mandag den 19. april 2010

Leave it to the Langoliers

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Bioshock. In my opinion the start alone rates among the greatest moments of any computer game. The game is a journey through Rapture - an Ayn Rand inspired Utopia-gone-bad. Everything seems to have stopped New Years Eve 1959 and as you travel though the game, the true nature of Rapture unfolds.

Ok, so the boss fight near the end sucked, but Bioshock really was a unique experience.

Sadly, this isn’t the case with the sequel.

Bioshock 2 is set 8 years after the first one and you play a Big Daddy, a giant in an old-fashioned diving suit. Once again you must travel through Rapture, this time searching for Eleanor Lamb, your Little Sister.

The unbreakable bond between the vampire-like Little Sister and the Big Daddy in the first game was really sweet and really creepy at the same time. I can’t help but feel that it is a misunderstanding that you, in the sequel, are playing a Big Daddy – that you are helping the Little Sisters perform their nasty “duties”. And how come that you have to choose to “Rescue” or “Harvest” the Little Sisters, like in the first game? Surely, if you were a Big Daddy, wouldn’t you ALWAYS rescue the Little Sisters?

The story isn’t as fetching as the one in the first one and standout moments are almost non-existing.

But all in all, there’s nothing vitally wrong with Bioshock 2. The only thing is: it’s a completely unnecessary game. I had a distinct feeling of déjà-vu, when I played it. It felt like being in “the past”, the way it’s described in the The Langoliers.

In Stephen King’s 1990 novella The Langoliers, the passengers of an airplane pass through a time rift and end up in the past. It looks just the same as the present, but everything tastes stale and there is no smell. This is because it’s dead space, everything has been used – and soon the Langoliers comes, the strange and scary creatures that are the garbage removers of time. They eat the used up past to make room for the present.

Bioshock 2 feels vacant, smell-less and tasteless. It feels like the pretty leftovers of greatness, stuff that should have been devoured by the Langoliers long ago.

You can’t really blame the development team – what on Earth were they to do? Bioshock closed around it-self – when the game was over, so was the story. There was no reason ever to return to Rapture. It was inevitable that the sequel would be a bland experience.

I recognize that when building something like Rapture, you would like to be able to reuse it. The lesson learned is that if you want to reuse a game universe, then don’t close it up.

Keep your game universe open, or let the Langoliers take it.

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