BioShock 2′s Shocking System Flaw

Loved Bioshock. Enjoy­ing Bioshock 2, a few hours in. Con­grat­u­la­tions to friends up at 2K Marin, for the suc­cess­ful launch. May the sound of cash reg­is­ters ring out for them.So why am I writ­ing here? One design ele­ment I’ve found in my first few hours war­rants ques­tion­ing.

Remem­ber the respawn sys­tem of Bioshock?

Death in the Bioshock series is just a tele­port. You respawn with the same pack­age of weapons and ammo you had at the moment of your death, plus a min­i­mum amount of health and mana (“Eve”). The world state is pre­served.

As play­ers soon observed, in the orig­i­nal Bioshock this allowed you to progress by bash­ing through con­tent repeat­ed­ly with­out any attempt at skill or self-preser­va­tion. Do some dam­age, die, respawn, repeat. Boss ene­mies fell down through this method like every­thing else. This seems sil­ly, and the cre­ative direc­tor of Bioshock 2 took steps:

But the main crit­i­cism that we derived from the first game was the Vita-thrash­ing exploit, which was — because there were ammo-less weapons in the game and because there were con­sen­su­al boss fights in the game — the idea of just using an ammo-less weapon and play­ing Lem­mings over and over again until the cliff just dis­ap­pears. [It was] was degen­er­ate in many many ways… It was fun for no one. So now the Lit­tle Sis­ters will heal the Big Dad­dies a per­cent­age of their health if you don’t take them out. So you do have to invest in their demise.

Prob­lem to solu­tion, right? If only things were so sim­ple.

Here’s the thing: Bioshock 2 has hard con­tent locks — blood gates — that require defeat­ing a cer­tain ene­my or waves of ene­mies. It’s impos­si­ble to progress in the game with­out killing these ene­mies. And as the cre­ative direc­tor said, if the Big Dad­dy kills you on the first try (or you die defend­ing the Lit­tle Sis­ter as she’s har­vest­ing Adam, etc.), you’re going to have to have to start the fight all over again. The Bid Dad­dy heals, and the progress bar on defend­ing your Lit­tle Sis­ter is reset.

See the prob­lem?  With a rel­a­tive­ly stingy ammo drop rate from ene­mies  in the game (why is that by the way? this game is a shoot­er, and ammo should be plen­ti­ful), after you die, you re-start an encounter with few­er health packs, few­er eve packs, and less ammo. And you failed the first time, so good luck! It seems like­ly you’ll fail again. Real­ly, the game should make things a lit­tle eas­i­er the sec­ond time, not hard­er. In the worst case,the play­er may re-start a major fight with no ammo at all. Then what? Con­grat­u­la­tions, we’ve arrived at a degen­er­ate state: it is well nigh impos­si­ble for the play­er to progress. I hope the last autosave wasn’t that far back…

The pre­scrip­tion? In the next game, dump the vita cham­bers. Use check­points that save your full char­ac­ter state, and let the play­er try again with a start­ing pack­age at least as good as the one he just failed with. For this game, a patch that forces autosaves before every con­tent gate — and big­ger ammo drops from ran­dom respawned splicers — wouldn’t seem to be a bad step.

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