BioShock Infinite Is Insanely, Ridiculously Violent. It's A Real Shame.

Okay, it's time to talk about it. About what, you ask? About how totally bananas the violence in BioShock Infinite is.

The beginning of this game is astonishing. Flat-out. It's one of the most effective, intoxicating game-introductions I've seen in recent memory.

So let's to do an exercise. Let's imagine watching the opening of the game as if we'd never played a video game before.

For this exercise, you're not a person who plays games. You're just some person. You like movies and TV, you like stories, and you're interested in seeing what this game is all about. Maybe you heard about it on NPR, or saw a big story in the New York Times. It got you curious.

You fire up the game.

Opening scene: You're on a boat, in the rain.

The people on the boat are speaking in riddles, and you're already intrigued.

You enter a lighthouse.

It's all religious portent...

...reflections in the holy water...

...Dang this is cool. You come upon a guy who has been tied to a chair and shot.

Okay, kind of bloody... the blood on the floor seems a bit over the top... but hey, alright. Dude is dead. Moving right along. You ring some bells at the top of the tower, Close Encounters-style, and crazy red light fills the clouds.

Then you climb aboard a rocket ship:

and launch into the clouds, where you see this:

accompanied by what is just the most haunting, lovely piano theme. You go through a place that looks like this:

And it's all so beautiful and mysterious, and then you come into the city and it looks like this:

And at this point you're pretty much like:

And you can just walk around drinking it in, and you're eating all kinds of candy and hot dogs and there's this amazing carnival tutorial section where you can launch magic at a hidden devil and there are posters, so many posters, posters everywhere, you read them all and see all these names and brands and colours, and you keep having to just sort of stop and stare, and there are flowers everywhere, and a woman offers to sell you a flower to stick in your lapel and then there's this huge robot dude standing there and oh my god it's a barbershop quartet singing the Beach Boys and whaaat...

...I mean you're probably in full-on overwhelm here, you've got mysterious twins offering you weird choices, a telegram with a weirder prediction, and a sign telling people that there's a "false shepherd"...

...with a mark on his hand that matches the mark on your hand and there's just so much and it's all so cool and then you go to the raffle and suddenly oh wow, they're asking you to throw a baseball at an interracial couple, which is, dang, that is loaded imagery...

...but OK, you choose to try to throw the baseball at the announcer instead, the jerk, and then you get grabbed, and tussle with two cops, and then…

...um…

...well then, this happens:

You grab one police officer and RAM HIS FUCKING FACE INTO A SPINNING BLADE and like, BLOOD AND SKULL-CHUNKS BLOW EVERYWHERE and WOW what in the world and then everyone starts shooting and then this happens:

...what the shit just…

...er…

...Holy SHIT...

...Okay, OK. Let's come back to reality, stop pretending we've never played a video game, or that we weren't expecting this. But it was a worthwhile exercise. Here's why:

BioShock Infinite is in many ways so, so close to being That Game, the one we can show to our non-gamer friends and say "See? Look at this! It is so awesome! Check out the story! It's like LOST! How neat is this?" But it's not That Game, because it's so hilariously, egregiously violent that a large number of people will never give it a chance.

Plenty of others are voicing similar thoughts. Over at Polygon, Chris Plante has written a smart op-ed about how Infinite's violence limits its audience, including his wife:

Levine has been outspoken about his ambition to please both the meathead and the brainiac since the release of the original BioShock. But what about my wife? What about the people who can stomach only so much aggressive violence and unchecked cruelty? Defenders of the game's violence have compared BioShock Infinite to Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, which melded together the cerebral indie aesthetic and the mind-numbing blockbuster spectacle. But every comic lover knows the difference between Booker DeWitt and Batman. Batman doesn't kill people.

I tend to look for games that I could show to my sister, and have a similar feeling to Plante about Infinite. I wish I could show her this game, but after about the hour-mark, I'd lose her attention. She'd see the absolutely insane violence of the melee kills and say "Well, this is dumb," and get up to go do something else.

Over at his personal blog, former Epic design director (and Gears of War maestro) Cliff Bleszinski wrote a thoughtful post about the game, which he very much liked. In it, he mentions the violence:

So, the guy that brought you a chainsaw gun would now like to get on his soap box about violence. Have fun judging me.

This is one of the few games that I’ve loved that I felt the violence actually detracted from the experience. The first time I dug my skyhook into someone I actually winced. I love shocking people in these games (it’s not called BioShootBeesAtThem) and I found that nearly every foe I zapped to death had their heads explode, Gallagher style. After the 400th head I was like “come on, already!”

Funny, right? That I’d say that? I know, it’s weird. Maybe it’s the fact that they did such a fantastic job of making this nuanced world that hitting you over the head with those moments felt out of place for me.

When the guy whose game featured a reverse up-the-crotch chainsaw melee kill is telling you your game is too violent, it might be worth listening.

Over at Buzzfeed, writer Joseph Bernstein has voiced a similar complaint, pointing out how some of the game's most interesting storytelling moments are muddled, seeing as how they're told via ultraviolence (spoilers):

The penultimate stretch of the game involves coming to terms with the memory of a dead character. Again, it's an important story moment, one that calls out for a sensitive handling. Instead of solving a puzzle, or navigating dialog, or any of the ways that you might be expected to confront long-suppressed emotional pain, the ghost challenges you to three long and frustrating gunfights. Yes, you shoot a bazooka at childhood trauma. In most games, absurdities like this don't bother us, because we don't expect much from most games. In BioShock Infinite moments like these, when the demands of genre bleed into the narrative, we feel disappointed, even betrayed.

The guys at Penny Arcade point out the problem in their own way:

And on, and on. Yesterday, I wrote an analysis of Infinite's combat that took the violence as a given, and simply talked about why, in my opinion, the shooting doesn't work all that well. But even then, it's difficult to talk about the game's combat without talking about the elephant in the room: The fact that by simply existing, the violence harms the game.

Smartly using our (new! exciting!) image-annotation system, Brainy Gamer blogger Michael Abbott "pointed" to the real problem with Infinite's combat, which he says isn't the pacing or shield regeneration, but rather the fact that it exists at all. Here's Abbott:

Brilliant as the game is - and as earnestly as it tries to explore social-political issues - Infinite is tethered to its mechanical nature as a shooter in ways that undermine its aspirations. It's possible to love the game for all it does (and tries to do), but still feel smothered by its insistence that so much of my experience is delivered staring down the barrel of a gun or other destructive weapon. The issue for me isn't about being pro or anti shooting games; it's about how standard FPS design limits the narrative possibilities of a game that clearly aspires to dig deep. How might I have behaved, and how might I have reflected on Infinite's provocative world had I not spent so much time shooting or avoiding being shot? The game's story isn't really about shooting at all, but the player's lived story is, and that collision is hard to overcome.

But what of Infinite's creative director? Back in February, Stephen sat down with Ken Levine and among other questions, asked him why this game had to be about shooting people. Levine's answer was as lengthy as it was, frankly, impenetrable:

"In terms of the shooting, it's weird, right? Games have this interesting thing. When you see some people experimenting, like Kentucky Route Zero and stuff like that where they are starting to experiment with sort of not having a game element or even Walking Dead has a really reduced element. My problem is, I like games. I like challenge. I like having a skill component of it. And so what is that skill component? It is weird in some ways that all of a sudden you bust out a gun and start shooting. It would make sense maybe in a [Levine interrupts himself] but the scale and the amount of shooting that you have is heightened obviously, but, you know, so is Indiana Jones. The dude is an archeologist and he's busting caps in people's asses left and right. He probably kills 100 people in that thing."

"It's a limitation of the medium," Levine said. "I can sit down and write a scene about just about anything. It's really tough to make a game about any particular topic. You go see a movie like Margin Call, which is a fascinating exploration of how emotionally and the kind of pressures that led to the financial meltdown were on people. To turn that into a game would be a real head-scratcher. But to turn it into a movie is really a function of: can you write a good movie about it? Because you don't need that skill component, and you don't need to sort of train people on the systems and things like that [as you do] in games.

"So we tend to have fewer forms in the game space. One of the nice advantages of a form is that it's a skill-set that people have acquired. And remember that if you hand a controller to somebody who has never played a first-person shooter, it's not something you were born with. So, you know there are certain advantages it gives you."

Okay, so people know how to play shooting games, and it's good to have a skill element to a game. But with a game as thematically and creatively ambitious as BioShock Infinite, is that really a strong answer? Particularly if, as Levine says at the end there, it presupposes that anyone who will enjoy your game must first have the requisite first-person shooter skills?

My inner cynic, of course, says that BioShock Infinite is a shooter because shooters are relatively safe from a marketing perspective. Shooters sell, and there was a lot of money riding on this game selling a lot of copies. But even that feels like a possibly unnecessary abdication of artistic licence. Particularly because one of the best things about The Walking Dead, which Levine also cited, was that I could recommend it to anyone. And hell, that was a game with no shortage of extreme gore (though the gore itself felt more congruous with the game's setting and source material). I loved how I could recommend The Walking Dead to friends without having to ask if they were familiar with first-person control scheme, with thumbstick navigation, with how iron-sights worked.

There are really two issues here: The fact that Infinite is a shooter, and the extremity of the violence it depicts. The further I get from the game and the more I replay it, the clearer it becomes: BioShock Infinite is a daring, audacious game held back by its reliance on the gun in the middle of the screen. What if it had been a first-person exploration and adventure game? What if there had been less shooting, and more puzzles and traversal? What if Booker had been more of an actual private investigator, rather than a commando for hire?

And even if we accept that Infinite had to be a first-person shooter, did it really need to be this violent? It makes sense to create some awful sort of counterpoint to the opulent brilliance of Columbia, to frame shocking violence against the bright blue skies and breathtaking vistas. But the violence here, in the melee kills in particular, just doesn't quite work. It feels indulgent and leering, like a concession to a perceived audience that may not even exist. Who really wanted sick badass head-trauma in this game? Not me, anyway.

Put another way, it's hard not to wish the game had more of this:

and less of this:

It's too bad that Infinite has to be a case-study in unnecessary video game violence, but perhaps it's good to have a case-study that feels so definitive. The ridiculous violence stands out in such sharp relief when placed against the game's thoughtful story and lovely world. Hopefully, Infinite's immense popularity will inspire other game-makers (or even Levine, in his next game!) to try something different, and to give a story like this the framing and support it deserves.

And in the meantime, hey, I'm actually OK with ripping digital heads off, as far as it goes. I've been playing video games for ages, after all. But I think I'll hold off just a little while longer before I start calling my sister into the room.


Comments

    You know, I'm usually that chick who's +1 on the touchy-feely feministy stuff...

    but I totally, absolutely disagree with this. Bioshock has been violent. Columbia is rooted in violence and oppression. Throughout the last half of the game you're fighting a freaking war, for God's sake. America's history has been violent and rooted in war. Just ...no. This is a Constant.

      Totally agree with you! The violence in this game is just as important motif, as say the racism, and religion etc. Booker is a violent man. The reason why he's in Columbia in the first place, is because he is a very violent man, who can get the job done no matter what.. He's done some very violent, disturbing things in his life. And this game is showing you just how violent he can be. I don't know what most of you think would happen if somebody got bludgeoned in the face with a sky-hook in real life, but let me give you a hint: they won't get away with just a black eye. The gruesome and brutal nature of the combat in this game is a (as already mentioned) an important contrast, and in my opinion not at all controversial. And in the words of the great Tarantino, '(violence) is just so damn fun'.

      Think of it in terms of the first time Elizabeth sees you kill somebody in the game. She actively runs away from you and calls you a thug. In my opinion, i think that this is exactly how the designers wanted the Player to feel about Booker as well. Any "normal" person would have the exact same reaction as Elizabeth did, when they witness Booker execute his first police office with a melee kill. You are meant to feel uncomfortable and slightly sickened by his actions. That's the whole point. You're not meant to gush over him. He's not really a knight in shining armor. He's an ex-soldier turned private investigator with a penchant for violence. What better way to make the player see the true depth of Booker's ability for violence, than to show him perform gruesome kills with a sky-hook?

      P.S. What i find interesting is you will never see an article like this come up for a game like Half-Life, where despite it's deep story and sense of adventure (albeit less gory violence), it's still basically a shooter. And yet you'll never hear people whinge about it in this way, saying that it would have done better as a purely puzzle/adventure game!

      Last edited 05/04/13 6:14 pm

        That's where we're different. I hate tarantino films. I find the violence extremely distasteful.

          How do I get down voted for that? It's just an opinion!

            Because if you get downvoted enough, the comment is removed.

        I think the Tarantino analogy is really very apt.

        I completely agree, the violence is there for a reason. The contrast to the perfect society and the violence you perform and is in turn performed against you and the other NPCs. It is inline with how the other bioshock games are too.

        For the ending of the game to work, you cant like Booker. To be honest you have to believe he should die for his sins

        Last edited 08/04/13 12:36 pm

      I loved how it went from all pleasant and nice to insanely violent. Think it fits well. Even during these violent times you can look into the background and see mostly all pleasant views and fluffy clouds and then BAM, blood everywhere.

        Yes, your first sentence is how I feel too. The violence is such a contrast to the saccharine sweetness of this supposed utopia and that and the events that immediately precede it (the Raffle) begin to expose its sordid underbelly, which continues to be revealed as the game progresses.

        It was surely intentional and it works in my opinion.

    I 100% agree. I have a fewer designer friends who I think would love the story and the world. I want to show them how much gaming has matured. Unfortunately, there is just too much gore.

    Its not that I think the violence was unnecessary ( a large part of the story is a civil uprising after all). There was just no need for people to get there heads torn off. it didn't enhance the things people love about this game at all. I also wish that violence was only occasional, rather than a constant. I would have been happier if there were only three or four combat sequences the whole game.

      Three or four combat sequences just wouldn't work with the game. I mean, I think less combat is a brilliant idea - don't get me wrong here. But so much of Bioshock in it's current form is character progression and the heavy rpg side of things - gear, vigors, guns and upgrades. I think that they're taking the easy way, and I did tire of the fighting - but bioshock would be a whole nother' beast without continuous combat!

        This is true - its something that Yahtzee goes on about: very few games sync story and gameplay.

    Absolutely agree. That first melee kill was way over the top. I loved dead space but there it made sense. In columbia, I found it really gross. Take a vigour, watch all the skin peel off your hand. Yeeeshk!

    Last edited 05/04/13 2:18 pm

    I absolutely agree. Now, I love the game. But man, that bloody cutscene execution of the officer was unnecessary, and the executions in general were just so out of place. Everything else was okay, I guess, it seemed that the other violence fit well with the darker aspects of the game itself.

    But those melee executions were just bad, and frankly pointless. It wasn't possible to sneak up on people like in Dishonored because they trigger at short range regardless of whether they can see you, and when you're in the middle of meleeing people you don't easily see the "execution" marker, so I hardly ever did them intentionally. When they did occasionally happen, it just took me out of the moment.

    There was also a disppointing lack of puzzle solving. Maybe I just missed them, but there were hardly any puzzles involving finding the code books and... well, there was no puzzle solving. You just showed Elizabeth the puzzle and she gave you a clue. I almost missed the pipe dreams 'hacking' from Bioshock 1.

    But the lack of puzzles and the presence of gory violence are my only two letdowns. I do think that the narrative in the voxophones should have been more central to the actual game instead of an optional extra, but meh, I guess it doesn't matter.

    Last edited 05/04/13 2:18 pm

      I think there were only three code book puzzles the whole game, plu another couple usually involving hidden keys. I didn't miss the hacking from Bioshock, but I did miss the environmental puzzles.

        If there were only three codebooks in the game then I found them all - though I didn't actually sovle the puzzle for the "tip the hat one". I figured it was a clue for something that would happen further on. My wife found it on her second playthrough - it was in the same room, much like the clock one later. I also found two keys for the chests, so I assume I found everything there too.

        I did really like the game so I'm tempted to get the DLC season pass. I just hope they have more puzzle elements in the DLC, or add more if there's feedback in that direction.

          I loved the game, but I'm holding out on the Season pass until we get a better idea of how they approach the DLC. There are some obvious avenues they could take, but I'm not sure if I'm that interested in them.

        I'm not sure if I should give a spoiler warning, but considering the nature of the article and comments I think it's unnecessary.

        There was environmental puzzles (or at least one). In the cemetery next to Mrs. Comstock's grave was a locked gate that could be opened by lighting the nearby torches on fire.
        That puzzle was actually one from the original Bioshock.

          Have to admit that I missed that one.

            Actually - I didn't. It was open. I must have done it by accident at some point. I do remember grenading a couple of guys cause I could. That might of done it.

          Yeah I got that one, but I guess I forgot about it. It did make me look for more though.

    Weaksauce, mate! MOAR BLOOD! MOAR BLOOD! MOAR BLOOD!
    I mean, everyone's entitled to their opinion and i respect Kirk's but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, more dancing HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    If anything, the only thing that doens't make sense is why i can murder the adults in the game, and not the children playing in the street?? ;)

      Maybe not more dancing, but more moments like that would be lovely.
      I don't know about you, but I really didn't want to have to stop her.

    I both agree and disagree with this.

    " 'Violence' shouldn't/doesn't need to be in it"

    Concidering the story behind columbia, what do you think's gonna happen when the people try and stop you? Ballroom dance-off?

    "It is too violent"

    This I kinda agree with. The heads exploding I didn't really notice too much, since
    A) I didn't use the lightning Vigor
    B) When the lightning proc from people hitting me (from gear) weht off, they were already on fire for having been punched.

    But the over-the-top melee kills with the Skyline really did feel out of place and the brutality of it kinda felt disconnected. Much like Penny Arcade, it did feel wierd to brutally tear into someone's face then turn around and have a conversation, then the moments where she hates us and we're trying to convince her we're nice and just being self-defensive really feel insincere.

    "No I'm a nice guy, really. I just smashed his skull open and then exploded a few guys heads because they shot at me first."

    I'd damn well agree he's a nice guy too because I don't want that nutjob upset at me. Which isn't really what Booker is like. But...

    The violence felt better in Bioshock because it wasn't over the top. In Infinite, it's way too noticeable. I merely punched a guy and his head was replaced with blood and bones. The executions were way over the top, and didn't really make sense with your melee weapon. On the flipside, people were distracted by the lack of violence in DC versus MK.

    There's even one part where you find a board with the scalps of various characters pinned to it. I mean, come on.

      You haven't heard of Indian scalping? In that context, it completely makes sense.

    it's funny, I'm still only a few hours into the game, but I actually don't mind the super drastic contrasts at all. It provides a filthy and obtrusive flipside to the absolute grandeur and aesthetic beauty of the game and its intricacies. Just my opinion of course. However, yeah, I see this as a 'gamers' game, because I don't think many of my non gamer friends would get into it.

    Having said that.. most 'casual' players get into the ACTION of it all, I think it would draw LESS players if it was more adventure etc, it's a business decision as much as anything else :)

      This is the truth and kind of a sad one. Games that don't have a strong action element will always do poorly compared to games that do, hence why this game was an FPS to begin with. That's what's selling right now, and it doesn't even occur to anyone that it could have been something else. I certainly wouldn't have wanted it to be an interactive drama like Heavy Rain or something but... there was a bit too much emphasis on killing stuff. I'm not squeamish or offended by it, but in retrospect I am seeing where it just wasn't necessary.

    what would it be without the shooting? a "non-game?" thats like saying only gameslike dear ethster should stive for thourght provoking storys

    While it's a little bit over the top, the violence is required. This game (and the story) wouldn't have half the emotional weight if the violence wasn't there.

    All in all, a good opinion piece, but one I ultimately disagree with. Go back and play the first two bioshocks - it's really not that much more violent, and there was no problem with that.

    All those 'beautiful' images are juxtaposed with the violence : it shows that the idyllic nature of columbia is underpinned with a darkness.

      And further to that, I really enjoyed the shooter mechanics. If you want an Infinite without shooting, you should be inspiring other devs to take the story and narrative elements that Infinite does so well, and not telling Levine and the team to shoehorn their vision into something 'new' and 'indie'. Shooters are good. Shooters are fun. You can have an engaging story and a fun game in the same package, and that's half the reason I enjoy Infinite so much.

      To each their own, I guess.

        Spot on with what I think. I don't get heaps of time to play games and shooters are my genre of choice, so combining that with an awesome art style and great story pretty much creates the perfect game for me. I enjoyed the violence, maybe that makes me a dick, I dunno.

    You make a good point Kirk, my (non-gamer) girlfriend actually watched the opening sequence with me and was totally into it until the skyhook execution, then I lost her.

    I don't understand this fascination with having our games/books/whatever meet the expectations of the other people around us. How about your sister invites you to try out Glee or some British drama and have you complain that it is stupid because boring, no action. (that's more an example for me, I don't know everyone's tastes.)

    I can certainly understand the point of this article and agree that it's sad that we're saddled with the absurdity of mega-violence in so many games, and that in this case this Bioshock goes over it's own top. But I don't think we have to go about proving ourselves to the non-gamer world; the amount of games I've played that are fun and interesting and non-violent are great in number and could be just as easily recommended as Bioshock.

    Bioshock has been and is still that series of games where you *explore dystopian environments, get superpowers and shoot things from a first-person perspective*

      I feeling is more that I'd like to share the story and the themes with my non-gamer friends, but I think there are too many gamer tropes for them to get past.

        That's their problem. I'm not excusing the excessive violence here but I don't think it's worth claiming that the devs should have done differently just so we can share it with other people who have other tastes.

        I've never seen Pulp Fiction. Everybody keeps telling me to see Pulp Fiction. I don't want to and it's probably because of some of the violence, I dunno. I can appreciate some of the themes, storytelling and ground-breaking cinematography that I know it has and appreciate that my friends enjoyed it. However I, and I hope my friends, would never say "I wish Pulp Fiction wasn't like that so it would be easier newbies to approach."

          In the case of pulp fiction, the violence is comedic. In this case, the gratuitousness of the violence adds very little to the overall aims and themes of the game. It seems more like it was included just to market to the CoD crowd. Unfortunately, it can't capture apre appreciative audience.

            "Unfortunately, it can't capture apre appreciative audience."

            I'm not sure because of the typo but I find it hard to believe that Bioshock Infinite has not found an appreciative audience because of the violence. I mean the reviews are through the roof, people are talking about the themes with some loving the violence and some not, but most people seem to enjoy what Bioshock Infinite represents as a whole. I also contest that this is incommunicable to non-gamers: yes they may not be turned off from the violence but is it really that hard to tell people what it's about?

            It doesn't matter if Pulp Fiction's violence was comedic, I don't even know if I care that much, but for all I know it might not have been necessary to make the movie good, just like Bioshock's violence may or may not enhance its themes. Neither of them needs the approval of our friends.

            Actually, I found the violence, combined with those sharp, tense little orchestral notes in the soundtrack whenever you did something particularly violent added a fair bit to the experience. It was so incredibly opposite to the seemingly happy world around me! The themes of the bioshock games usually revolve around some kind of would-be utopia turned violent; in this respect I don't think the violence 'adds very little to the overall aims and themes of the game". Quite the opposite.

            I'm not trying to completely douse your opinion, I just can't say I agree that the violence serves absolutely no purpose, and that the game would have been better without it.
            Also, where in call of duty are there executions and hyper-violence? All I saw in the last one I played was mindless shooting, where there's very little impact to the violence, and death is frequent and nonplussing. It's obviously quite different here, because if people didn't feel the impact of their killing actions, nobody would be complaining at present.

            At the end of the day, to each their own I guess. The previous Bioshock games had their fair share of violence too. Does noone remember Steinman? Or the way that Langford died as she wrote on the glass with her fingers? That one in particular may not have been gory, but it was disconcerting, and fit the themes of the game just as well.

            The violence is just as much a part of the experience as the other factors, and whilst one might argue that it's a bit gratuitous, you can't say it has absolutely no place in this game.

            It is a bit iffy that Elizabeth is completely unphased by your executions, but that has less to do with the violence being inappropriate/misplaced, and more to do with sloppy game design. As much as I'd like to complain about the way that this can ruin immersion, it's nothing compared to every single NPC in the starting area once they've spent their 1-2 lines of dialogue and henceforth stand idly, staring creepily or repeating animations. Nevermind Elizabeth's unlikely reactions to your slaughtering, when pretty much everyone in the game world has the capacity to make you feel like a completely abstract part of the world. I was very aware I was playing a game.

            Last edited 06/04/13 12:41 am

    I wasn't that fussed by it, to be perfectly honest. The Bioshock games have been plenty violent in the past. Whilst I agree it certainly has a shock factor in that it's incredibly juxtaposed to how nicely things start off, I don't think it's out of place at all. In fact, I think that's actually the point. The whole idea is that this seeming utopia is not all as it appears, right? Did you miss the first two Bioshocks completely?

    Look, they might have been able to turn it down a notch or two, but are you seriously asking for ballroom dance-offs in place of gunfights? Bioshock is a shooter. It's an adult-oriented shooter, and it's violent. You can't be that surprised.

    Anyway, on an off note, you certainly talked up the intro, but post-lighthouse I found there was very little attention to detail. People have 1-2 lines of dialogue before they become mute puppets with rotating heads and empty eyes. I wanted to stay around and feel immersed, but everything is so surface-level. Underneath there's an ugly, unattended side, and even a few hundred crates of bad apple textures stretched over crates.

    Last edited 05/04/13 2:44 pm

    Bioshock is derived from System Shock which is still shooter at it's base which is still gory. An xShock game within the shooting is not an xShock game and because something different all together.

    On the subject of violence what I see before me is utterly trivial in the grand scheme of things. I have seen and played far worse. If we want to see something that removes excessive gore give the player the choice in how they approach things. I enjoy the opportunity within games to take the non-lethal because it's change and requires a different approach. Kojima's philosophy is that gamers shouldn't be rewarded for acts of violence which is why all the best rewards within Metal Gear games come as a result of avoidance of combat or using non-lethal methods.

      This is a good point. What if Bioshock had an alternate means of progressing through the story by avoiding confrontations? This happened in a couple of areas, and even prompted you not to go in guns blazing by flashing up a message saying "it's not always the best option".

      But that was the only place where this held true. Every other instance, you have to basically kill everyone in the area to proceed.

        I'd prefer no notification at all. Sometimes the joy of gameplay is discovering something because you thought outside the box and did something that wasn't otherwise obvious despite being secretly factored in by the developers.

    I disagree. The world is in the middle off a violent revolution so of course it's going to be like this. The other bioshock games were dark and had similar violence so of course this one will follow.

    Don't like it? play something else and quit complaining

      Just because its been done a certain way in the past, doesn't mean we can't change it for the better. Although the X-shock games have always been violent, this actual experience in this instance may have been better if it was toned down. It's not about 'finding' another game to play, its a discussion of 'could this game have been even better?'

      I disagree. Games like the Bioshock trilogy have always promoted discourse so of course theres going to be posts like this.

      Don't agree with this article? Go read something else and quit complaining.

      Last edited 05/04/13 5:34 pm

    There was this discussion on IGN that related to this. It was this fan who came up with an interesting solution: what if these sort of games had a no-kill mode. I know that it would completely change the tone of the world, the narrative, gameplay design, etc. but games like Uncharted, Red Dead, Mass Effect and Bioshock have so many moments that just fill you with awe it just seems like it should be an option for people sick of shoot-em-ups. They did mention in the discussion it would be too much effort for such a little payoff, but I still sort of hope

      You know what, I would totally go that mode for a second play through, especially in games like the ones you mentioned where second playthroughs for me are usually more about the story and maybe collectibles, rather than the combat bits, which get a bit tedious after a while for me.

      Or...bring back god mode. Make the combat really quick and easy instead of just getting rid of it.

      I think no kill modes should be implemented in every game, that's an excellent idea. The best thing about a no kill mode (like in Dishonored, for a recent example) is that it provides an excellent challenge and requires more thought to go into development. Plus it allows fans who really like the game the chance to go through it multiple times, seeing what changes when you kill/don't kill enemies. I guess there are some games where it wouldn't work, and it's something which lends itself better to games with stealth mechanics, but I can only see upsides to more developers implementing it.

        Well, not every game, unfortunately. A great many games simply wouldn't work if this were the case. I think such a feature best suits stealth games, as you said. I don't see it working at all in Bioshock.
        But yeah, for stealth games, it's a perfectly feasible option. Often because the objective is usually to slip past opponents, rather than the objectives of shooters, which are... Well, to shoot things.

        That and to a certain point, Fallout 3. I loved the way the speech skill was implemented. You could talk people out of killing you; talk the fat cats out of nuking a city (and also giving you lots of dosh)... Talk that bandit out of trying to pinch that legendary sleeping gown with amazing stats you just found... Even talk your way out of a potential chinese invasion. :-P

      I don't think we should be taking a shooter and complaining that the elements that make it a shooter take away from the experience. At their core, bioshock games are shooters. If you're sick of shooters, there are plenty of other options out there. There are even games with shooter elements out there that promote non-violent options (Deus Ex, Dishonoured).

      I understand what you're trying to say, but for the games you listed, it would detract far too much from the experience if they took such things away. I'm actually surprised you mentioned Red Dead - it's is a western, so the shooter elements are kind of a necessity - yet there are still elements like card-games, theatres, horse-wrangling, and even people-wrangling if you want to capture your bounties alive. The violence has an important place in the experience, but it's not the main focus, and there were plenty of non-violent options included. You can even pretty much just explore if you want. You could also hogtie the majority of your opponents if you were really opposed to killing.

      Bioshock is a very different sort of game, though. It's a shooter, through-and-through. Guns, plasmids (dual-wielding), perks... Killing is kind of a major component of the game. There's no non-violent alternative; in terms of splicers and maniacs like Steinman, this simply couldn't be an option for the sake of story logic. However, you are given the option to rescue all of the little sisters in the game, which is about as close as you're going to get to what you're suggesting. If that doesn't work, then I really don't think it's Bioshock you want to be looking at. It sounds like you would far prefer a game like Dishonoured. Or better yet, the Batman games! Try killing someone there... :-P

    Yea, the game seemed to invert on that first melee kill. I think the shooting would have been alright, but the melee kills are just too over-the-top. The introduction to the "Murder of Crows" vigour seemed very disjointed, too - it's like "hey, this is really gruesome and horrible, why would you subject someone to that?" to "hey, you can do that too, now! isn't that cool?".

    Maybe it's all just a ploy to emphasise that Booker is not, in fact, a nice guy. Or, maybe it's emphasising that just because Columbia looks like an amazing and a great place to live on the surface doesn't mean it's rainbows and sunshine all the way down. It just seems a little... unsubtle... in its presentation of these neat ideas.

    What a cry baby.. It's an artistic juxtaposition, the perfect world vs the violence of the reality of the situation..

    It's beautiful and perfectly executed. If you're offended by it, I also do not recommend partaking in most mature art as you might accidentally see drug use or nudity (I protected your sensitive eyes from this dangerous content for you). God forbid.

    For the first melee kill I was like woah this shit is intense and that was awesome. After that it didn't seem any more over the top to me as any other shooter.

    I'm fine with the brutality of the violence on display, particularly in the scene mentioned above. I thought it was brilliant the way everything went to hell like that, but I can't help but agree that there's probably too much violence, too much shooting in a story that would have benefited from having fewer, but more brutal violent scenes punctuating the story.

    There's definitely a case to argue here that less is more in this game. The shooting feels like a bit like filler where none is needed (not that I mind it as it stands though).

    Couldnt care less about the violance. I think it was am expression of the characters and the darker side of the world. Which going in with the story and the atmosphere was done quiet well. Ken created a world that likes all the happy light color stuff, but in fact is extremely dark and I think thats what every bioshock world is about. And what better and easier way to do it than through fps. Something that has been done and proven million times before.

    sas for the violent video games making more money than others that sadly is true if you take 15 year olds in with the statistics. Its something that makes people grow realise and move on like as we are discussing it right now. So I can thank ken for the awesome experience and story. And the fact that we are talking about it this much means that him and his team has done an excellent job.

    If you don't like violence in this game, that's ok I don't mind you. good thing to talk about.

    You know what? First it "I don't like this game combat it's too clunky" and now "it's too violent". Go away. You clearly don't like or can play the game. I think compared to its predecessors it's less clunky and no more violent, 50 times more awesome and not aimed at 12 year olds or people with weak stomachs. It's the best game I have played it ages. Also no one is asking you to melee or use Murder of Crows. Go watch an episode of the My little pony you big girl. (I can say that I am a girl).

      I wish i could give you another +1... i really honestly do!!!!

    I actually laughed at the sheer absurdity of this article. Prior to the games release, Infinite was treated as sort of messiah in regards to how developers can make create games and explore very touchy subjects such as racism, religion etc and here we have everybody now complaining about the level of violence, another equally important motif being explored in the context of war acting as another stark contrast to the illusion of the games shallow, illusion of beauty.

    This entire discussion is just stupid and pretentious. Racism, war and religion are not the only elements which can be explored intelligently and be confronted. If you really can't see that the violent elements are being explored and treated no differently to every other "touchy" subject matter within the game, then I'm afraid you're missing the point of the 'game. At the same time, hypocrisy is rife in just about every comment to this article. Especially the article itself.

    Please Kotaku, start hiring writers with an IQ above 90. Think outside your little mainstream box for just a moment.

    "The fact that by simply existing, the violence harms the game."

    So what? Your opinion is FACT now? Well, end of discussion obviously.

    This is what happens when you go so far in one direction without considering possibilities. So you went through the whole game and several disparaging articles without EVER coming up with a reason WHY it may be there? Even an improbable reason? (If pessimists are even able to consider such things) i wish we had a more mature industry where stances can change and all avenues of thought were considered instead of hitching yourself onto the relevance train by criticising a popular new game.

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