>> Monday, December 03, 2007
Having finished Bioshock some weeks back, I found myself immediately pining for the "good old days" of its predecessor, System Shock 2. Like a typical fanboy, I found myself complaining about this beautiful new, highly polished gem that had been delivered to me. But in seeking to be honest about my gaming analysis, I discovered the need to play "the original" again. For the fourth time through.
If you want to skip the details and get right to the two cents, I firmly believe the SS2 is better than BIO. That having been said, here's why:
I will not even attempt to compare the graphics of the two games; you'd have to be dead not to realize that BIO outshines SS2 in that department as if it were on fire. The differences in the two systems lie in the gameplay, interface, and as a personal choice, in theme.
A longstanding argument between console and PC games is that the controls of a console will simply never match those of a PC. Until such day as consoles are delivered with a mouse and keyboard as their primary input device, PCs will forever have the input advantage over consoles. BIO has, quite clearly, been programmed with a console player as the primary user, and it poisons the game as if a starvng man were fed nothing but honey. Delicious, but sickening.
Unfortunately I have not actually played the XBOX version of the game, so I can't give a full rundown of all the differences. The first time it was really obvious to me that there were differences was when I mentioned how sickeningly easy the "hacking game" was. Anyone who's played th PC version of this knows that the pipe-flow minigame becomes so repetitive that it just ruins the fun of BIO. My XBOX-playing friend had no idea what I was talking about. Whereas the PC version of this minigame tops off about two hours into the main game, the XBOX version apparently continues to get more difficult until the finish. What a pathetic toss to the consoler, making the gameplay dependent on one's physical control being limited.
While I'm talking about the pipe game, this is also a KEY point of difference between the two games. In BIO, when accessing a panel to hack, the world stops and waits for you to finish your little game so you can give your full concentration to making the pipes connect up. Even if you have to jump into the air to reach the camera you want to hack, you will freeze in mid-jump while you hack the camera. You can make a mad dash and stop in front of the barrel of an auto-cannon, but if you press the hack button fast enough, no problem, it'll wait for you to convert it from the dark side. A real game, like SS2, sends zombie and attack bot after you without cease as the alarm is going off during your pathetic attempts to rewire the it (until you die). Not only that, but your hacking skill is FELT as you simply try to light up three program nodes in a row. Hacking is hardly even a "game" in SS2, but it reaches out to you and makes you feel like you're accomplishing something as you do it.
When I reached the final stages of BioShock, I felt there was pretty much nothing else left to accomplish. Yes, there were a few minor upgrades I could still buy, but there was no point because no enemy even gave me a flicker of worry. Some of my weapons stayed at full ammo capacity all the way through; it was SO easy that I didn't even need all the methods of attack. This is poor map design, unless (God forbid) it was intentionally made this easy for the console player. Compare this to SS2, where you find yourself spending your last credit on ammo even in the final stages of the game.
In SS2 it is clearly evident throughout the game that there are distinct paths you could choose from, and it matters as well. If you choose to go with the military (weapons) route, you'll have access to some of the best guns in the game, but you can pretty much forget about tech or psi if you want the best of the heavy artillery. Even if you choose the military path, you're still not going to get the ability to use the best weapon of every weapon type. In other words, it matters what you choose because at the end of the game you're going to be playing in a very specific style of your own choosing.
With BIO, they touted the ability to attack enemies with a wide variety of methods, such as lighting an enemy on fire and electrocuting the water when they run to douse their flames. This is very cool in concept, and I did have it happen once or twice, but in execution it wound up entirely implausible, or impossible, for two reasons. First, it was just far easier to shoot the enemy dead with a weapon that WOULD kill instantly, and second, it wasn't very easy to tell when there was water or oil sitting around of which to take such advantage.
The "zombies" created from genetic mutation caused by the Many are also far more plausible than the drugged-up non-zombies that wander around BioShock. Just a note.
That's my rant. For now.