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Default Bioshock - A Defense @ Eurogamer

December 6th, 2007, 19:26
Now that the media adulation for Ken Levine's sci-fi FPS,
Bioshock has subsided, the vultures have gathered to nitpick it to death, according to Keiron Gillan in a retrospective at Eurogamer. Normally outside of our rpg coverage, we did follow this game due to its System Shock 2 heritage, and there's a lot of points about video game success in general in this article, so hopefully it may be of interest:
A backlash was inevitable.
BioShock is amongst the most critically acclaimed games of the year. In terms of Metacritic average, its only peers are Super Mario Galaxy and Halo 3. You'll note, bar minor sniping, their status hasn't been questioned anywhere near as much as the adventures of a man with a wrench in Rapture's. This, also, is inevitable. They're known qualities. Everyone, to a lesser or greater degree, has made up their minds already…. There's much to hate in both games, but their fans simply don't care and those who aren't fans will never throw away forty quid for something that isn't to their taste.
In other words, a BioShock backlash was inevitable as it's new. People bought it on the strength of the reviews (and the hype - always, the hype) and then, when this random selection of gamers played it and compared their response to the…reviews, a larger proportion went "I don't think so" and pointed at the flaws…
He then goes into some of the common arguments against the game:
"DUMBED DOWN SYSTEM SHOCK."
… people who throw the "dumbing down" complaints seem to have two genuine issues.
1) It's easier to play.
2) A load of interesting options have been removed so it's a much simpler game.
The first one's true. BioShock is both a more accessible and easier game than System Shock 2. But "easier" doesn't have anything to with it being "dumber", and hating "more accessible" is just petty elitism from people who'd actually like videogames to be a ghetto consisting of them - especially when some of the things to make the game more accessible can be turned off. As long as point two's not true, then the former really doesn't matter.
And the second's not true. Mechanistically, you can do just about everything you can in System Shock. What was removed was either irrelevant, actual flaws or replaced with alternative methods to allow similar expression. For example, pre-patch PC fans were angry there was no option to walk on the PC. But - y'know - walking is about allowing you to move quietly. You can move quietly through the crouch, signifying creeping. In terms of the tactics allowed by your player, you can do the same…
"IT'S JUST SYSTEM SHOCK 2.5."
This, funnily enough, is a much better argument. The plot is similar. The structure is similar. What you actually do is virtually identical - you move around, you look at logs, you explore, you try and collect bits and pieces, you follow orders of some mysterious voice in you head.
It even shares the primary fault of System Shock 2 - despite some merits I'll argue later, the final third is less compelling than it should be. Once you leave the Von Braun in Shock 2, the game loses a lot of its sense of place, and leaving you in levels far more linear than anything BioShock throws at you that late in the game. Except the escort mission, obv.
So, yeah, it's a lot like System Shock 2.
Fair enough. Shock 2 was one of the greatest games of its period. If only all games were crippled with that problem…
There's a whole lot more in the same vein, but here's a cut to the conclusion:
"IT'S JUST MEDIOCRE WITH NOTHING TO REDEEM ITSELF."
…With BioShock, the more you look, the more you see. The more you see, the more you have to think about. The more you think about, the more you understand the bloody thing. It's created, by far, the most novel setting for a mainstream videogame this year. Most importantly, while its narrative is of enormous importance to it, it never once betrays the medium. It doesn't - say - present Rapture in cut-scenes. It puts you in a room and puts things in a room and, by induction, you come to understand the place. This is what's most novel about games in relation to narrative - i.e. setting as narrative - and BioShock does it as well as anything ever has.
People who are - say - against BioShock and in favour of Super Mario Galaxy (For the record, I love both), argue Mario is a purer game. It's not true. Mario, by dumping you in cut-scene after cut-scene you have to click tediously through, features an element which is a complete sidestepping of what games can and perhaps should be. I'd accept someone making an argument that Mario's a better game - but a "purer" one stinks of some kind of misplaced fascism. BioShock is nothing but game.
BioShock believes in videogames and what videogames can be, and - if you go along with it - it'll take you to places we've never really been before.
More information.

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December 6th, 2007, 19:26
Of course, on our forums we were months ahead of the backlash

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December 6th, 2007, 19:28
The backlash is there because gaming journalism universally spoojed all over the game and treated it like it was a religious experience. Numerous gaming outlets said that it was the best game ever with no flaws. The gaming media has been sinking lower and lower and Bioshock is a shining example of the overhype and hyperbole that plagues all of the major gaming outlets. It was a very enjoyable game but there are numerous games that came out this year like The Witcher and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that pushed the boundaries of gaming more than Bioshock did. System Shock 2 was far more innovative and revolutionary for its time than Bioshock was for 2007. It was also a lot scarier. On top of that, Bioshock was average as a shooter. If you compare just the shooting mechanics then you end up with a game that's not as good as Call of Duty 4, Crysis, or Half-Life 2. If I can see that Bioshock was "System Shock 2.5 — Lite Edition" then why can't the people who get paid to write about games see this?
Last edited by doctor_kaz; December 6th, 2007 at 19:43.
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December 6th, 2007, 20:37
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
The gaming media has been sinking lower and lower and Bioshock is a shining example of the overhype and hyperbole that plagues all of the major gaming outlets.
Well, I never played SS2, so I guess my gamer cred is zero, but I'd hardly call Bioshock a perfect example of hype and hyperbole, percisely because it is an excellent game, all on its own, pedigree aside, when stacked against any other game published this year.

It's not every thing to everyone, which although that is some kind of standard to be aspired to now, no game ever has been.


(except Fallout, of course)
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December 6th, 2007, 21:20
Originally Posted by screeg View Post
percisely because it is an excellent game, all on its own, pedigree aside, when stacked against any other game published this year.
I agree it *is* excellent, but unfortunately the press did set themselves up with the frothing praise for the game as the greatest thing EVAR.

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December 6th, 2007, 23:19
One of the many wierd thoughts this article raised in my head was how very difficult it is to make a successor to a game with a passionate fanbase. Is it always going to be judged against nostalgic memories of an experience more than an actual game for those people no matter how the sequel turns out? Would an updated carbon-copy be better received?(I'm speaking in general, not about any specific game.)

Another was the concept of backlash he stated above about various nitpicks being "…just petty elitism from people who'd actually like videogames to be a ghetto consisting of them…" Forums can really display this cliquism thing, where being dramatically and verbosely negative is more glamorous than a fair assessment, and once it begins, it draws a crowd of sycophantic agree-ers. Then someone disagrees, and a new batch surfaces. It's the people as sheep thing, I guess.

Anyway, thought it was an interesting read, even though I haven't played SS2 or more than a bit of Bioshock.

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December 7th, 2007, 00:19
I really like Bioshock actually, I just didn't think it was a perfect game like eurogamers 10/10 rating.

Would you kindly stop over-hypimg and over-rating games in the first place.
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December 7th, 2007, 01:34
I agree with woges, I liked the game but it wasn't the game to end all games. Sure there were problems and there could of been many improvements to it, but overall it was fun to play.

Once again like everyone has said here, the media needs to stop overhyping it and rating it the perfect game. The day I see a perfect game is the day I eat my hat and monkeys fly out my butt.

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December 7th, 2007, 01:59
Every high profile game (that isn't absolute crap) these days gets 90%+ and an editor's choice from the biggest review sites. What a joke… the highest score I've ever given a game is PS:T at 91%. There is no perfect game, never was, never will be, so 100% is something that simply isn't attainable in my book.

As to Bioshock, not that great, but not bad either. Very un-scary, unlike SS2. I'd personally give it a 75-80%. I got both endings the first time through and I'm done with it forever.
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December 7th, 2007, 02:55
Originally Posted by magerette
even though I haven't played SS2
Whaaaaaaaa! You better have a very good explanation for this heresy, young lady!

Personally I can see it more with other games oblivion and halo these are hyped beyond reality.
However for the most part, at least in my case I did it to myself with Bioshock, I believed it would be a better SS2, in an underwater setting.
I believed that given the chance klevine would finally do a successor to their ground breaking game, but clearly they stripped out most of all the RPG elements, which existed in SS2.

The author of this article is doing exactly what he claims the Industry Reviewers did, right now by claiming, it was only the parts that everyone agreed where wrong, bullshit! Where is it said that everyone agrees to taking out the defined and set character builds?

Regarding PR, the only slight thing I can see klevine responsible for is the phrase "Spiritual Successor", which is in the grey area, otherwise he constantly said, Its a Shooter. I chose to believe it was more than a Shooter because klevine was trying to bring the FPS crowd into RPGness, with a great game.
Spoiler

Ok, that last "Deluded part" wasn't spose to make it out into the public.

The worst thing klevine did from a sales stand point was to, "ok the decision/sell out to m$, about preventing Shader 2.0", to help try to hype vista. If Steam is a at least somewhat legitimate representation of the gaming world, which I think it has some creditability, they excluded 40% of potential customers.

For the most part when the author talks about the industry as a whole though, it seems fairly accurate and do I even need to mention the drama thats playing out at gamespot atm?

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December 7th, 2007, 03:04
When will people stop lambasting sites for overhyping a game? So they like it, so they like it a lot, and maybe you felt it was good not great or even poor. Well deal with it, sites overhype games it's what they do. Who cares. Read it or don't read it and take it all with many grains of salt.

That said, I feel that Bioshock deserved the great scores. I'm not a fan of FPS's at all — I'm a huge fan of rpg's (which Bioshock is not) — so take it for what it is, a non-FPS fan who greatly enjoyed Bioshock.
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December 7th, 2007, 04:28
Originally Posted by NFLed View Post
When will people stop lambasting sites for overhyping a game? So they like it, so they like it a lot, and maybe you felt it was good not great or even poor. Well deal with it, sites overhype games it's what they do. Who cares. Read it or don't read it and take it all with many grains of salt.

That said, I feel that Bioshock deserved the great scores. I'm not a fan of FPS's at all — I'm a huge fan of rpg's (which Bioshock is not) — so take it for what it is, a non-FPS fan who greatly enjoyed Bioshock.
My thoughts are the opposite on this really. If Eurogamer doesn't like criticism it shouldn't be writing any itself. I don't even know where this stupid article has come from where is this backlash anyway? I for one am happy with my purchase of Bioshock.

Now, there are always going to be fans and none fans so you're going to have to deal with some people saying the game is shit or however they wish to describe their distaste. Games (like any form of entertainment) are liked and disliked by opinions and tastes of the people that play them; not one game on the planet is liked by everyone - why would anyone think Bioshock is any different?
Last edited by woges; December 7th, 2007 at 12:33.
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December 7th, 2007, 04:57
This piece was written by Kieron Gillen and there is a fairly lengthy criticism thread at Qt3, where he posts regularly. Plus, there have been a couple of "does Bioshock deserve 10/10?" type articles (can't think where off the top of my head).

I wouldn't call it a "backlash" - the thread at Qt3 followed on from initial praise, so it's more a case of critical evaluation after that initial excessive high.

Not especially pertinent but I haven't finished Bioshock…I got bored and then The Witcher turned up. I was disappointed with the tonics etc, which just felt like different weapons and not as interesting as SS2's skill system. Plus, the whole little sister thing did nothing for me. Not a thing. I know it was supposed to be a big emotional thing but it didn't work for me and felt contrived — a big giant "you are supposed to feel guilty now!!" flashing at me.

But, to a large degree, I just might not have been in the mood for it. I do think that if you oversell a game, you're always going to get some resistance pushing back.

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December 7th, 2007, 10:53
It wasn't a bad game at all; the visuals and production values were fantastic and it actually had some substance to the story — even if got a bit thin in places. Gameplay was very good too.

But I do get a feeling that there is a double standard out there. For example, take loading screens — every reviewer (even me) has to mention loading screens as a negative on The Witcher. Guess what? Bioshock's loading screens are way, way, WAY slower (and less interesting to look at), even if they're not quite as frequent. (Still pretty frequent, though, as you do back-track at times — either because you have to or you want to.) Don't recall seeing points knocked off anywhere for that, though.
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December 7th, 2007, 11:28
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
The worst thing klevine did from a sales stand point was to, "ok the decision/sell out to m$, about preventing Shader 2.0", to help try to hype vista. If Steam is a at least somewhat legitimate representation of the gaming world, which I think it has some creditability, they excluded 40% of potential customers.
Really, what does Shader Model 3.0 have to do with Windows Vista?!
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December 7th, 2007, 12:05
It lets Acleacius write "m$".

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December 7th, 2007, 12:47
Seems to be a lot of fans of Bioshock at qt3 to me.
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December 7th, 2007, 14:49
Originally Posted by NFLed View Post
When will people stop lambasting sites for overhyping a game? So they like it, so they like it a lot, and maybe you felt it was good not great or even poor. Well deal with it, sites overhype games it's what they do. Who cares. Read it or don't read it and take it all with many grains of salt.
We're presented with a case of "when will sites stop lambasting readers for reacting to their material?" here though.

There's a fair amount of customer criticism that suggests that the all-pervading carte blanche endorsement to purchase is flawed. Writing that off as a "backlash" is a rubbish thing to do.

I was disappointed with Bioshock. I found the first half-hour or so amazing, then steadily realised the combat was unsatisfying and dull, the characters and plot vague and one-dimensional; resulting in a total lack of investment in the setting, the avatar, or the people.
I'd conclude it's a competently executed, pretty FPS, but nowhere near the grandeur so many have touted it as being. Firm 7/10 territory for me. I'm not sure how that makes me illiterate in Gillen's eyes, or shows that I don't know how to play games "properly".
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December 7th, 2007, 15:42
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
take loading screens
I dunno … I really don't remember them from Bioshock, whereas they seemed incessant in The Witcher … very much reminded me of Gothic 3 … but worse because they were everywhere!

But I think that the backlash seems like it is becoming more common - Oblivion is commonly held up as a negative example now for things that people praised at release, Bioshock is getting it, Halo 3's limp plot was getting taken apart in HL2 Ep2 reviews … and I'm sure Mass Effect will be getting it soon as well …

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December 7th, 2007, 15:50
Originally Posted by Thaurin
Really, what does Shader Model 3.0 have to do with Windows Vista?!
Heh, well at 4am when I posted it, seems I remember you needed a Shader 3.0 card for vista, however since I don't use vista and only going on memory, so if I am remembering wrong could you correct me so I can apologize for trying to mislead everyone.

Thanks.

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