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So, we've heard the devs' opinions on BioShock 2. Unsurprisingly, they like their own game. But as Charlie pointed out in the intro to that feature, even the biggest BioShock fan must be skeptical. And that's where I come in.
Let’s just get one thing straight from the start. I adore BioShock. Seriously. To the degree that I could quite happily get into a knife fight to defend its honour. It’s a rare indulgence of the universe for a game to come along which seems to have been so perfectly designed for you and you alone, but 2K Boston’s magnum opus was exactly one of those occasions for me.
The decaying art deco opulence. The mournful, haunting tone. The multiple levels of philosophical discourse and media deconstruction. The dense, cloying atmosphere. The utterly genius use of classic ‘40s music… It was perfect. It was unique. It was a game and an experience all of its own, and it did and said things in a way that showed up just how safe and unambitious so many devs’ treatment of the medium currently is. Yes, it lifted a fair few mechanics from 2K Boston's previous System Shock 2, but it remixed them into a shockingly affecting new whole.
And now we’re getting more. And I don’t want a thing to do with it.
Ignoring the obvious monetary justification (in fact the only justification), there is no need for a sequel to BioShock. The original game was complete by its end, as a product, as an experience, as a story and as a statement. It wasn’t a vague, open-ended scenario, ripe for the franchise photocopier as most games we play are. It was an intelligent and deliberately-designed whole, with a very definite story, manifesto and agenda which went beyond the basic visceral thrills of videogame shooters.
It had points to make regarding the scope of videogames, their conventions as a medium, philosophy and the human sense of self. Some it made by example. Others it made through narrative discourse, and some it even made through post-modern deconstruction. But it made them in completeness and then it ended. What BioShock set out to do is done.
There’s a reason no-one makes a big deal out of space missions any more, or the climbing of Everest. There’s a reason no-one gets excited about CGI in these post-Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 days. There’s a reason the Matrix sequels were directionless, unexciting bloats, and there’s a reason no-one’s ever made a sequel to Blade Runner (actually BioShock’s nearest spiritual equivalent, movie-wise).
For that very same reason, BioShock 2 will be a hollow experience in comparison to its predecessor.
So that's my standpoint outlined. Click on for the specifics of how BioShock 2 is Doing It Wrong.