On BioShock: Don't Eat Underwater Garbage Potato Chips

From Tim Rogers' ActionButton.net comes an enormously lengthy "late to the party" BioShock review, just on the heels of the recently-announced PlayStation 3 version of the game. Rogers' reviews are hallmarked by their controversy-courting vitriol, hyperbole and - did I mention - length? Nonetheless, he raises several points interesting to consider about the widely hailed (and presently backlashed?) game:

This game is not a masterpiece - it is the bare minimum. Its attention to detail with regard to its atmosphere and its narrative is not, in and of itself, a glorious feast: it is the very least we should expect from now on.

BioShock was largely acclaimed for doing a few very specific things right: the relative maturity of its philosophical themes, its stunning setpieces, its cultural wallpaper. It was received by the audience with the kind of welcome reserved for something for which we've waited ages - and yet Rogers believes that should have always been "the bar," and should continue to be.

Of course, with trademark irreverent glee and dark humor, Rogers dissects the manifold things BioShock did wrong:

Say what you will about the silent protagonist thing: we can all at least agree that the hero in this game is a bit weird. He will eat potato chips that might be a year old immediately upon finding pulling them out of a garbage can in a city full of genetic freak-out zompeople; where hypodermic needles are as "daily-routine" for the citizens as a cup of coffee, you'd think that the basic idea of "this place is a filthy bio-hazard" would at least be on the tip of one's subconscious when one finds food in a waste receptacle.

...Yes, I also cringed at that, and like Rogers, I wondered why a reclusive society of the creative elite would develop Plasmids that "enrage" and sell them out of clown machines in the middle of the street. But despite being a big fan of BioShock, Rogers absolutely nails the moment that really disassociated me:

Not ten minutes into the monster-smashing portion of the game, the player comes across his first ever hypodermic needle - a "Plasmid", the game calls them - and upon plucking it out of a busted vending machine, he immediately jams it into his arm, goes into wicked convulsions, crashes through a banister, and slams into the floor twenty feet below. The potato chips thing had made me laugh; this thing involving the instant hypodermic needle snapped me out of my trance; all at once, I was awake in the world of BioShock, watching the dream armed with rubber gloves and forceps. Our guiding spirit contacts us via the short-wave: "You've just used your first Plasmid! It's a bit of a doozy! Your genetic code is being re-written!" Thanks for telling us that before we jammed it into our arm! I bet your starving family finds it fucking hilarious that you're willing to let their only chance of salvation flail around on the floor while an entire troop of psycho-freaks walks by, stares at him, and laughs.

Some of Rogers' qualms can be chalked up to the fact that BioShock is a video game, and because of that, it might be necessary to make some concessions to the mechanical structures that enable gameplay - like the ability to carry impossible quantities of inventory even when a character appears to have no pockets, a mainstay. I'm not sure whether it's fair to dock points from BioShock for having vending machines in sewers, or for the VitaChambers and other such details.

But what do you think, Kotaku readers? Is Rogers right about BioShock? Would a game still be a game if it were possible to do away with the mechanics we've grown to love, like supply management and saving, or at the very least, blend them into the experience beyond recognition?

And one more question for your discussing pleasure: Does BioShock get extra criticism just because so much of it was done so well?



BioShock review
[ActionButton, via GameSetWatch]