still think MGS2 doesn't try to be as satirical as it comes across) but BioShock is an honest look at what makes videogames, by nature, function correctly. In that respect, maybe I phrased it badly. In fact, maybe I meant the exact opposite. It's not an 'anti-game'. By making its point, it becomes the 'truest' videogame I've played in a while.

The boss battle at the end is, well, uninspried and a little annoying, but its delivery is spectacular, and my realisation the second time I played it, having done my research into BioShock's influences, that Atlas has become the golden figure on the front cover of Atlas Shrugged really impressed me with its effortless intelligence. Some may consider this pompousness, but then maybe I'm enough of a wanker to think that's impressive instead of pretentious.

As for the political comments... well, when Rapture was built, Ryan was by admission a pure socialist: power to the people; no laws. But in order to keep his utopia secret, he had to pass a single law forbidding contact with the outside world. As he wanted the people to be able to choose for themselves, some chose a capitalist route, but that meant the one law had to be broken for trade purposes. Human nature is greedy. The result is Ryan selling out his own ideals in order to quash those who disagree with him, as his world is at threat. Suddenly, he's not so 'for the people' any more, and becomes the bitter, arrogant, unethical monster we see by 1960 in the game. BioShock suggests that as soon as Ryan's plan hatched, Rapture's fate was inevitible because humans simply don't work like that. In that sense, Levine's beliefs are something of the antithesis of Karl Marx - though even I'm not going to be ridiculous enough to make a real comparison between a videogame developer and a political philosopher.

I wrote this knowing people would vehemently disagree, and I'm glad. Even beyond your view, I'm sure "It's just a game!" will be a common response, I'm sure, and that's absolutely a valid one too. I'm really grateful for your response, and I look forward to seeing what other people think on the matter.
bluberry bluberry - September 01, 2008 (01:44 PM)
"though I still think MGS2 doesn't try to be as satirical as it comes across"

Lewis Lewis - September 01, 2008 (01:48 PM)
You've lost me. I fear I may have missed an enormous point somewhere along the road.
bluberry bluberry - September 01, 2008 (01:54 PM)
love it or hate it (I'm boringly ambivalent about it), MGS2 was blatant satire. it literally is MGS1 repeated over again and you bought it anyway, in both meanings of the word. that's the twist, at least on one level. total jab at sequels.
Lewis Lewis - September 01, 2008 (02:08 PM)
An interesting idea, actually. I didn't consider that. It obviously willingly plays up to the action videogame cliché, but no more or less than any of the first three. Maybe you have a point, actually.
Halon Halon - September 01, 2008 (03:45 PM)
I pretty much agree with what Bluberry said 100% about Bioshock except I liked the game slightly more than he did (he gave it a 6 and if I was to review it I would probably score it 7) but have the same basic complaints so I won't add anything.

As mediocre as the gameplay was, the premise/setting was brilliant although I saw the "twist" coming as soon as you arrive in Rapture (it doesn't help that Far Cry did the same exact thing three years earlier).
Lewis Lewis - September 01, 2008 (04:23 PM)
To that extent, so did System Shock 2 nearly a decade ago. Did you see the full plot twist coming, or just the betrayal? If the latter, then I agree, it's pretty much a given, especially if you're familiar with Levine's past work. But that's not the crux of the twist. The twist is what I meant about 'challenging the nature of videogames' and all that. If you worked out that you were the experiment (and I suppose Far Cry does play with that a bit), then my, you're good.

The gameplay's ambitious if you want it to be, too. BioShock's flaw isn't its lack of scope in gameplay, but the fact that the easiest way to play the game is just to run forward shooting things. You can set up huge battles involving phenomenal weapon/plasmid combos - but largely, there's no point.

It's interesting - I kind of expected replies to consist of "yes, the story's good, but..." My viewpoint is that the sentence only needs to be reversed to realise how truly great this thing is. "Yes, the gameplay is occasionally weak, but the story..."
bluberry bluberry - September 01, 2008 (04:50 PM)
but that's a crap idea. as I said, I don't excuse MGS2's gameplay and often boring story just for the clever twist and brilliant ending. I can't go "well yeah the Plant part was complete shit, but..." about that game, just like I can't go "well the gameplay was weak, but..." about BioShock.

at least you're not defending the little Pipe Dream minigame. that was so horrible.

edit: keep in mind that I'm also arguing the story wasn't all that either. clever, yes, revelatory, no. not with that last third tacked on there, anyway. if Irrational had the sense to make BioShock more open/free after the twist then I'd think it more good.
espiga espiga - September 01, 2008 (05:44 PM)
Just to add my half-pence...

Just because a game has a good storyline, doesn't mean it's a good game (Case in point, Final Fantasy VIII). I've played more than enough RPGs to know a good story when I see it, and while I enjoyed Bioshock a little bit, the story wasn't really all that great. Evil dictator that turns out to be your father? Check. "Friend" in the beginning that betrays you and ends up culminating in the final battle? Check. Revealing that you were actually part of some experiment to make supersoldiers that would always listen? Check. It's all been done a thousand times before, and on a better narrative level than Bioshock managed to tell... With more difficult and enjoyable gameplay too boot, since it is a game, after all.
bluberry bluberry - September 01, 2008 (05:48 PM)
yeah, espiga, but you're going for the surface level stuff and outside of the "would you kindly" thing that's not what BioShock was really going for anyway. plot is overrated.
Suskie Suskie - September 01, 2008 (06:42 PM)
Okay, I guess I should offer my opinion on this matter as well, considering I just finished BioShock a little while ago, and since I was already mentioned (and accused of "getting it wrong") once in this little debate already.

Lewis, you acknowledge that from a gameplay point of view, BioShock doesn't do anything out of the norm, so I won't harass you about that. You still seem surprised, however, to see so many people on HG display negative feelings toward the game (though no one outright dislikes it). You seem to think that the setting and narrative are so deep and intricate and beyond anything else found in the gaming world today that BioShock should be dubbed "great" regardless of its gameplay-related shortcomings.

I can kind of sympathize with you there, but I don't agree with this argument that BioShock deserves special treatment, that it's somehow more than just a video game. Guess what: BioShock is a video game. And when I review it, I treat it as such. If it's got a great story, awesome. But if a game isn't enjoyable enough to warrant a 9/10 or 10/10 on its own, a compelling narrative won't save it. The way I see it, a game's primary objective is to entertain. If it doesn't accomplish that, then it's failed, story be damned.

Now, I don't think BioShock failed. As you recall, I quite liked it. Just not enough to call it a masterpiece or label it as revolutionary or groundbreaking. Were the story andd setting enough to bump the score up a notch or two? Absolutely. But they don't propel the game to unexplored heights, especially considering that I've played games that HAD better plots, that were also more enjoyable as well.

I'll throw in an example that kind of puts me in the same situation you're in: Mass Effect. I love that game. Absolutely love it. Gave it a 10/10 review and I stand by that. And I'll say this about the game: It is, to date, my vote for the single greatest storytelling experience in the gaming world today. It's not just the setting, the narrative, the history, the characters, the twists... it's the player interaction, the fact that every direction the story takes is a result of the choices you made. In the gaming world, it's an unparelleled experience. It drew me in so much that I was inspired to read the prequel book, Mass Effect: Revelation, to more fully appreciate the attention to detail ploughed into this world. Sound familiar?

But here's the thing: Mass Effect is a fantastic GAME, too. Is it perfect? Not at all. In fact, there are so many little issues with the game that it even inspire Penny Arcade to start a short-lived series called Nitpicking, where they'd tear apart all the little things that were bugging them. Any major issues? Not really. Even without its fantastic story, Mass Effect would score AT LEAST an 8/10, if not a 9/10. The scope and depth of the game are virtually unmatched.

Compare this to BioShock's problems. Inconsistent pacing? Excessive backtracking and fetch quests? The inability to DIE? These are MAJOR problems, the kind that would lower my final score to something like a 6/10 or 7/10. The narrative and setting are impressive enough to be taken into account, of course, and like with Mass Effect, they actually made the game better. But gameplay is always always ALWAYS a factor.
pup pup - September 02, 2008 (12:48 AM)
Lewis. Many of the points you bring up regarding setting, story, etc. are all spot on in my book. BioShock is a game that has to be taken slowly, with open ears and eyes to fully appreciate. There's one problem with that though. We have to look at BioShock with the interactive elements of a game, and not the static properties of a film.

With a film, I can be perfectly content to sit back and wonder why a character is doing something. In a game, where I personify said character, I like to have a purpose in mind. My purpose in BioShock (at the outset) was to escape. Why should I be concerned with a bunch of tape recorders left in some rather puzzling locations? Why should I try to kill the Big Daddies when it looks like they and the Little Sisters mean no harm to me?

The loose ends tie a knot in the end, but that doesn't justify the moment - which is precisely when the enjoyment of video games takes place. For that reason, gameplay elements are just as important, if not more so, than plot. As luck would have it, BioShock is also very competent in the gameplay department.
Lewis Lewis - September 02, 2008 (01:21 AM)
Cheers for all your responses. Some interesting discussion going on here.

A lot of people seem to be throwing the argument of "but the gameplay's rubbish" back here, which is fine, but I'd like to know what precisely people feel is lacking in this department. Someone pointed out a while ago in a land far away that BioShock, functionally, does everything System Shock 2 allowed players to do, and yet that was praised for its gameplay innovation. Granted, that's nearly a decade ago, but on the release of BioShock people were still making that claim. The only difference is the interface and the methods through which these facets are achieved.

The pacing of BioShock is an issue in the middle third, but the promise of meeting Ryan is something that drives you on nicely. As for the sole goal of escaping... well, you could apply that to anything. I do understand what you mean, though, and one thing I do think BioShock would have benefitted phenomenally from is 'safe areas', where the city was still functioning more normally, where people were still alive to speak to.

What's interesting is that BioShock The Game was created before BioShock The Story. Ken Levine wrote the majority of the narrative around the gameplay features and a vague series of level designs, as he wanted to make sure they had a solid gaming experience in place before they started dabbling in narrative. That's quite interesting, given the response...

EDIT: Mike, of course you didn't "get it wrong" - that's not a concept that exists in this respect, obviously - I was being deliberately antagonistic. Hope you didn't take any offense. I really enjoyed your review.
espiga espiga - September 02, 2008 (01:58 AM)
I had several problems with the gameplay elements. The enemies had very little variety whatsoever, and the overabundance of Vita-Chambers means you never had to fear death because you would never get penalized for it. With nothing penalizing you for your demise, there's no incentive to actually get better at the game when you can simply ham it up and go on suicide runs. This is further compounded on by the fact that enemies don't recover any of their health if you die, so you can chip away at them all you want without repercussion. Another one of the problems is one that you yourself mentioned: Although you can set up all these awesome weapon/plasmid combos, there's not really any reason to when a couple well-placed shots with a badass weapon like the crossbow is all it takes. You have no fear of running out of ammo, since it's abound in Rapture, and that pipe "hacking" mini-game (because all hackers are actually plumbers in disguise) was decent for about the first 3 times, then simply became a chore.

@boo: Yeah, I didn't really touch on the in-depth stuff like the society that ruins itself with its own power. Like I've never seen games with those before, either. Though, on a non-sarcastic note, I've never read Atlas Shrugged so I can't exactly comment on the Ayn Rand commentary that's supposed to be prevalent through Bioshock.
Lewis Lewis - September 02, 2008 (04:25 AM)
I'd like someone to comprehensively list some games that provide more of a self-aware and thoughtful social commentary than BioShock does. I can think of two - one of which occurs in a disappointingly bland setting with far too much infodumping; the other being so utterly broken that most people never bothered playing it enough to see just how marvellous it was. No prizes for guessing which games these are.

I've actually not played enough of Mass Effect to comment on that - I'd love to get hold of a copy, since people have been screaming of its brilliance to me for months. For some reason it never appealed to me. Outside of HonestGamers, it received "merely" very good reviews, and since it appeared to be the high-sci-fi nonsense that totally turns me off the majority of time in gaming I never picked up a copy. I'll rectify this as soon as possible, since almost every gamer whose opinions I really trust has recommended it to me.
Suskie Suskie - September 02, 2008 (07:25 AM)
Lewis, that all depends what one's definition of "social commentary" is. This could be the result of a lot of people over-analyzing BioShock, or a select few of us under-analyzing it. But while I haven't read Atlus Shrugged and never will, I can say that I played through BioShock and didn't see any social commentary or symbolism of any kind. I saw a plot about a guy who builds an underwater city and then everyone goes crazy. Even with all the attention to detail (which was admittedly impressive), I took it as just another video game setting, nothing particularly thought-provoking about it.
Lewis Lewis - September 02, 2008 (08:50 AM)
How do you define social commentary? I'd say that any work that uses the story of how people behave in a given situation, and gives it as definite an outcome as BioShock does, is offering some sort of commentary on life...

I'm enjoying this debate, incidentally. I hope people don't think I take myself as seriously as I take my pet games ;)
Suskie Suskie - September 02, 2008 (12:31 PM)
Well, in my mind, social commentary has to be based around an idea that is somewhat plausible. I'm not talking about the fact that BioShock is set in an underwater city -- that concept is actually really cool. The whole idea behind this collapse of civilization, though, is that people went berserk over something called ADAM -- genetic enhancements used to provide distinctly video game-y abilities. So I see these ads all over Rapture for plasmids that allow you to zap people and set them on fire, and I KNOW I'll never be able to take this plot entirely seriously, because I keep thinking, "This could ONLY happen in a video game."
bluberry bluberry - September 02, 2008 (01:25 PM)
I'll try even if there's no prize: Pathologic?
Halon Halon - September 02, 2008 (06:00 PM)
Bioshock's story didn't do too much for me because normally I don't care about stories in games. As long as it makes sense and doesn't go over the top I like it.

System Shock 2 was great because it was released in 1999. Bioshock was released in 2007 and plays like a game from 1999. Take Half-Life for instance. Everyone here knows I love the game but compared to newer FPS its mechanics from 1998 are extremely dated. It is very playable today but if a game was released right now with the same gameplay mechanics it would feel horribly dated and completely bomb. Bioshock is the same. It might run on one of the best graphical engines and have an atmosphere way above that in most games but it plays like it's straight from 1999.

That, and the fact that you seemed to be progressing more in System Shock 2 and the game was more of a challenge.
Suskie Suskie - September 02, 2008 (06:48 PM)
I actually disagree with that, Sportsman. As you know, I replayed the whole Half-Life series recently and found even the very first game quite playable. That's one of the reasons it's a classic; it holds up.
Halon Halon - September 02, 2008 (08:23 PM)
I never said it was unplayable. Minus the opening scene it is just as playable as it was in 1998. I was trying to say that if a game was released today, in 2008 with the same gameplay mechanics as Half Life it would feel archaic, regardless of how good or bad it is. that's a problem I had with Bioshock: it plays exactly like System Shock 2 which was released in 1999.
Suskie Suskie - September 02, 2008 (08:28 PM)
I meant "playable" not versus unplayable, just meaning that I didn't have any trouble. The only aspect that felt dated was the visuals.
bluberry bluberry - September 02, 2008 (11:09 PM)
it's subtle, but I agree with sportsman: even outside of the visuals Half-Life is a total late 90's FPS game. tough to put a finger on why, but it just... is.

the good news is that it's a good late 90's FPS game, which is an incredibly rare breed.
Lewis Lewis - September 03, 2008 (12:19 AM)
There are a lot of wishy-washy terms like "gameplay" being thrown around here (not just about BioShock now). I'm intrigued about the Half-Life thing. In what way do people think its gameplay dates it to the late 90s, and are you sure this is a bad thing? I think its story does, certainly, as we lapped up that science fiction nonsense at the time. But I think the game holds up flawlessly. I often wonder if people get too caught up in the little features: there are no RPG elements, there's no lean feature, there are boss battles... The first two aren't flaws, and Half-Life tackles the third in the most forward-thinking way heard of at the time. What does let Half-Life down by today's standards are Xen (but then that was always a bad idea) and the lack of depth of characters - but I wouldn't call them gameplay mechanics. I genuinely believe if Half-Life was released again today, in a fancier engine, it would score consistently in the high 80s at least. It's why I'm looking forward to Black Mesa Source so much.
Halon Halon - September 03, 2008 (08:19 AM)
Half-Life 2 significantly improved aiming/movement: you could actually walk now, aiming was smoother, sprint option, etc and also the level design and NPCs were very 90s-ish. Plus the way the AI (mainly humans) reacts was the best was to handle everything at the time. Luckily these techniques still work today although they would feel pretty archaic if they were included in a new release.

It probably would score decently today but that doesn't mean anything. The Timesplitters games all scored very well and they play exactly like Goldeneye with an even worse AI. I would be disappointed and complain about the mechanics in today's games (as would a lot of people) how I did with Bioshock and the Timesplitters series but most professional sites will overlook something like that.
Suskie Suskie - September 03, 2008 (09:14 AM)
Yeah, you're definitely right, Sportsman, Half-Life shows age in certain ways. What I guess I mean is that it's not the kind of age that detracts from the experience; if anything, I found it somewhat endearing.

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