Saturday, March 30, 2013

Critical Flaws in a Critical Success

So, I'm gonna go ahead and talk about Bioshock: Infinite, just like everyone else. No significant spoilers.

I haven't finished even half of the game. Doubt I'll ever finish it. If that bothers you, stop reading.

Okay, now, the game.

To me, this critically acclaimed super-game simply shows how segregated things are. What? No, I mean story and gameplay segregation.

Or, more accurately, aesthetic and gameplay segregation. The story is shit, the writing is crap, but the aesthetic is fantastic. It's very immersive... if you ignore all the things the game actually wants you to do and instead just kind of wander around.

The gameplay is nonsense. It's not that the gameplay is bad. It's that the gameplay is nonsense. Total gamey-game nonsense. Booker eats so much stuff that he must be the fattest man alive. There's bullets everywhere - in a child's playroom, you open up their dresser and there's some bullets! Enemies have life bars and ignore basically all the damage you do until the last point. You have X health and Y mana and the door takes Z lockpicks - it's all very precise, very mechanical.

This is all stuff we've gotten used to. But it does't suit the world. Especially in conjunction with the onslaught of trophies and pre-trophies (OH MY GOD I'M 16/200 towards "change in the couch" trophy! HUHFUCKINZAH).

They try to paint a picture of this gritty turn-of-the-century world where a cult holds sway, but I'm running around stuffing my face with chips and bananas and popping off exactly two shots at every single cultist and searching every single trashcan with a click-click. The story is half contrivance, half inexplicable coincidence, and all badly-written dialog. The only person who talks like a person is the woman you rescue. Literally everyone else is written like a machine built to spout cliche.

So here I am, in this creepy world, all this lovely ambiance, and I see three boys hiding behind poles. Laughing and going "pew pew!" with their fingers at each other. And I realize:

That is what this game is. It's this deep, introspective play being put on by boys going "pew pew!"


Bradley Momberger said...

I think you nailed it. This isn't a newly recognized phenomenon (Doom 3 got flak for trying to be immersive but letting the player kill the basic baddie by shooting him in the foot six times), but it gets progressively more blatant as games get progressively more "realistic" in their portrayal of the narrative.

Indestructible environments also still bug me. I am not really a gamer anymore but I do feel like the wrong things are getting the focus in the AAA realm these days; they're very pretty CG movies interleaved with aesthetically seamy games.

Craig Perko said...

Yeah, we're at a weird point in game development right now.