In the Summer of 2007 (2008 for PS3 owners) gamers were treated to an incredible gaming experience, one which 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 city of Rapture, its inhabitants, and the adventure of which you just partaken of. The game's environment set the mood and the story took you on a wild ride through the underwater city and, in the end, left one wanting more of Rapture. At least that is how I felt, and so with that I waited for word on an impending sequel.
When a sequel was finally announced I was excited indeed and I followed the news for the upcoming game very closely, but a funny thing has happened to me on my path to the Sea of Dreams. I have noticed that recently my desired return to Rapture was not what it used to be, that it has waned significantly, almost to the point of myself giving a big shrug to the games recently (and finally) announced release date of February 9, 2010. How could this have happened? How could my interest for the sequel for one of my favourite games of all time fall away so? I took some time recently 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: Ken Levine was widely considered the mastermind behind BioShock, and for good reason, he was the mastermind behind BioShock and its trippy and wonderful storyline. When the sequel was announced we were also made aware that the development would fall to the dev 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 favours. Early in development it was announced the Ken Levine would have some input on the new BioShock, but I speculate with Ken hard at work on his own super-secret project and no word on his involvement since, that BioShock 2 will be for good or ill a Levine-less project.
Delays: Though we now have a firm release date as I stated above, BioShock 2's pushed back date has put it out of sight and out of mind behind a sea of tripe-A games. It will be about two-and-a-half years between games, while not a huge amount of time between sequels, it does give one time to forget possibly why they were excited in the first place.
Competition: Remember that sea of triple-A games I just mentioned? Sure fire 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 are not only highly anticipated, but also have serious legs. Will we be ready for BioShock by February? Will we care if we are knee-deep in our Modern Warfare 2 or Halo 3: ODST multi players?
Increased Financial Expectations: BioShock 2 is already earmarked as one of Take 2's flagship franchises and with all the expectations that go along with it. Like the Grand Theft Auto franchise, much of Take 2's fortunes ride on BioShock and its sequel. With sales expectations of more than 5 million for this game (much more than the games original sales) the company has a lot riding on it's success, and I fear that these expectations will not be met. What would that mean for BioShock 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 core of the game, 2K Australia has taken over the testing with Digital Extremes creating the games multi player component and Arcane 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 desperate 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 from what I wanted to see from this game, particularly from the prequel/multiplayer portion. Early on when rumours were swirling about the next BioShock game, the idea that it was to be a prequel really caught my interest. I really wanted to experience Rapture before the fall and interact or see the story unfold for Ryan, Fontaine, Doctors Tenenbaum and Steinman, Sander Cohen and all the great Rapture personalities which were alluded to in the first game. 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 esthetic. 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 one. Yes we will be able to explore Rapture's undersea back yard, but we will miss that feeling of being a helpless every-man trapped in this strange world. Will the first Big Daddy versus the Big Sister sustain through the game? <SPOILER> I think I may miss being the prodigal son returning.
It appears that I have some major concerns with 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 to play it and be proved wrong, hoping that 2K Game's army of developers can recreate the magic of BioShock and climb out from under Ken Levine's shadow. As I stated before, I loved 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 10, 2009 will be the test, lets hope that we have room on our calendars and in our hearts for this sequel with the uphill (up swim) climb.