video games

Expecting Excellence

There is something to be said about that first experience with something new. What is this about? What does this do? Can I do that? These questions flood your mind as you map out how things work and are interconnected to each other.

Such was the case with BioShock.

Being introduced to the world of Rapture for the first time, you are dragged into a dark and twisted world of watery ruin. You explore. You follow the plot. As you come to learn how the main characters are involved and what certain phrases mean (Would you kindly keep reading?), you integrate all of these things into your mental image of what the game is. You come to expect certain things. When the game ends, you cap off your experiences. These are the things that BioShock means to me, you say. This list of things is, in your mind, the associations between you and the game.

For me, this list of things can be boiled down to three things: dark atmosphere, moral choices and an interesting narrative.

There is numerous evidence that BioShock 2will have a dark atmosphere. You will be in Rapture (Enraptured?) again. You will see dark hallways, watery tunnels and feel dread. I had no doubt they would be there and, surprise surprise, they are. I cannot conceive of a BioShock game without this.

There is a little girl in front of you. Well, something that looks mostly like a little girl. She is holding a rather large needle. She was being protected by a overgrown Tin Man with a fetish for whale mating calls. Now you have a choice. You can save her or harvest her. This was the main moral choice of BioShock. Do you increase your power or save a little girl? And as screenshots point out, this choice is in the sequel too.

What makes an interesting narrative? Is it having something unexpected happen? How about an experience breaking the Fourth Wall to point that, yes, you are doing what the game designer wanted you to do? By all counts, BioShock has these things. Many people consider the story to be one of the best in the entire industry in fact. What about BioShock 2? Will it have unexpected elements? Will it break the Fourth Wall?

The answer to those last questions is what drove me to type this. BioShock, I would argue, was so great not because it was a generic story but because it was unique. It was stand alone. No other game had done an underwater city as good. Few other games had presented an atmosphere as good. Even fewer still had moral choices that had people talking months, and now even years, after the fact. To put it all in a single package, well, that is Damn Good. Again though, what about BioShock 2?

Even now I am breathing in the hype. I am looking at screenshots, previews and even writing about it. BioShock 2 is beginning to take shape in my mind. Given the excellence that was the first game, is it unreasonable to think that the next should not be as good? A great many people still sing the praises of BioShock. Will a thinning of the choir happen when this new song is taught? Is it fair to expect lighting to strike a second time?