Tag Archives: Xbox 360

#91: BioShock and BioShock 2

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: First Person Shooter Released: 2007/2010 Developer: 2K Games

OK, so I’m sort of breaking the rules a bit here by doing two games in one post, but seeing as I made up the rules in the first place, I think I’m allowed to break them every now and then. The truth is, I just couldn’t choose between these two games: on the one hand, the story of BioShock 1 was fantastic, with an excellent twist in the tale, but on the other hand, BioShock 2 was a much better game, with some excellent tweaks that made the whole thing much more enjoyable to play than its predecessor. So they’re both in. So there.


But why are they so good? In one word: Rapture. The decaying underwater city is so brilliantly realised that you feel almost compelled to explore it, if only to uncover the stories behind the magnificent – now crumbling – art deco skyscrapers so incongruously rooted to the Atlantic seabed. Of course, entering the world of Rapture requires you to leave your disbelief suspended at the door, and anyone who foolishly asks their hosts how they managed to build an entire secret underwater city using 1940s technology will be politely but firmly asked to leave; however, if you can manage to turn off your scepticism, Rapture is a wonderful place to lose a few hours in.

By far the best thing about the first game was the city’s founder and leader, Andrew Ryan. One of the first things you see after entering Rapture (following one of the best opening scenes of any game, ever) is an enormous statue of Ryan clutching a banner that reads: “No Gods or Kings. Only Man.” It’s a philosophy that runs through the entire game, with the idea that Rapture was founded by Ryan as a sort of cult of egotism, wherein the finest minds from all over the world could excel in an environment that’s free of interference from state or religion.

What about 'Woman'?

Interestingly, it was only when researching this post that I discovered that Ryan’s philosophy is actually based on that of the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand, who developed a philosophical system called Objectivism. In the novel Atlas Shrugged (the name of which might ring some bells for anyone who’s played BioShock), she lays out “the role of the mind in man’s existence—and, as a corollary, the demonstration of a new moral philosophy: the morality of rational self-interest.” The novel itself describes how “the most creative industrialists, scientists and artists … retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy”; substitute mountains for ocean and you’ve got Rapture in a nutshell. Ryan’s philosophy also has shades of John Stuart Mill, who believed that social liberty could only be achieved if the people were freed from “the tyranny of political rulers”.

Intriguingly, the antagonist of BioShock 2 is a philosopher at the other end of the scale – rather than self-interest, Sofia Lamb leads a cult based around altruism. Sadly though, Lamb isn’t a patch on the character of Andrew Ryan, and it’s telling that one of the best bits in BioShock 2 occurs when you come across an animatronic ‘Pirates of the Carribbean’-style Ryan as part of a propaganda fairground ride called ‘Journey To The Surface’. I couldn’t help wishing that Ryan was in the second game a bit more as I listened to his robot alter-ego warning of the tyranny of the state, which he claims will tax you to death and steal your children for the armed forces (all illustrated with some wonderful dioramas featuring the giant hand of government hovering over hardworking American families).

One of the major hazards in Rapture is the static-forming nylon carpet that covers every surface.

As you can tell, the story of the BioShock games is certainly a cut above your average first person shooter, but it’s all too easy to get carried away with the philosophy of it all when in actual fact most of the game is based around brutally killing wave after wave of horribly mutated madmen. The introduction to the IGN review of BioShock 2 sums it up nicely:

One of my flat mates, not a gamer but drawn to the sound and fury, sits down to watch me play. “Is this Quake?” “No, it’s called BioShock 2.” “Uh-huh. But it’s like Quake, right?” “Um, not really – it’s about the nature of man” – BLAM! Aaargh! – “and the effects of trying to create Utopia “BIFF! Aieeeeeeeeeee! “in an art-deco city populated by artists and scientists” CHUDDA-CHUDDA-CHUDDDA-YeaaaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaAAA-SPLAT” and inspired by the philosophical theories of Ayn Rand and John Stuart Mill.” I messily ram my giant drill-arm into the face of a screaming, swearing mutant in a party dress, and then we both fall silent as we watch the blood fade from the screen. He looks at me, brow furrowed. I relent: “Yeah, it’s kinda like Quake.”

And yes, this is as sinister as it looks.

Thankfully, the fighty shooty bits are just as engaging as the thinky story bits, particularly in the second game, in which you play a rogue Big Daddy (that chap in the diving suit on the front cover). At certain points during each level you can acquire a Little Sister, who can be set down to gather ADAM from handy nearby corpses (which is exactly as gruesome and weird as it sounds). However, ADAM-gathering attracts wave after wave of Splicers, and probably the most enjoyable part of the game for me was peppering the room with meticulously placed traps before starting the gathering process, then watching in satisfaction as my hapless enemies were variously speared, electrified, incinerated or catapulted into walls.

Proximity mines, $386. Trap rivets, $267. Mini turret, $483. The sense of satisfaction when a horde of Splicers is scythed down by your devious traps? Priceless.

However, the one criticism I have of the BioShock games is that the RPG elements and action elements don’t always gel together quite as well as they should. I love all the background story – in particular the many audio diaries scattered all over the city, which flesh out the ideas and motives of the main characters – but all this careful characterisation doesn’t quite sit comfortably with the reality of the central gameplay, which involves hordes of mutant humans doing their best to kill you as soon as you walk into a room. I mean, surely there should be a few more ‘normal’ humans dotted about? Or even some slightly less homicidal ones? It would be nice if – just once – you walked into a room, and instead of the room’s inhabitants attempting to burn you alive as soon as they catch sight of you, they just turn around and say, “Hello, you must be new here! Fancy a biscuit?”

I’m afraid that just saying that everyone in Rapture has gone ‘mad’ – hence why they’re all trying to murder you – just doesn’t really cut it. Being ‘mad’ doesn’t automatically turn you into a ruthless killer – perhaps the developers could have added in a few Splicers who just like to sit on park benches surrounded by carrier bags full of ‘treasures’ collected from public bins, or maybe there could be a few Splicers who, rather than gunning down any strangers who walk into view, instead just feel compelled to turn the lights on and off five times before leaving a room.

"Would you like to see my collection of treasur... AIIIEEEE!!!! It burns!!!"

Still, despite this, the story remains excellent, and the first game has an excellent twist at the end, which you can read all about on the spoiler-tastic Wikipedia page (obviously don’t look if you plan to play the game). Sadly though, my enjoyment of BioShock 1 was rather tarnished by the way I played the game – most of my BioShock sessions took place late at night after my girlfriend had gone to bed, so I had to play with the sound turned right down to avoid waking her. Subsequently, I missed quite a few of the key plot details, some of which I only just found out about after reading the Wikipedia page a few moments ago, and which, had I picked up on them at the time, might have made my BioShock experience even better than it was.

[Thankfully, I now have some headphones.]

"Er, sorry, would you mind moving out of the way please? I'd like to use the health station for a sec, so if you could just... Erm, why are you staring at me like that? Your what? 'Treasures'?"

The story of BioShock 2 is still head and shoulders above most games, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor (even though the ending is a lot better in my opinion). The Minerva’s Den DLC, on the other hand, has an absolutely brilliant story that I think surpasses both of the main games – the ending was one of the few occasions where I’ve genuinely been moved by a computer game. It’s just a shame that Minerva’s Den is likely to be the last time we’ll be able to explore Rapture… Although the rather exciting trailer for BioShock Infinite has both Ian and me far more excited than grown men really should be at the prospect of a new video game about floaty islands and robot horses.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the rich vein of black humour that runs throughout both games, in particular the brilliant little cartoon clips you receive whenever you purchase a plasmid upgrade. Anyone familiar with Vault Boy from the Fallout games will recognise the twisted humour of these irrepressibly cheery 1950s-style advertising shorts: the video below is a compilation of each and every one of them (make sure you have the sound turned up to catch the fantastic voiceover).

Oh, and I also came across the pic below during my travels along the information superhighway, and I just had to include it – it’s a BioShock bento box. Brilliant.

You can see more weird and wonderful bento boxes here – who knew the humble bento box could be such an inspirational art form?

Lewis

(Box shot from nerdles.com, screenshots from ign.com)

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Filed under 2007, 2010, 2K Games, First Person Shooter, Xbox 360

Podcast 17: Ghostbusters: The Video Game (#90)

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: Third-Person Shooter Released: 2009 Developer: Terminal Reality

(SCENE: The Ghostbusters are facing Gozer. He/She/It speaks to them in a voice that can be heard throughout Metropolitan New York and parts of New Jersey).

GOZER: SUBCREATURES! GOZER THE GOZERIAN, GOZER THE DESTRUCTOR, VOLGUUS ZILDROHAR, THE TRAVELLER HAS COME. CHOOSE AND PERISH.

WINSTON: What’s he talking about? Choose what?

STANTZ: What do you mean “choose?” We don’t understand.

GOZER: CHOOSE!

SPENGLER: I think he’s saying that since we’re about to be sacrificed anyway, we get to choose the form we want him to take.

STANTZ: You mean if I stand here and concentrate on the image of Roberto Clemente, Gozer will appear as Roberto Clemente and wipe us out?

SPENGLER: That appears to be the case.

VENKMAN: Don’t think of anything yet. Clear your minds. We only get one crack at this.

GOZER: The choice is made. The Travellers have come.

VENKMAN: We didn’t choose anything! I didn’t think of an image, did you?

STANTZ: I couldn’t help it! It just popped in there! Look!

(Looking south past Columbus Circle, the Ghostbusters see part of something big and
nerdy moving between the buildings accompanied by thunderous footsteps).

VENKMAN: What is it? Ray, what did you think of?

(Two massive shapes pass behind some buildings, offering a glimpse of what appears to be a giant t-shirt with some kind of retro/ironic design on the front).

STANTZ: It can’t be! It can’t be!

(The thundering footsteps continue to plod as the things start to emerge from behind the buildings. Now we can see a giant hand holding a cheap microphone, another hand holding an enormous can of beer).

STANTZ: I tried to think of the most harmless thing… something that is completely pointless… something that most people have never heard of…

(At that moment a deafening laughter emerges from the monsters mouths, they seem to find their own jokes very amusing. No one else is laughing).

STANZ: It’s… It’s… It’s the 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better Podcast!

(Winston, Venkman and Spengler gape).

As a kid I had the Stay Puff action figure. It was the same size as the other figures which made it extremely disappointing.

It’s the 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better Podcast! This time, if you haven’t already worked it out, we take a look at the extremely fun Ghostbusters Videogame. Enjoy!

Click below to listen directly through this site:


Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 17 – Ghostbusters The Video Game

OR subscribe to our podcasts through iTunes by clicking the link below:

Oh, and if you like Ghostbusters, don’t forget to check out the original 1950s film:

Ian & Lewis

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Filed under 2009, Podcast, Terminal Reality, Third Person Shooter, Xbox 360

Podcast 12: Best Ever Console Round 1

It begins. The already legendary 101 Video Games Best Ever Console Contest! Or Competition! Or Thing! To be honest we’ve not properly agreed on a title.

Anyway, listen as Lewis and Ian discuss, debate, argue, call each other names and play rock paper scissors stone through 12 rounds of red-hot console on console action. And if you think that sounds dirty and disgusting you should have been at the recording.

 

Lewis and Ian's debate over whether the Amstrad 6128k is better than the PS2 becomes heated.

 

Click below to listen directly through this site:


Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 12 Best Ever Console Round 1

OR subscribe to our podcasts through iTunes by clicking the link below:

WARNING – We do swear a bit in this podcast. The debates we had became very passionate and strident and we sadly couldn’t stop our language occasionally reflecting that. Plus we drunk quite a bit of beer and got a bit silly. Sorry.

We want to hear your thoughts (please let us know you listen and you like us, pleeeeease). Do you violently disagree with any of our judgements? If so, really? Violently? Just calm down, it’s only video games. But do tell us, we’d love to hear from you! As always the best comment wins a 101 Video Games pencil.*

* N.B. Still no pencils available.

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Filed under Podcast

Podcast 7: Batman: Arkham Asylum (#67)

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: Fighting/Stealth/Adventure Released: 2009 Developer: Rocksteady Studios

SCENE: WAYNE MANSIONS. BILLIONAIRE BRUCE WAYNE, THE SECRET IDENTITY OF THE BATMAN, SITS IN HIS LIBRARY, BROODING. HIS FAITHFUL MANSERVANT, ALFRED, HANDS HIM A RED TELEPHONE…

COMMISSIONER GORDON: ‘Batman?’

BATMAN: ‘Yes Commissioner Gordon?’

C. GORDON: ‘It’s the Riddler, he’s sent us a message. It’s addressed to you…’

BATMAN: ‘Read it to me Commissioner, this might be important’

C. GORDON: ‘Riddle me this Batman – What can everyone listen to yet no one does? On what do people laugh constantly despite what they say not being amusing? What lasts 25 minutes but seems to last forever?

BATMAN: Oh no… Commissioner, inform the Mayor… THE RIDDLER INTENDS TO STEAL THE 7th 101 VIDEO GAMES MADE MY LIFE SLIGHTLY BETTER PODCAST!’

C. GORDON: *GASP*

BATMAN: Robin, TO THE BATMOBILE!

Yes, after mentioning Batman in practically every podcast they’ve done, Lew and Ian finally devote an entire episode to the Dark Knight, in particular Batman: Arkham Asylum.

 

'I know I shouldn't say this, but you're my favourite enemy'.

 

Though Lewis and Ian being Lewis and Ian they couldn’t help but ramble, so you also get with this podcast discussions about football games, superhero games in general, the new Spider-Man game, Ian’s idea for a Judge Dredd game and the usual homoerotic undertones.

 

Special Scanning Eyesight Mode

 

As the Riddler alludes to above, it’s a long one, nearly 25 minutes. Though Lewis and Ian make no apologies – it’s Batman. It needs to be talked about…


Click above to listen directly through this site or click below to listen/download in your media player of choice:

Podcast 7 Batman Arkham Asylum

Ian & Lewis

 

You'd think the henchmen would have learned to look up when looking for Batman.

 

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Filed under 2009, Adventure, Fighting, Podcast, Rocksteady Studios, Stealth, Xbox 360

#64: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: Rhythm Action Released: 2007 Developer: Neversoft

I had a very embarrassing moment a few months ago. My girlfriend came home unexpectedly and caught me stood on top of the sofa, throwing rock poses and windmilling my ‘rock arm’ like there was no tomorrow as I powered through ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. Perhaps this would have been acceptable if I was playing a real guitar, but it’s definitely not cool if you’re playing a tiny plastic guitar with big multicoloured buttons. And if you’re wearing slippers.

Guitar Hero 3 box art Xbox 360

But hey, where’s the harm in indulging your rock fantasies every once in a while? Sure, a tiny part of your brain is telling you that you’re not really playing a face-melting solo to an audience of thousands, but a much larger, fun-loving part of your brain is screaming “OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME, YOU ROCK!!!” The same part of your brain might also prompt you stick out your tongue and waggle it like Gene Simmons or attempt to stage dive from the sofa.

All good clean fun I reckon – as long as no-one else is watching that is.

No prizes for guessing who this character is based on.

I’ve always preferred the Guitar Hero games to the Rock Band ones, probably because Rock Band takes itself a little too seriously in my opinion. As far as I’m concerned, the more ridiculous and over the top the Guitar Hero games get, the more I like them. Do I want to play as the Grim Reaper? Hell yeah! Do I want stage sets featuring fire-breathing dragons? You betcha! Do I want to go head to head with the devil in a guitar-solo battle for my very soul? Bring it on, Grandma!

Ahem, sorry, I seem to have come over a bit ‘gung-ho’ there all of a sudden… must be thinking about all this rock that’s doing it. I need a lie down and a cup of Earl Grey…

Judy 'Nine Inch' Nails.

[Sound of cup being replaced in saucer] OK I’m back. Now what was I saying? [Riffles through the index cards of memory while tapping a finger to his temple.] Lars Umlaut! That’s it! That’s what I wanted to talk about!

I’ll explain. There are a number of reasons why Guitar Hero III is considered the best in the series by many. One is the fantastic selection of tunes – one of the strongest line-ups across all five Guitar Hero games. Another is the excellent career mode, which gives you a real feeling of progression (something that was distinctly lacking in Guitar Hero: World Tour). But the thing that stands out for me is that Lars Umlaut is still defiantly fat.

Lars Umlaut - still defiantly fat.

For some reason, the designers stripped Lars of his belly in World Tour – something tantamount to criminal damage in my opinion. Where would rock be without fat guitarists? I mean, everyone loves a fat guitarist – almost as much as they love a fat drummer. Yet there’s poor old Lars in World Tour, shorn of his gut and pumped up with ridiculous arm muscles like some sort of Kiss He-Man. Where’s the justice? And to top it all, you can’t even make fat characters in World Tour. When did games get sizeist? There I was trying to create the ultimate custom drummer – Fat Phil – and the fattest I could make him was a little bit short of what I’d call ‘stocky’. Tch. I ask you, what is the world coming to?

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.crispygamer.com/)

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Filed under 2007, Neversoft, Rhythm Action, Xbox 360