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Don’t confuse that lamentation for fanboy sychophancy. The absense of BioShock’s creator from this project is a very serious issue. Where a more generic action title might not suffer too much from a change of leadership, a game as specific in its aims and identity as BioShock certainly will. No-one would bat an eyelid if a third Fantastic Four movie went ahead without Tim Story, but remember what happened to Batman after Tim Burton left?
Yes, of course any game of BioShock’s scale is the product of a great many people. And yes, a handful of the original 2K Boston team have been moved over to BioShock 2 at the newly-formed 2K Marin. But the fact remains that BioShock is a work with a very definite vision, and in attempting to extend that work, 2K Marin have a nigh impossible conundrum ahead of them. And it’s one to which I’ve so far seen no evidence of a satisfying resolution.
Above: The dearly departed. Already so strongly missed . *sniff*
If BioShock 2 simply apes its predecessor, it will become a tiresome and purposeless repetition of something that was special in no small part because of its uniqueness. If it spins things off in a totally new direction, it risks becoming alien to its originator, and therefore an mere unrelated cash-in using the same name. Right now, BioShock 2 looks like a very uneasy and muddled mix of both of those approaches.
In order to both expand and remain quintissentially BioShock, a sequel would need Levine’s guidance in order to remain true to the original game’s essence. It speaks volumes to me about the idea of sequelling the game at all that he has politely distanced himself from the project since it was announced.
When thinking of BioShock 2, I’m constantly reminded of Secret of Mana. Squaresoft’s legendary action RPG categorically blew my mind back in my younger days, but I found later entries in the series to be massively disappointing. Reason being that I was repeating the same (or similar) mechanical experience and expecting the same personal reaction as I got when I did it the first time around.
In actual fact, what I really wanted was not a game that was the same as Mana, but one that would make me feel the same way Mana did. Repetition fundamentally couldn’t give me that, and it was only when looking further afield that I found games that could. Remember how everyone thought they wanted more of the same after Resi 4, until Resi 5 disappointed with just that? Same problem.
Above: Familiarity, contempt and apathy
I have no doubt that there will eventually be a spiritual follow-up to BioShock. It might be this year, next year, or eight years later, as BioShock was from System Shock 2. It may come from 2K, or it may not. But when it does appear, it will not be set in Rapture. It cannot be set in Rapture. Because to achieve what BioShock achieved, it will have to be just as new and daring and sharp and brilliant and original. It will have to be an entity of its own, with its own direction and its own ideas with which to challenge us. Right now, BioShock 2 looks to be a long, long way from being that game.
Share your own thoughts on BioShock 2 in the comments or, if my opinions have touched you deeply, feel free to send me a PM.
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