After a week long hiatus, I’m back with a look into the world of gaming:

The Little Game That Could vs. The Franchise

I’m not the biggest fan of console FPS/ FPA(dventures).* While I’ll be in line at my gas satiation on Halo day, I mostly only play FPS for the multiplayer. This week, however, I saw the future of the genre.

The future is Bioshock.

Bioshock wasn’t the easiest game to get made. In an interview with CVG, the designers told a story about how publisher after publisher turned down the game, only seeing it as just “another fucking PC FPS”.

Currently, however, the earlier dismissed title is the toast of the gaming world, gobbling up more tens (from reviewers) than the Neverland Ranch. This week, I played the Bioshock demo and was floored.

What makes a perfect demo is first, it conveys the key aspects of the game (gameplay, story, graphics and sound) and second, the demo is so compelling that up until the credits, you forget that it’s only a demo. The Bioshock demo hits a grand slam, in the bottom on the ninth, in the World Series.

The game perfectly conjures the lost 1950s aesthetic, teed-up by a version of “Beyond the Sea” that couldn’t have been more haunting if the ghost of Bobby Darin was singing it outside my bedroom window. But it goes beyond the looks and sound. The game is a virtual time-warp. Bioshock is the 1950s. I’ve never seen an era captured better and I doubt I will for a long time.

But what brings the game home (beyond the wonderfully interesting machine-hack interface), is the game’s completely natural feel. Despite being a sci-fi/horror FPS set in a 1950s underwater utopia ruined by psychic powers, the game is universally accessible to any gamer. Bioshock connects with the gamer in a way that its beauty is readily apparent.

2007 still has a huge amount to offer, but I can’t imagine that any game will rise to the pure excellence that is Bioshock.

Meanwhile, in preparation of this month’s release of Metroid Prime 3, Nintendo created a special Wii channel dedicated to the latest adventures of the company’s leading lady.

Designers, Retro Studios, pushed back the release almost half a year in an effort to “get the game right”. Add in the foregoing of a multiplayer scheme to focus on what is supposedly a superior product, I expected something special. Instead, I watched a rehash of the same game released almost three years ago. Same graphics, same armor, same shooting, same spiderball, same struggle. Oh, there are hints of a Mother Brain appearance? Well let me draw the shades and lock the doors.

I don’t have an advance copy, so I haven’t played the game, but unless the game has controls are more natural than breathing and a story that makes Roger Ebert cry, this can only disappoint.

What makes this so egregious is that Metroid is one of Nintendo’s marquee franchises. Let’s be honest, the Wii beyond Twilight Princess, which was a ported game and has had the staying power of a boy band, hasn’t produced much to write home about. This game should be pushing the genre (and the Wii) forward, but upon initial viewing, this game looks like a some thrown-together cash grab.

And that’s my problem with the genre, the games feel heartless. Usually, it’s shoot everything you see or figure out some puzzle thrown in to mix it up. Oh there’s a mildly interesting story, but it never comes together during gameplay. Instead, gamers are treated to “by the way, here’s a cutscene or some pages of text to set the tone and tell the story of the game. You read through all of that? Good. Now back to shooting.” It’s the height of laziness.

After seeing the preview, Metroid looks to be the lazy game that never advances the genre and for a showcase game, that’s a complete joke.

Bioshock will serve as a message to designers and publishers that there is a real market for games that go above and beyond the usual trappings of the genre.

I’ve seen the future and the future looks bright.

That’s all for now.

*The difference between what is a FPS and what is a FPA is for another day. Today, they are lumped together.