Bioshock

by Mike Shea on 2 September 2007

is a great game. The graphics are solid, the story is very good, the action is intense, and the customization taps into the instinctual male nature to tinker with crap.

However, it concerns me when I see the level of attention and praise that's given to a game that is, at its core, a game with little different in gameplay from Wolfenstein 3D produced fifteen years ago. You run around, you break crates open with a crowbar, you collect weapons and ammo, and you shoot bad guys.

refines the single-player first person shooter very well. Between all the weapons, all the ammo types, all the weapon upgrades, and all of the genetic powers one receives, the game has a lot of substance to it. They also made some very smart decisions in ammo conservation. Ammo is infrequent enough that you will continually use every weapon you pick up throughout the entire game. Most first person shooters have a linear weapon upgrade path. Once you have the machine gun you don't go back to the pistol.

The setting is also excellent. You travel into the depths of an underwater city built by a genius madman to fuel the art and science of the cultural elite. The story line is given to you in bits and pieces through audio journals that never break up the gameplay. I never found a cut scene I wanted to skip past to get back to the shooting.

The graphics are also top-notch. Metal shines and reflects. Water ripples. Fire burns. It may be the best looking game I've ever played if it weren't for the constant darkness. They even have a dark-level check before you begin playing to ensure you're not going to be staring at a blank screen. After playing a few hours of Metroid Prime Hunter 3 for Wii, it became clear that, while is amazing graphically, the lack of bright colors hurts it.

Last year everyone was all about the Gears of War, another dark, gritty, violent pseudo-first person shooter. I liked that game too, but not anywhere near as much as the "Game of the Year" reviewers would think. I feel the same way about . I liked it a lot. It was worth the $60. I may play through it again to get a different ending (note, save the girls always). It isn't the most amazing game I've ever seen, though.

There is a distinct lack of creativity in games these days. I go back to Old Man Murray's Time-To-Crate metric for determining how good a game is. A game is only as creative as the length of time it takes to reach your first crate. The minute you see a crate, or god forbid crack it open with a crowbar for ammo, the game designers have given up. The crate needs to disappear as a mechanic or design element.

I don't think any game built upon an existing genre as distinct and specific as the first person shooter deservers more than a 90%. Yes, is great and its a tasty oasis in the sea of this year's lousy game releases, but it isn't the best game ever made. It is a good refinement of the genre but I can imagine quite a few games more creative and more fun than this one.

I am disappointed to realize that, after my first few hours with it, Metroid Prime Hunter 3 is also a first person shooter. It would appear even Shigeru Miyamoto, the inventor of Mario and Zelda, plays a game like Halo 2 and says "wow, I want to make game exactly like that one." Metroid Prime 3 is another great game but, like Halo, Gears of War, and , it's another in a fifteen year series of first person shooters.

is an excellent game that's well worth the $60. However it still holds on to basic game mechanics and design stereotypes we've seen for the past 15 years.

It's time for a change.

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