Many irritating operating system gymnastics sessions later, I finished Bioshock late last week. I was pretty close to throwing up my hands when the game started crashing regularly when I reached Fort Frolic, about midway through. I ended up having to clear out my save games, turn off a Vista OS feature or two, and start all over.
I’ve been blaming Vista for a lot of my issues with computing ever since I got this computer, but I’ll throw some blame 2K Games’ way for this situation as Bioshock’s issues with Vista have been so widely reported, and the Orange Box games I finished a while back were rock-solid on the same computer. Get it together, 2K Games!
* There are a lot of weapons. I barely even used the last few I got. The research camera was a wonderful addition to the standard FPS arsenal.
* There is a lot more character development possible than in Half-Life 2, what with the plasmids and buffout upgrades in addition to all the weapons. However, most of that ended up evening out by the last third of the game–unless you were a complete tool, you were going to have all the cool stuff one way or another by then.
The downside of allowing this kind of development is that the game becomes unbalanced, which Bioshock did for me. After a ton of buildup during the level load, I killed the last boss in the game by running up to him and hitting him with the wrench (the default melee weapon in the game–think the crowbar in Half-Life) repeatedly… the biggest click-fest since Diablo.
* You’ve got a hard limit of $500 in your wallet (at least on the Medium level of difficulty, which is what I played). I kept running into this, which tells me two things: that I’m a cheap bastard, and that yet again I probably should have played the game at its hardest setting.
* I think the possibility of a security camera seeing you and sounding the alarm was supposed to be more of a consideration than it turned out to be. Once I got Natural Camouflage, which I did pretty early on, security alerts were a total non-issue. Also, the previously-mentioned Pipe Dream-style hacking minigame remained ridiculous throughout.
* After starting off fairly underwhelmed by the game experience I got progressively more into it. The back-story of Rapture was interesting, the characters seemed to have some stories to tell, and the designers did a good job of building suspense and interest in the game universe.
Then came the Sixth Sense-style reveal down the home stretch, followed by increasingly less interesting levels and story in the second half. I really started to lose buy-in, and that continued through the finale. Like the New England Patriots, Bioshock peaked way too soon.
Two Pochaccos. Parts were quite fun, but the game was oversold and crash-tastic.
This game review is for Patrick.