For a about a month and half in late 2007 Bioshock was the future of video games. It’s dense and macabre story combined with a unique and disturbing setting made it feel adult and mature compared to the space marine infested machismo of most other first-person shooters.
Then came Portal.
Portal‘s light touch in all things, from it’s humorous storyline to it’s simple but surprising central mechanic, made Bioshock seem over the top at best and in it’s worst moments simply maudlin. Bioshock was a throw-back in everything, from it’s 1940’s setting and plot to it’s nearly decade old PC shooter mechanics. However, Bioshock was updated in the last month and so it deserves another chance.
The most important part of the new update is that it has un-broken the game. Whereas formerly death meant nothing, with you simply popping out of the nearest “Vita Chamber”, you can now turn the Chambers off along with the ‘goal arrows’ and ‘text tips’ and everything else that was meant to coddle the game’s non-existent casual audience.
The ‘field of view’ has also been expanded and you get the feeling that it’s the way it was always supposed to be. Your eye is now more naturally drawn to the monumental architecture of Rapture (the game’s locale). Fights with the Big Daddies are even more thrilling as their size is still screen-filling without being blinding.
Playing through again also makes you notice the little things, such as the wry way you’re forced to search every nook and corpse, scrounging for ammo and junk food, becoming the very “parasite” the game’s antagonist rails against. This and other touches make you realize that Bioshock was easily one of the best games of 2007. Unfortunately it’s still not nearly as good as Portal.