Despite typically dry winters and summers of games, there’s been a crazy influx of quality console titles in the last 2 months. Suffice it to say, I have been a very productive human being since Xmas … if by productive you mean fat lazy piece of shit eating Cheetos and ruining my xbox controller with Cheeto-fingeritis.
For my nerdsters, I plan on writing up some thoughts on the games I have been playing over the last few months in the hopes of getting you to try something new and addictive and often inspired.
So, without Further ado …
Bioshock 2 OR “Hey, you got your Objectivism in my Nerd Soup… AGAIN!”
Before I start, lets get to the bottom line – Bioshock 2 is not Bioshock 1. PLAY IT ANYWAY.
For those who don’t know, Bioshock was a bit of an enigma when it released. Pretty standard gaming concept – FPS (First-person perspective shooter) with some form of “magic” or “psychic” or “nanotech” or “lazerz” abilities. The real mindfuck of the original Bioshock came from everything BUT the gameplay mechanics.
For starters, the imagined world of Bioshock was original in the sense that it’d never been done before in a game. However, I dread the thought that playing Bioshock turned anyone on to the selfish raving egoism of Ayn Rand . But that was the failed utopia of Andrew Ryan, the submerged city of Rapture – a stolen (or would you kindly call it a homage) requiem for the most selfish and self-righteous schlock ever flung our way, ultimately ruining the potential for altruism in many people while simultaneously cementing the idea that “making money for myself is helping make the world a better place!” Anyway, the setting of the game was the dystopian society, an underwater metropolis built to honor the followers of Ayn Rand slash Andrew Ryan’s Objectivist ideals. Major characters included a man named Atlas (Atlas Shrugged, and we all die from lack of leadership cause we’re all inbred morans oh noes!!!!) and a scientist named Fontaine (the Fountainhead?! OMG!). Understand, these are lofty ideas for a video game. Christ, these are lofty ideas for a middle-schooler!
Bioshock hooked in a million ways though. The major enemies were splicers, addicts of gene manipulation who went crazy and ransacked the entirety of Rapture, murdering and worse along the way. In other words, the setting is an underwater city filled with crazies chasing you around throwing fireballs and screaming in agony over their non-existent dead baby. Awesome.
Add in some of the best mood lighting since my secksay black-lit dorm room days, an eerie soundtrack of 50’s tunes (Somewhere Beyond the Sea), creepy little girls who harvest magic goo from dead bodies (and become subject to being rescued or murderated!), an epic plane crash, brain washing, and mind fuck after mind fuck, and you’re starting to understand the debate on Games as Art. This game was intense and groundbreaking, and everyone who played it was a better person for the experience.
I am only slightly exaggerating there. Seriously.
Bioshock 2! But I heard it’s more of the same!
Within 15 minutes of starting Bioshock 2, I found myself making comparisons. Bear in mind, this is not the same team behind Bioshock 1. They certainly used some of the same assets, though, because many things look very similar – title cards, Big Daddies, the archaic steam valve technology of the weapons, the scattered recordings, the Health and Eve bars, the Little Sister vents, the in-game adverts for Gatherers Gardens. I began to imagine a deterioration of the quality of these things – sure, this captures the flat idea of the original, but it’s merely a caricature of that genius. Within an hour, I was convinced that Bioshock 2 was just a crappy sequel to Bioshock 1, trying to recapture the madness of the original and falling flat on it’s taint.
But as I played, something emerged; something new, and enticing. A new failed philosophy, this time a John Stuart Mills Utilitarianism to directly combat the Objectivism of Bioshock 1. And not just to have another crap-philosophy to tear down and present as a failed Utopia – the story progresses both as a here-and-now mission as well as an exploration of the fall of Rapture, a missing history of Utilitarianism fighting Objectivism in the face of poverty and racism. The story of Rapture is told despite the action of the game, in secret messages and hidden recordings, advertisements and bloody scrawlings on the walls. There is a subtlety to Bioshock 2 that exactly captures the brilliance of Bioshock 1, and refuses to smack the player in the face with a giant dildo of obviousness.
Yep. That’s the image I chose. Love it.
The plot remains compelling, the player is offered more choices than in the original, and the gameplay never fails, although the weapons are interestingly different than the original given the “nature” of the protagonist.
The problem with reviews of Bioshock 2 is this: expectation. Every Mario game must be substantially new and different. Every Zelda must capture the staples of the series while simultaneously bringing the newest features of the newest console into the mix. Every Final Fantasy sequel must have even spikier hair on even more androgynous characters!
Bioshock 2 is not moving the franchise in unexplored new directions. And it is not groundbreaking like Bioshock 1 was — but nothing can be. What you get here is a well-polished, moody, tense and intense game that further explores the wide swaths of territory that Bioshock opened up. There is a lot to love here, and it’s a shame that reviewers cannot separate their journalistic responsibilities from their passions as enthusiasts of games.
So fuck the reviewers, and trust your Prince of Why. Also, if you wanna borrow my copy, I’m done with it for now …