The BioShock series has been around for nearly a decade now, and as such we have plenty to say about the famed games that began underwater and continued in the sky. Whether they be positive or negative, some experience with BioShock has affected us, and upon the recent release of BioShock: The Collection, we’d like to share some of our most memorable ones with you.
Angelo’s Memory of BioShock
I have nothing but happy memories when I think back on my first play-through of the original BioShock. It’s somewhat odd to think this way, considering BioShock presented a dark, dystopian underwater world plagued by addiction and the drowning of hopes for a better life. I recall playing the game from start to end with a friend of mine during the last few weeks of summer break, and it wasn’t even mine. He and I went to the mall together, where his dad bought him an Xbox 360 Elite and the newly released mature-rated game I urged him to get with it—BioShock.
We were years under the appropriate age to play the game or even understand some of its adult themes. But that didn’t stop us of course—I remember going back to his place afterwards and playing through the game as if every sequence, every politically charged event, every philosophical qualm actually made sense to us 14-year-olds. There was something special about the experience, that much I could tell. In fact, my friend and I didn’t even play with the sound of the game on—we played background music that totally drowned out the dialogue from any collected radio messages or cut scenes. Nonetheless, we claimed to know exactly what fun was being had deep under the sea, and perhaps that speaks to the game’s impeccable use of atmosphere.
The presentation of the game, the eerie underwater environments and the psychoses suffered by its residents, was enough to intrigue me. Looking back on the nearly decade-old game, I realize that the pinnacle of its achievement wasn’t from its gameplay but rather its story. Yet it’s odd that I remember sincerely enjoying the travel from checkpoint to checkpoint when I played it for the first time. I remember being in awe of the various characters in the game and each of their crazed personalities: Sander Cohen, Andrew Ryan and Dr. Steinman. Each of them had their own chilling way about them, and though I may have been ignorant of their true intentions, I felt that they certainly added to the overall character of Rapture.
It wasn’t until several years later that I played through BioShock on my own and discovered just how masterful it was. For me, BioShock will primarily be remembered as a game that brought friends closer together during the gloomy final days of summer break, but that in no way hinders the enjoyment I get from continuing to play through the experience on my own, over and over again. Each time, I dive into a whole new experience with a greater understanding for the political, social and psychological underpinnings of the tragic world under the sea. Because of that, and because it’s also my favourite videogame, I will kindly dedicate a few more hours of my time to descend the lighthouse in BioShock: The Collection.
Josh’s Memory of BioShock
Reflecting back on this incredible series takes me back quite a bit because I started playing BioShock when I was in high school. The original BioShock wasn’t something I played right away. I remember I played the first 20 minutes of it, but I didn’t end up really diving into the depth or playing the entire game until my senior year of in 2009. I was two years late, but, if anything, it was a blessing since I didn’t have to wait as long for the highly underrated sequel and Irrational Games’ swan song, BioShock Infinite. I was visiting my wife back when we were long-distance dating 900 miles apart. I was in Michigan and she was in Oklahoma, and it was on my spring break that I plunged into the world of Rapture. Our spring breaks weren’t at the same time, so when my wife was in school, I was at her parents’ house playing videogames to pass the time before she got home. I brought my Xbox for us to watch Netflix on and play some games, but I didn’t have anything concrete in mind for what I was going to play. I ended up loading up my digital copy of BioShock randomly on the first day or so that I was there, and I was immediately hooked–so much so that I nearly finished the game.
I played almost every second while my wife was at school. She loved videogames too–and she still does–but I mostly played while she was in school to save her the boredom of having to sit through a game she’d already missed 6-7 hours of because of her studies. I ended up getting up to the last few hours of the game while I was in Oklahoma, but it wasn’t until after a day or two of school and catching up on some much needed rest from the 13 hour drive back to Michigan that I got back to it. I finished it pretty quickly and quickly began replaying it. I wanted more of the world, especially since there were no other games like it at the time.
The world of Rapture absolutely pulled me in and just blew me away. The world was as much of a character and integral part of the story as the rest of the characters. Despite taking place underwater, it breathed a deep breath into not only the player but also the industry. Every aspect of the game, design and atmosphere, just pushed everything that was going on at the time. I will never forget how floored I was when I first saw Dr. Steinman after only hearing about him in audio diaries up to that point. A specific diary stuck with me and I can still hear the screams when I think about it today. There was a diary where Steinman was asking for medical tools and his assistant began pleading for him to stop and kept explaining that she wasn’t there for that particular surgery. The tape ends with the sounds of the operation continuing, and then it just hits you. I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. I wanted to continue on and explore the savage and ruined world and discover what remained and laid ahead. I also wanted to just sit and process what I had just experienced. That was how my entire playthrough went, and repeat playthroughs had just as much of an impact. In fact, if anything, repeat playthroughs affected me more because I already knew and was, by then, desensitized to the horrific yet magical world and retained even more of its bizarre goings-on. It was through repeat plays that I’d already accepted the combination of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory blended with a hell of a lot more sinister than any other game had truly imagined. It was at that point that the character of BioShock had been completely introduced, and the conversation between its two constituents could be fully realized.
BioShock captured my senses and invigorated the industry with its handling of atmosphere and its approach to detail and immersion. There were many games that liberally borrowed from BioShock, and I know none of us truly minded. It was like a band borrowing from The Beatles– could you blame them? Rapture had captured us all, and its impact is still being fully realized to this day. This remastered collection is very fitting because gamers who have yet to experience the horrific and wonderful worlds of the series can finally play a game that is, quite honestly, still ahead of its time. Those who have already been to Rapture can jump into a bathysphere again and get reacquainted with a world wrought with imagination and hellish citizens. Familiar divers and newcomers can experience BioShock’s innovation that oozes inspiration–innovation that will definitely continue to shape the gaming landscape for decades to come–and I know that I personally can’t wait to get spliced yet again!
Patrick’s Memory of BioShock, BioShock 2 and Infinite
I can remember watching a trailer for BioShock all the way back in 2006 that featured commentary from Ken Levine. From the way he spoke, you’d think his sh*t was made from gold. He spoke of how a new, dynamic shooter would kill off old, depraved first-person shooters and breathe new life into the genre. It would best games such as System Shock and Deus Ex as the new face of the FPS genre.
As a naïve 17-year-old, I bought into the hype and waited a year for it to release. I picked it up on day one, and not just the game, but the collector’s edition with the Big Daddy model. I spent the whole day with BioShock, and it was what I hoped for: it had great pacing, excellent lateral segments and intense combat. But then I remember hitting a point halfway through the game and coming to a realization–it’s just shallow. It’s a shame to say but I personally don’t see it as the golden child many do. I thought of the game as more of a step in the right direction that followed with it falling over flat on its face. BioShock harboured a flaky third act that was just boring. As for its narrative structure, it repeated the same formula for every level: enter the level, see the exit in front of you before it’s closed off, go to the other end of the map and fight some deranged lunatic, and get the exit to open. But worst of all was the element of choice it gave players, which were only as meaningful as Ken made them to be. I was angry, and by the time I finished it, I was really pissed.
I had a slight disliking for the game for a long time until one day when I picked up a copy cheap from an HMV (I know, by then it was like 2011). I gained those memories of the artists fighting one another, the ice man, the mad surgeon screaming about how ugly you are, the epic introduction of the Big Daddy and Andrew Ryan asking “Would you kindly” in those final, agonising moments of his life. Even with the terrible third act, it was a strong game and one worthy of praise. Just not the high praise Ken Levine wanted so much. He had more to do if he wanted to earn it from me.
I did admire it though. As a console FPS, I thought it was a great move forward, and one that brought other games like it to consoles instead of leaving them stranded on PC. Besides, for the first half, it was well paced, engaging and quite fun. But by the time it released, many first-person shooters were changing: Call of Duty was stronger than ever with Modern Warfare and Half Life 2 was a game changer. BioShock just wasn’t though. But it was admirable.
BioShock 2 was something I originally disliked more than the first game. But looking back, it actually did a lot of things better than the original. At the time of its release I was completely stressed out about a lot of stuff: choosing a university, getting over a breakup and more. I remember just being in my room and having this game immerse me into the world, and it actually, for the most part, entertained me. It kind of said, “Patrick, you could be worse off, like this dude at the bottom of the f**king ocean.”
So, yeah, it gave me comfort as many games did around the same time, and to be honest, it’s a solid game. BioShock 2 is a solid game even though it did have its fair share of problems: certain story elements were handled poorly, moral choices didn’t really have an overall impact, and the first act was identical to the original game in many respects. Finding the fire perk to melt a giant ice boulder, for example, was just a rehash of more of the same.
But it improved the combat, level design and objectives. It also had more variation other than simple-minded objectives in the first game. Again, it was admirable and it captured my attention just like the first. They’re good games, and when I needed them, they did get my mind off my troubles. But most importantly, they kind of made me want to make games, and for some selfish reason it’s what drove me to make a game that could be on par or better than BioShock. I remember talking in a university interview about why BioShock wasn’t a big deal compared to Deus Ex, and it was great feeling such passion talking about game design–I was offered a place thanks to BioShock.
So, even though you’re not perfect BioShock, you did do a lot for me.
. . . Oh, BioShock Infinite. Yeah. Not a fan. Sorry.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know some of your favourite memories from the BioShock Series.
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