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dsheinem
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Together Retro: Bioshock

by dsheinem Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:34 am

Bioshock launched 10 years ago, and this month we are celebrating its anniversary by playing this horror-tinged FPS/RPG hybrid for Together Retro.

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I just sent the front page article to Nick (it is loooong) and will update this post with the link in time. In the meantime, let's chat about it!

Who is playing for the first time?

Edit: here's the article http://www.racketboy.com/together-retro ... o-bioshock
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by PartridgeSenpai Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:00 am

OOoooo, I may actually go out and buy that new Bioshock collection they have on PS4 (or the old 360 one) and play along! I've actually been meaning to replay the original since I beat Infinite a while back, and this is a good an excuse as any! :D

This is actually one of the first modern PC games I ever owned, and damn my PC could NOT handle it. It didn't run /that/ badly, but it would crash whenever I had a loading screen between large game areas. Luckily, it auto saved at those points, so I could just reboot the game and load from that loading screen :P
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by Xeogred Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:39 am

I've played the three Bioshock's several times through, love them all. I've been meaning to check out the remasters for 1-2 sometime soon. Might get on that now! I just wonder if they'll work. Both have extremely negative reviews on Steam because of crashing and other problems. Guess I'll find out...
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by Exhuminator Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:08 am

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Original BioShock enemy concept art that was left out of the actual game.

Many years ago when Irrational and Ken Levine first started showing conceptual images for this game, I was excited for it. As someone who had beaten System Shock and System Shock 2, loving both, I fully hoped BioShock would be a spiritual successor. However as the development of the game proceeded, and Levine's original concept became ever more diluted due to 2K's meddling, my excitement waned. Shortly after BioShock released, I watched a friend play the game for about thirty minutes. I recall thinking BioShock looked to be what I feared; a watered down System Shock for the masses. Not long after that, Levine released a postmortem explaining how 2K had indeed neutered some of his ideas, and forced Irrational to alter initial concepts for increased mass appeal. So in light of all that, I had no interest in playing BioShock and forgot about it. Sequels came and went, and the series seemed to sell and review well.

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Unused boss from concept draft.

Earlier this year, it came to light that BioShock had become ten years old. In regards to its age publications started talking about BioShock again. I thought that maybe it was time to finally play BioShock for myself. And so I started it up about two months ago on Xbox 360. I put about three hours into it and... didn't really have any fun. (As a comparison; S.T.A.L.K.E.R. came out only a year after BioShock, and it accomplished a lot of the same ethos but with far greater skill, being an experience I adored and completed.)

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Original little sister concept left, 2K approved redo on right.

So, I stopped playing BioShock. I have considered forcing myself to play through BioShock as a scholarly endeavor, hoping the experience will improve immensely to warrant its high status among popular gaming. But my three hour take away was this is a dumbed-down System Shock with a heavy handed objectivism slant. There's also something off putting about the graphics that bothers me. Articulating what that is, is difficult. It's something to do with the three dimensional objects seeming comically large, whilst simultaneously being crammed into narrow spaces. This creates an uncomfortably claustrophobic atmosphere steeped in goofy surrealism. It seems like BioShock tries to be a horror game, but it's nowhere near as unnerving as System Shock 2.

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One of the many "biohorror" enemy concepts left out of the final product.

All of that said, it's possible I'm somewhat wrong about BioShock. Perhaps if I put more time into it, and maybe even finished it, I'd walk away with changed opinions. I do appreciate the underwater aesthetic, and there's a lot that could be done with the steampunk vibe. However the original concept for this game was far darker and more grotesque, and I wish it'd maintained the original vision. But maybe when I'm ready to take another break from Xenoblade Chronicles (man is it a long game), I'll dip my toes back into Rapture's leaky waters. In the meantime, I'm hoping other new-to-BioShock players step up to the challenge. This is a different experience in 2017 versus 2007 after all.
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by marurun Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:33 am

Dave, great write-up. Possibly better than the game deserves.
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by dsheinem Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:39 am

Exhuminator wrote:But my three hour take away was this is a dumbed-down System Shock with a heavy handed objectivism slant.


I think this is both true and entirely unfair. :lol:

The System Shock games were critical darlings but didn't really do much to sell the idea of an FPS/RPG hybrid to the masses, in part because their systems are a lot more obtuse than those in Bioshock. Narratively, they they don't offer the same departure from video game convention as Bioshock does; that is, their particular sci-fi themes, while well-written and nicely presented, were treading a lot of well-worn cyberpunk genre tropes. Bioshock is still one of the few texts - in any visually-driven media - that takes as its central posture a critique of Objectivism.

Despite some shared lineage, ultimately Bioshock was a very different beast than the System Shock titles. I don't know that I'd blame a lot of that on 2K's "meddling" - the game underwent a shit ton of revisions between its inception and its release, and across interviews Levine certainly seems very proud of the final product and the process his team went through to create it. Even if there were some "cutting-room floor" ideas that were probably worthwhile, they just didn't gel well with what Bioshock was destined to become.
Last edited by dsheinem on Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:42 am, edited 2 times in total.
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dsheinem
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by dsheinem Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:40 am

marurun wrote:Dave, great write-up. Possibly better than the game deserves.


Thanks! I sent a few edits to Nick as I caught some typos in between the text's appearance in my word processor and its presence on the site, but generally I am happy with the writing this month :)
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by Xeogred Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:29 pm

At least you gave it a shot Exhuminator, but a few hours trial... I'm not sure if you'd get much more out of it another time around. I think you need to divorce it from System Shock entirely. I don't really find them that comparable at all mechanically, even though yeah there's some lineage there and this is Ken Levine's successor for the most part. But it would be like going into Dishonored with a checklist chart to see how it measures up to Thief or Deus Ex, best to look at the games on their own. But again, can't blame you on the comparisons. Personally I *think* I played Bioshock first back when it was new, then System Shock 2, Bioshock 2, Infinite, and finally beat System Shock 1 this year. I love them all and they each have their own strengths. System Shock 2 is my favorite, but not gameplay wise at all.

Gameplay wise, I don't find Bioshock to be the most fun FPS. Everything about the combat is a bit obtsuse. But I never have issues blasting through the game and main the wrench 90% of the way. However I think Bioshock 2 improved upon it in a lot of ways giving you the ability to have both a gun and plasmid out at the same time, and the Big Sisters encounters were really fun. You had to be prepared for them and have a lot of traps and other tools at your disposal, letting you setup the level as your own arena. It's really fun. I also think the story is fine and all and there are some great revelations near the end. I think Bioshock 2 is the only one that leans most into the horror as well, with Bioshock 1 you're seeing the decay, but in Bioshock 2 you're going back when Rapture is literally dead. That said one of my friends disagreed with me on this recently so to each its own, it's not like I really view these games as survival horror anyways.

It's a shame people pass on Bioshock 2 and I'll never understand why, at the time and still to this day some people say "Well it's Rapture again"... well, Rapture is about one of the coolest and most unique settings out there. Why is that bad to be back in it again? Does this negate System Shock 2, Thief 2, Fallout 2, Dishonored 2, and the millions of other sequels out there set in the same settings? The logic is doesn't add up to me.

Infinite is really fun to me combat wise and quite different, far more long range combat and something about the gunplay feels a lot more precise and awesome. But the plasmids aren't nearly as interesting. The story along with the DLC is about as convoluted and insane as it gets too, almost too much so... I wouldn't be surprised if it was influenced by Lost at the time haha. It feels like it. Not a negative to me, I enjoy the ridiculousness. While I love the almost-cyberpunk neon flavor of Rapture and Bioshock 1-2, I'm really into Infinite's world and environments which is quite similar to Dishonored. This very strange, late 1800's / early 1930's era mixed in with both fantastical and sci-fi elements makes for such a strange and uniquely supreme setting to me, probably my favorite next to pure System Shock styled sci-fi. Thief fits a little too, though I think that one is kind of closer to Quake with its weird neo gothic blend. But this is all weirdly subjective. I just absolutely love these settings.

One negative to Infinite, no manual melee weapon. You have that crazy claw for finishers, but it's not the same as the awesome wrenches or Dragon Tooth Swords you should always get in this genre. Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mankind Divided messed this up too. A wrench should be essential.

Ultimately I'm just a sucker for the immersive FPS with good pacing, letting you soak into their cool worlds and atmosphere, story driven with audio tapes and whatnot, etc. One of my favorite genres by far and I love all the Bioshock's.
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by PartridgeSenpai Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:31 pm

I'd have to agree with Exhumy Senpai's analysis of Bioshock quite a bit, and would say his impressions are entirely reasonable. I've played through all the Bioshocks and System Shock 2. Even System Shock 2, past the first few hours, I'd say isn't that much of a horror game (or at least I wasn't really ever scared past that point). I felt that once you started getting powerful, the sense of helplessness that really created the whole horror/tension-filled atmosphere really fell away for me. Bioshock abandons that feeling of helplessness almost immediately, so I really never felt it was a horror game. I'd say it's definitely for the better that its sequels completely abandoned the idea of trying to masquerade as one.

The best things OG Bioshock has going for it are Rapture's art design and its story's critique of Objectivism, like DHS said. If you can't get into the narrative, you're not really gonna enjoy Bioshock. Past that, the plasmids are good fun to use, but I generally hate the gunplay in BS1. While it's certainly overshadowed by contemporaries like STALKER and more modern iterations like DOOM or Wolfenstein, it's a quality narrative-driven FPS game.

Xeogred wrote:It's a shame people pass on Bioshock 2 and I'll never understand why, at the time and still to this day some people say "Well it's Rapture again"... well, Rapture is about one of the coolest and most unique settings out there. Why is that bad to be back in it again? Does this negate System Shock 2, Thief 2, Fallout 2, Dishonored 2, and the millions of other sequels out there set in the same settings? The logic is doesn't add up to me.


I 100% agree! 2 will always be my favorite Bioshock for having a good enough story with very fun gameplay. It's head and shoulders above the other 2 in my eyes.
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Re: Together Retro: Bioshock

by MrPopo Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:37 pm

Xeogred wrote:One negative to Infinite, no manual melee weapon. You have that crazy claw for finishers, but it's not the same as the awesome wrenches or Dragon Tooth Swords you should always get in this genre. Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mankind Divided messed this up too. A wrench should be essential.

I suspect this comes from looking at the average player's usage; pure FPS games have always had the melee weapon be your "you technically have the ability to kill stuff but lol good luck" weapon (Hexen excepted). So the idea of running around with a melee weapon doesn't make sense to your average gamer. Meanwhile, CoD popularized the idea of a quick melee that flattens someone, and that seemed to resonate with people. The idea of "ok, I can be gunning them, but then if I get close I can finish them with this" seems more palatable than "ok, I run at them doing nothing and then I get to hit them with this thing".
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