(Music – Invisigoth; Politics – Mr Angry; Health – raging headcold, AKA Man-Flu!)
After my previous ramblings about Bioshock, another key aspect (of this game and First Person Shooters in general) came to mind, namely that involving characterisation, specifically that of the POV character him/herself. There`s a curious divergence here. On the one hand you have games like No-One Lives Forever, Far Cry, Jedi Knight, and Call Of Juarez, where it`s clear to the gameplayer that they are directing a definite character, shown through cut-scenes and/or dialogue. Jedi Knight had some terrific digitised footage cut-scenes and a great plot – it was the Star Wars movie that should have been; No-One Lives Forever 1’s player viewpoint was Cate Archer who had a strong character, same with Jack in Far Cry, while in Call Of Juarez you get to play 2 characters, Ray, a grizzled preacher and ex-gunfighter, and Billy, a half-Indian youth framed for a murder, and in the game the former is pursuing the latter!
Other games hardly attempt any characterisation at all. The Medal Of Honour and Call of Duty games place a lot of emphasis on the strength of the characters you fight alongside (although the POV characters have names and the mission intro screens usually have a page from a journal or diary written by that character). In Halflife and Halflife 2, Gordon Freeman is completely silent, likewise Jack in Bioshock. True, you do hear a brief monologue from Jack at the very start of the game, on the plane, but that seems to emphasise his Trappist-like reticence throughout the rest of the game. Basically, Gordon and Jack (and those MOH/COD heroes) come across as cyphers. More than once I found myself wishing that, rather than opening fire, I could walk up to one of Rapture’s denizens and ask a few questions. And I cast my mind back to graphic adventures and their extensive dialogue trees. Sure, I realise that the last thing a lot of Bioshock fans want is Bio-Morrow-Shock-Wind, but when it comes to Bioshock 2 I hope that the developers will attempt something a little different characterwise rather than reiterating B1.
Don`t get me wrong – I still think Bioshock is a brilliant game; these niggles stem from my own personal quest for The Perfect Game. To my mind TPG would allow you to shift between 1st and 3rd person with ease (I think of no more than a couple that have offered that), and would permit you to turn off/on or up/down certain aspects like storyline density. Where, for example, you could emphasise mystery and discovery methods rather than heavy gunplay, or vise versa, and this could apply to interaction and dialogue as well, varying between plain scripted speech and plentiful dialogue options. And a choice of different start locations or start conditions (as in MOH: Airborne) which would increase replayability.
Don`t ask for much, do I!
In the meantime, I’m pushing on with the 2nd Humanity’s Fire novel, The Orphaned Worlds, while keeping a weather-eye on the next crop of games, like STALKER: Clear Sky, which might be tasty.
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