More Significant: BioShock or BioShock Infinite?

written by Russ Looney on September 22, 2014 in Special Feature

BioShock Burial at Sea

Which was the more significant game: BioShock or BioShock Infinite? That’s the question put forth in a new article over at Gamespresso. (SPOILERS for both games below!)

While both games probably merit the title in their own way, it seems most fans would point to the original BioShock being the more significant of the two.

When asked to list the most significant games of the past decade, most game reviewers, if not all, would place Bioshock on that list. Bioshock Infinite, however, only occasionally reaches that mark in the eyes of most reviewers. And why is that? Objectively speaking, the gameplay and the graphical aspects of the later installation are clearly better. So, why is it that Infinite is treated with less veneration? Oftentimes, the answer is the story.

I agree that the story of BioShock was certainly groundbreaking at the time. The huge “Would you kindly…” twist not only was engrossing from a narrative perspective, but it also opened the door to the question of, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Most players tend to take their actions in a game for granted–I’m running around, shooting these crazed monster people, because that’s just the game. But with “Would you kindly…” the reason for playing was suddenly given a narrative twist on its own. You weren’t playing the way you were because it was your choice; you were running through the underwater city of Rapture because you had been commanded to, whether you realized it or not. The final showdown with Andrew Ryan took this a step further by removing all control from the player.

However, I guess I would differ from most players in that I felt like the BioShock Infinite story was significantly better (if not a bit confusing at times). Always a sucker for the inclusion of alternate universes, I found the time- and space-bending story of Infinite to be more complex and more complete than BioShock. Struggling over the mystery of how certain characters knew Booker, when you didn’t even know yourself, made the final acts that much more compelling. And the multiverse bombshell that’s dropped at the end had me thinking and talking about what it all meant for days, if not weeks, afterwards.

That said, it’s still the opinion of this author that BioShock was the more significant game, though not for the story reasons above.

Instead, I think it was the gameplay itself of the original BioShock that helps it stand out. In stark contrast to its story where you supposedly have no control over your actions, the gameplay presents a multitude of options for tackling various obstacles. You can focus on your plasmid powers, your guns, a combo of both, or even stealth to get by enemies. You could hack turrets and bots and hypnotize enemies to do your dirty work for you. You could light an enemy on fire, then hit them with an Electrobolt when they went to extinguish themselves in a pool of water (or hit them with a heat-seeking rocket before they get a chance to find the water!). You could even become an incredibly dangerous wrench ninja with the right tonics/perks equipped. You also plenty of options to explore the surrounding area, which almost always resulted in some type of reward, such as a new power, gun, or tonic; and you could tackle the objectives however and whenever you liked.

Alternatively, I was slightly dismayed with Infinite’s gameplay which presented very little that was new or fresh. Battles, for instance, were simply head-on affairs, akin to something out of Call of Duty. You would fight a group of enemies, then move on to the next set-up group of enemies, with significantly fewer tactical options outside of choosing between a collection of similar weapons and deciding which vigor would be best as an aid. There was also very little chance to explore beyond the occasional locked room. Admittedly, the Sky-Line system did present a new transportation and battle mechanic, but I often found it too hard to hit enemies when using it while making it easier for enemies to hit me while out of cover.

Now, all that’s not to say that BioShock Infinite is a lesser or bad game. Quite to the contrary, BioShock Infinite is an amazing game that all players should give a shot. However, when you’re arguing over which game had more significance, I think it’s hard to argue against the original BioShock. When you combine the story elements, the incredible atmosphere (which we didn’t even touch on!), and the open gameplay, BioShock was an incredible release for its time and it still a lot of fun to play today.

What do you think? Which BioShock game was more significant?