Bioshock: why is it so engaging?

Robin kept asking me why I was playing Bioshock last week (after Grey had left and I repartitioned my hard drive and all that stuff so I could play it).

Well, the art was amazing (you can get a sense of it at the Cult of Rapture downloads section. Also scroll down the Updates page for download links for the soundtrack and the artbook.). The enemy AI was pretty good. Hacking is always cool (and done in Bioshock through a neat mini-game which is probably what caught Robin’s eye).

But at the same time, I didn’t really have a good answer for Robin… It was engaging but still felt a little lacking in something. I don’t know what. System Shock 2 and Deus Ex seemed at the time to be more fully engaging (though I probably can’t go back to those graphics these days, sadly). I wonder if it has to do with Bioshock being released on a console (Xbox 360) at the same time–whether that caused the team to “dumb down” the game mechanics at all?

Bioshock artwork

For example, unlike Deus Ex, you don’t need to train up a skill to the beginner level before training it to the intermediate or expert level. Huh? That kills replayability and fizzles out the importance of choosing which skills to take. The background story, mostly told through audio recordings the player finds while traversing the underwater city (kinda like the recordings in Doom 3), led me to believe something even bigger was at the heart of things… I thought someone else was behind the scenes and that there would be an even bigger plot twist… but that didn’t happen.

And frankly, the splicers aren’t actually all that freaky. Something about zombies, about their slow-moving relentless why-won’t-they-die-already? feel that the splicers lacked. Or maybe they didn’t use enough character models for the splicers that eventually they felt like nameless fodder rather than things that used to be unique individuals. Cookie cutter bad guys don’t make me regret killing them. If the splicers you encounter are actually the personalities whose voices you hear in the audio recordings, for example, man, that would’ve affected me deeply.

One thought on “Bioshock: why is it so engaging?”

  1. I tried the demo for Bioshock, but didn’t really enjoy it, and the aesthetic didn’t do much for me. Also, the rootkit thing was annoying.

    I’ve been addicted to Team Fortress 2 lately…

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