Game Diary: Bioshock 2

Bioshock 2

First, you have to take into account that I played most of this game in a flurry of activity some six months ago.  Just recently, in fact the specific time would be yesterday, I decided to go ahead and finish the game to clear up some space on my hard drive AND because I really liked it when I was actively playing it AND I was very, very close to the end.

Second, I just wanted to point out that Bioshock 2 is a sequel to a game that is itself, essentially, a sequel to a sequel.  That original game is System Shock.  Obviously, the “shock” connects the games, but more importantly, the style of play and the overall plot arcs in the Bioshocks are heavily tied to the System Shock games.

Third, I played this game in three sections.

1. Unrelentingly at first, for a few hours.  I loved Bioshock and my imagination was stunned to be immersed in the same world, but evaluating all the constructs and politics from a different angle.

2. Then, Megan was caught in the mythos of Rapture and the goings on on-screen, so I played the game only when she was around, so that, for her, it became a sort of movie or TV show.  One with lots of violence, granted, and an obsessive attention to detail regarding weapons and ammo, but with an engaging storyline that moved forward pretty steadily through recorded diaries (and, yes, though the idea of diary logs that people have left around randomly makes little sense, it’s a fiction I willingly accept in order to digest the story of Rapture).  Eventually, though, other activities caught our attention and I found myself, as well, getting bored with Bioshock 2’s gameplay.  I found myself spending too much time scrounging for supplies and ammo, fiddling with details that took me out of the story rather than securing me inside it.

3. Lastly, and, actually, that last point I made above is pretty much it.  I finished playing Bioshock 2 out of a kind of duty.  I’d started it, and I liked it much of the way through, but had stopped playing for a variety of reasons – one being that the drive to play, to see what would happen next, withered.

Fourth, what I want to talk about now is how long a game can sustain interest.  Or, more precisely, I should ask the question, How does a game sustain interest?  If a game like Fallout 3 provides at least 100 hours of gameplay and I was completely invested the entire time, how was that achieved?  I suppose, for me, the answer is freedom of movement and freedom of choice.  Bioshock 2 is not quite a rail-shooter simulator like Darkest of Days, but your movements are tightly curtailed.  Rapture is gigantic city, and the player only sees a small amount over the course of the game, and his movement in those specific areas is pretty tightly contained by fallen debris or locked doors.  Fallout 3 (maybe because it’s an RPG rather than a straight shooter) lets you loose in the world with guidelines, but doesn’t herd you.  The morality, for example, is more complicated: sometimes you are faced with no “right” choices.  In Bioshock 2 each choice is clearly bad or good and that’s it.

Fifth, I enjoyed playing Bioshock 2.  The ending affected me.  I was saddened by the visions of what happened to people in Rapture, as well as the bits and pieces I got of lives via the recordings.  It engaged me as much as a movie would, but as with most movies, I don’t want to keep it around, nor do I want to play it again.

Sixth, this is where I realize how down I sound about the game.  No lie: It’s a great game and a blast to play.  I suppose what it is, is just that I was disappointed at the final result.  There was a vision in my mind of what Bioshock 2 could be that the game failed to live up to.

Seventh, granting that, it’s still much better than most games out there.

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