Editor's Note: The nerve! Patrick casts doubt on a mega-anticipated sequel to a beloved classic. But he does bring up some good points. Who here agrees…or thinks he's totally nuts? -Greg
In the summer of 2007 (2008 for PS3 owners), gamers were treated to an incredible gaming experience, one that won the heart of gamers and critics alike: 2K Boston's BioShock. Many of you, I am sure, were left with an indelible impression of wonder and excitement as a result of your exploration of the underwater city of Rapture, its inhabitants, and the adventure of which you just partaken.
The game's environment set the mood and the story took you on a wild ride that, in the end, likely left you wanting more. At least that is how I felt, and so with that I waited for word on an impending sequel.
When 2K Games finally announced a sequel, I was excited indeed and followed the news for the upcoming game closely…but a funny thing has happened to me on my path to the Sea of Dreams. I have recently noticed that my desired return to Rapture is not what it used to be; it has waned significantly, almost to the point of myself giving a big shrug to the game's recently announced release date of February 9, 2010.
How could this have happened? How could my interest for the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time fall away so? I took some time to analyse this situation, and I have came up with a few points that may be responsible for this phenomenon.
The Man They Call Levine: 2K Boston head Ken Levine was widely considered the mastermind behind BioShock, and for good reason — he was the driving force behind the game and its trippy, wonderful storyline.
In addition to the announcement of the sequel, we were also made aware that the development duties would fall to the team at 2K Marin, well-stocked with original BioShock development veterans.
No offence to the hard-working team at 2K Marin, but when you lose a lead like Ken Levine from your project, it is not going to do your game any favors. Early in development we learned that Ken Levine would have some input on the new BioShock, but with Levine hard at work on his own supersecret project and no word on his involvement since, I speculate that BioShock 2 will be, for good or ill, a Levine-less project.
Delays: Though we now have a firm release date, BioShock 2's delay has put it out of sight and out of mind behind a sea of triple-A games. It will make for about two-and-a-half years between games, and while that's not a huge amount of time between sequels, it does give one time to possibly forget why they were excited in the first place.
Competition: Remember that sea of triple-A games I just mentioned? Surefire hits like Halo 3: ODST, Forza Motorsport 3, Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Assassin's Creed 2, as well as games like Borderlands, Tekken 6, and Lost Planet 2, will be arriving before BioShock 2. Each of these games is not only highly anticipated, but also has serious legs. Will we be ready for BioShock 2 by February? Will we care if we are knee-deep in our Modern Warfare 2 or Halo 3: ODST multiplayer?
Increased Financial Expectations: Parent publisher Take-Two has already earmarked BioShock 2 as one of its flagship titles, with all the expectations that go along with it. As with the Grand Theft Auto franchise, much of Take-Two's fortunes ride on BioShock and its sequel. With sales expectations of 5 million units for the sequel (which would be greater than original game's roughly 3 million units sold), the company has a lot riding on its success, and I fear that these expectations will not be met. What would that mean for the franchise going forward?
Too Many Cooks: With all these expectations heaped upon BioShock 2, 2K Games is sparing no expense in order to ensure this game's release schedule slips no further. No less than four separate development teams are involved at this point in order to bring the game to market. With lead developer 2K Marin creating the game's core, 2K Australia has taken over the testing, with Digital Extremes creating the game's multiplayer component and Arkane Studios lending a hand with the art design.
BioShock 2's Sea of Dreams appears to be spread all over the globe. Will they be able to pull all these disparate pieces together into one cohesive collection of a game?
This is Not the Prequel I was Looking For: Yes I am judging this very early, but I think it is because I had certain expectations for what I wanted to see from this game, particularly from the prequel/multiplayer portion. Early on when rumors were swirling about the next BioShock game, the idea that it was to be a prequel caught my interest.
I really wanted to experience Rapture before its fall and interact or see the story unfold for Ryan, Fontaine, the doctors Tenenbaum and Steinman, Sander Cohen, and all the great Rapture personalities that the first game alluded to. I imagined a Rapture before the fall being a bright, vibrant world that Andrew Ryan envisioned when creating his undersea utopia.
BioShock 2 will visit Rapture before the fall, but only as a component of its multiplayer, therefore bypassing all that potential and aesthetic. The multiplayer takes place in the thick of the Rapture civil war, ignoring all the great stories that could have been told. Perhaps we will get the prequel I wish for someday….
Big Daddy, Big Problem: Everybody loves the Big Daddy, right? I think we can all agree on that. But to play the entire game as one? I am not so sure about that. Yes, we will be able to explore Rapture's undersea backyard, but we will miss that feeling of being a helpless everyman trapped in this strange world. Will the first Big Daddy versus the Big Sister encournter sustain its gravitas throughout the game? I think I may miss being the prodigal son returning.
It appears that I have some major concerns with regard to the potential for this game, and I do. It has definitely slipped off my radar a lot, but it is still there, and I do intend on purchasing the game. I hope that 2K Games' army of developers can prove me wrong by re-creating the magic of BioShock and climbing out from under Ken Levine's shadow.
As I stated before, I love the original and want to once again be immersed in this world. While I am not sure if BioShock ever needed a multiplayer component, it appears we are getting one anyway. So February 9, 2010 will be the test. Let's hope we have room on our calendars — and in our hearts — for this sequel with the uphill (or up-swim) climb.