Bioshock rises above the rest because it lets you control the story

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I’ve finally gotten my hands on Bioshock.

The story sells Bioshock. It has echoes of Ayn Rand and Fyodr Dostoyevsky, but you’re not beaten over the head with any of this. The story is completely interactive, more so than in most games. Bioshock dumps you in Rapture, an underwater utopia gone completely wrong. As the game progresses you learn the complete history of Rapture, or not. It’s up to you.

Reviews have shown that Bioshock lived up to expectations long before I played it, so I won’t go into great detail or do a full review. I will, however, focus on some of the things I think Bioshock excels at and why they are so important to videogames on the whole.

Certain crucial plot points, like those dictating where you go in the game, are told to you over a radio that never breaks up the action, while the rest is up to you.

Scattered through the game are tape recorders with audio diaries of Rapture’s denizens. These tapes, coupled with visual cues in the environment can unravel the story of Rapture, but only if you want them to. You can blaze through the game and never know.

No other medium can tell a story this way and video games too frequently resort to telling a story like you are playing a movie: Watch a cutscene, play a level, watch a cutscene, play a level, repeat. You are essentially playing bits of a movie (Mind you this can work very well sometimes, Call of Duty 4 will blow you away with it).

Games that let you control the story like Bioshock are much less common and its critical reception tells much about its approach to storytelling. Developers should take notice. The interactivity of video games can be extended to the story, for great effect.

For the past four years I’ve had an underpowered laptop, in terms of gaming, but recently I upgraded.

With this new computer I’ve been able to start catching up on some games I’ve been missing and Bioshock was at the top of my want list ever since I found out it was in development.

Bioshock was developed by Irrational Games (now under the 2K Games umbrella) and I’m a big fan. They’ve released some of the best (and most underrated) games, so I was excited for Bioshock from the get-go.

Calen Henry is a fourth-year student of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

© 2008 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.