So I played the demo of Bioshock a few days ago and I was all like, â€œhuh,â€ enough to put my money down on a pre-order but not, you know, entirely convinced. Game play, atmosphere, setting and backstory, fantastic, but there was one thing that really jarred. And then I read an internest discussion that said yeah, okay, but thatâ€™s just the demo because the demo needs to get you to the meat of the game really fast and the actual retail product will be, you know, less frenetic and bumpy.
Chase-cutting: bollocks. The demo is, okay, not identical to the comparable sequence in the full game. There areÂ some differences. They do not matter.
Hereâ€™s what has my hackles up like a hyenaâ€™s (and here be spoilers but only for the first ten minutes of the game): the intro to Bioshock is like the entire first season of Lost condensed to fifty seconds, only whatâ€™s down the hatch is much, much better: itâ€™s a whole city. You arrive, you beat up the first couple of baddies with a wrench, and then you find a vending machine. Press (A) and a fat glowing syringe about the size of a tube of toothpaste drops out. This is kind of unexpected.
Before you can press another button, your character grabs it and injects the whole thing into his arm.
For fuckâ€™s sake.
I admit Iâ€™m only an hour or so into the game and as yet I know nothing about the silent narrator whose actions Iâ€™m controlling, except that he has some funky tattoos and probably some backstory to go with them. There may well be an explanation coming at some point in the future. And of course the contents of the syringe and getting them into your avatar’s bloodstream are crucial to what follows. But still, what a great huge fucking narrative discongruity. I spent the next ten minutesâ€”first in the demo and then again in the full gameâ€”thrown out of the fantastic sense of immersion that the game had created, and with a feeling of distinct antipathy towards my avatar. Iâ€™m not sure I want to play the kind of guy who injects himself with mystery chemicals just because theyâ€™re there, know what I mean?
Apart from that theÂ gameÂ is fantastic and I want to get a 5:1 audio system just to properly experience the sound-design. But Bioshock is the best-reviewed game of the last five years (on Metacritic it ties at 97% with Halo, Metroid Prime, Perfect Dark, GTA III, NFL 2K1 and, uh, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 and 3, and is beaten only by Soul Calibur and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Timeâ€”an impressive list.) Are our expectations of game-narrative really so jaded that we can accept glaring pieces of story-telling and character-building idiocy like this in the first ten minutes and still say that itâ€™s one of the best games ever written?
I will report back when Iâ€™ve finished the game, for the sake of clarity and completeness. And I donâ€™t want this to stop you from buying and playing what is one of the finest FPS games in years. But at the same time I wasnâ€™t going to let it pass without comment because letâ€™s be honest, if the same thing happened in the first ten minutes of a new TV show youâ€™d groan and change the channel.
Categorised as: narrative