Some Thoughts on Bioshock 2
This will be my first blog entry for Crispy Gamer and I'm thrilled to be contributing to the site. Aside from playing and replaying the Just Cause 2 demo about 30 times (not hyperbole), I've also been sneaking on to my girlfriend's Steam account to try out Bioshock 2. Two descriptors pervade my thoughts as I play this sequel: "repetition" and "going through the motions".
About two hours into the game, I started to realize that I was collecting the same basic guns, and the exact same plasmids, in the same order as Bioshock. I don't think I've ever played a sequel so beholden to its progenitor, that it literally copies the exact same progression. Upon first feeling a sense of deja vu, I immediately started to become resentful of the game. After all, why did I have to work so hard to claim the incinerate plasmid when I had already spent an entire game as the master of fire? Never have I felt more like Sisyphus, working so hard to accomplish something I thought I had already done.
In diving deeper into the narrative of the game, it became clear that, while Irrational games (I refuse to use their temporary, ultra-corporate moniker) had a true fondness for Ayn Rand's works (Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, etc.), 2K Marin/China/Uranus/Narnia didn't really quite "get it". Indeed, Ken Levine and company weren't even involved in the sequel, and Levine has mentioned that he's never even played the game. To effectively portray a society, and especially a leader of said society, that follows a singular philosophy, it's necessary to fully understand, and maybe even sympathize with, that philosophy. For all the lip-service paid to collectivism, I don't get the impression that anyone at 2KFiji/Gondor/Caprica/Wonderland actually understands why the idea would be so seductive to people. On one hand, I'm glad that the developers could only really treat it as an alien concept (it gives me hope for humanity). But as someone who highly values narrative, it's disappointing to find a game that only seems to wear the clothing of the collectivist monster, rather than truly embody it.
And in one final case of irony, isn't it just perfect that a game created by a conglomeration (read: committee) of various development studios had trouble coming up with a convincing, powerful vision for the game's narrative? Seems like 2K needs a little more of Andrew Ryan's artistic integrity and a little less of Sophia Lamb's "art through consensus".