Tuesday, May 7, 2019

RetroDEX: "Bioshock" ends not with a bang, but a whimper (Burial at Sea 1,2)

Irrational followed up Bioshock Infinite with two expansions. Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea features a return to Rapture and the world of Andrew Ryan through the eyes of Booker and Elizabeth. Released in two parts, Burial At Sea Episode 1 is a more conventional experience, whereas Episode 2 tries (and fails) to break the Bioshock mold.

The first episode features a more adult, jaded and seductive Elizabeth visiting Booker in Rapture. She gives him a job to find a Little Sister. There are references to the original Bioshock, as well as some cameos, but it's a pretty standard affair. The mechanics are the same as those of the base game and there's not much story to speak of. If 1930s adventure serials inspired Bioshock Infinite, then film noir-inspired Burial At Sea 1.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

RetroDEX: When creators look in the mirror (Bioshock Infinite)

This has always been the one in the series I liked. Returning to it for a second playthrough, I understand why it has held a special place in my heart. Irrational returned for the development of Bioshock Infinite. Unsurprisingly, the game is a better sequel to the original Bioshock rather than its sequel. Much as I enjoyed the second game, this series isn't a trilogy; it's a two-act play, with the second game being a stand-alone spin-off of the original game.

Bioshock Infinite ditches the claustrophobic Rapture for the flying city of Columbia. Its quantum-based technology and sky-rails have always been a draw for me. The game is visually familiar, but the change in the setting brought with it a change in color and lighting. Everything is bigger and brighter, which contributes to the feeling of a 1930s adventure serial.

Bioshock Infinite's popularity has waned post-release. It's not without reason: it's somewhat pretentious and superficial in its thematic approach. It can also get repetitive, slow and boring, from a gameplay perspective. Additionally, the game's the poster-boy for luddonarrative dissonance, more so than Bioshock. I can sing its praises, but Irrational remains a worse developer than 2K Marin.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

RetroDEX: The only good "Bioshock"? (Bioshock 2)

Imagine how thirsty for artistry and substance gaming was back in 2010 to completely dismiss Bioshock 2 as a cheap cash-in, when in many ways, it's a far superior game to its much more popular predecessor.

Not that I can blame anyone; Bioshock 2 takes place not long after the events of the first game. The main character is a Big Daddy, because Big Daddies were the most popular component of the original game. The setting is the same, there's little in terms of originality and it wasn't even Irrational that made the thing; the game was developed by 2K Marin, a division of the game's publisher, who had literally never made another game until then (and haven't really made any since either).

It's sort of mind-blowing, then, just how much more fun it is actually playing Bioshock 2. A lot of what Irrational made, was improved upon. A lot of what made the original game a chore to play through, has been tweaked, fixed and polished.

Friday, December 14, 2018

RetroDEX: The original "Bioshock" is absolute trash

What a garbage fire.

It's rare for me to come out of a gaming experience so angry and distraught I have to instantly jump in here and bitch about it; but Bioshock was just that experience for me. A bloated, pretentious mess that plays extremely clunky and outstays its welcome by several hours; also, a game everyone on the planet seems to love.

Sorry, fans, but I don't see it. From where I stand, Bioshock joins a long list of titles (not unlike Mass Effect) that only got as popular as they did, because they were doing something even remotely unique and/or artistic in the dreadfully generic first half of the 7th console generation. Put this game next to any other competent shooter and it doesn't hold a candle to any of them, both those that succeeded it and the ones that preceded it.

I hated almost every moment of the original Bioshock and, to make matters worse, this wasn't even my first time playing it. I've played the damn thing four times (though I've only finished it twice) and every time I just can't get past how bad the gameplay feels. From the jerky controls to how completely obtuse so many of the mechanics are, everything about it feels wrong.

Well, almost everything.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

RetroDEX: The Timeless Design of "God of War" (2005)

Many games hold up over time. Specifically, many games from the 8 and 16-bit eras, whose usually linear and polished design makes them easy to pick up and play no matter how much time passes. What's truly rare, however, is to find a game so carefully and meticulously designed that not only does it stand the test of time, but outright doesn't really age at all.

This wasn't my first time playing through the original God of War, but my first crack at it on the Playstation 2, over a decade ago, had failed to impress me. I wager I was looking for a different kind of experience back then and my understanding of video games was far less than it is today. This probably explains why in revisiting the celebrated title so many years later, God of War left me equal amounts of satisfied and blown away by its stellar design.