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Today I turn 19 and the cake was, indeed, a lie.
Irrational Games has recently announced its new title: BioShock Infinite. Due to 2012, it will hit the stores around five years after its predecessor (I'm not taking 2K Marin's BioShock 2 on count). Set in a dystopian city vertically opposed to Rapture (zenith-nadir opposition), Infinite shares some aspects with the first game. Question is: how will it transcend it?
Given it's been already three years since BioShock saw the light I ask myself if warnings for spoilers have any sense. I guess they do. So I set it up: the following article is spoilerful. If you haven't played the game yet, but intend to do so, be wary that this may seriously affect your gaming experience.
Take the famous events on Rapture Central Control, when Ryan and Atlas-Fontaine reveal the protagonist's real situation. "Was a man sent to kill? Or a slave?" constitutes the last insult: the freedom of FPS gameplay turns out to be a mere illusion. Thus, Jack Ryan becomes a metaphor of the player and Frank Fontaine one of the game itself. Take the first moment of Jack's life: bought by Fontaine from a money-desperate Jasmine Jolene, Jack mind was designed by a group of scientists led by Dr. Suchong (who in turn becomes a metaphor for game developers). Modified to grow in two years to a nineteen-years-old-man constitution and conditioned to "bark like a cocker-spaniel" when hearing the cliché "would you kindly?" Jack was sent to the surface and ordered to come back to fulfill the purpose of his creation. Don't game developers conceive, in some manner, their players mind? Level and mission design implies indeed the design of the particular "would you kindly?" Hitting the shelves, players are then allured to return to the "city where they were born", that is, to get involved with the world where their minds have been previously re-created.
Jack's life's second moment (the one you play through, the narrative present) includes a new element: the active involvement of Frank Fontaine, under the alias Atlas. By means of subtle inclusion of the "would you kindly?" trigger into his discourse, Atlas leads Jack through the to-be ruins of Rapture up to the very office of Andrew Ryan, his "political" adversary, and Jack's own father. There, Ryan makes clear for Jack his slave condition: "a man chooses, a slave obeys". "KILL!" and "OBEY!" stand for the final insult: unable to stop, Jack kills his father. Meanwhile, the player can only watch, for the whole act is presented as a cutscene. How Fontaine acts as a metaphor? NPCs, missions and the whole world of a first-person shooter somehow manage to make you do what they want, as Fontaine does with Jack. Even the HUD may have something to do with you doing this instead of that. Suchong gave Fontaine the keys to Jack's mind. Similarly, game developers give the key to the players' mind to the commercial product, that is, to the game which is already on sale. Thus, I dare say FPS experience has been destroyed with BioShock.
We can talk about a third moment in Jack's life. Starting with Dr. Tenenbaum giving the player the chance to either harvest or save the Little Sisters, this third moment really kicks in when she undoes Suchong's conditioning on Jack's mind. Though some may say that this is the way to transcend gameplay slavery, I think it's not. Don't you keep completing missions others gave you? May these others be the environment itself or the historical development? The two options that appear on your HUD when facing a Little Sister (which on the PC are by default set to the H and L keys for a hatred-love opposition) take you to do what the game wants. These and the final cutscene are just a lure to get the players to play again choosing the opposite moral direction. So, as I said, BioShock has destroyed the FPS experience.
In this sense one may ask, what else can be done? Infinite's trailer shows a reference to the original game. An underwater view moves along what seems the ocean's bottom. A Big Daddy statuette suddenly appears and is quickly left behind by the moving camera. Then the silhouette of a city rises. As the camera closes in, Rapture becomes a knick knack commemorating "1893 Chicago World Fair". Seconds later, a big metallic foot steps over the tiny Big Daddy statue.
BioShock name seems to be no longer related to Rapture. Infinite may be the redefinition of a name. What does BioShock means then? It's maybe related to destruction. The original game destroyed FPS experience. Infinite's trailer has someone crashing a Big Daddy (even though Columbia's events develop earlier than those of Rapture). Anyway, this is just speculation.
19Apr 10Can't get rid of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, play it over and over again. Dunno why, I just love that game over all others...
My Recent Reviews
All five acts bosses' dying animation. The truth is I killed them on normal with a level 48 paladin lol.
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