Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bioshock 2 Review

Having not played the first Bioshock before delving into its sequel, I can attest that the game is inexplicably weird. The game is unlike anything I have ever played, the closest precedent to it would be the incredible Metroid Prime. Amazingly ambitious, the game attempts to tell a story with the depth and breath of an RPG through the lens of an action-based first-person shooter. Its an interesting experiment in the vein of neoshooters like Portal.

Bioshock 2 is far more combat oriented than its predecessor, featuring an entirely revamped combat and character-upgrade system. Players can now dual wield Plasmid Powers and weapons, allowing for simultaneous combo-attacks such as freezing an enemy solid and shattering him with a shotgun blast. Plasmid powers are still acquired and upgraded with ADAM, the acquisition of which is revamped.

As a hulking Big-Daddy, the player has the option of participating in a minigame where he must protect a Little Sister as she collects ADAM from corpses as waves of splicers attack. Its a fun and integral part of the game wielding a multitude of rewards. The binary “Bioshock-Morality” system is still present and unchanged, allowing the player to greedily harvest Little Sisters or restore them to uncorrupted girlhood. “Power to the People” stations, which appear once a level, allow for permanent upgrades to be made to guns, allowing for such gleeful weaponry as incendiary shotguns and freezing speargun bolts. While this constant character progression is indeed fun and rewarding, it does throw off the balance of the gameplay, as the game’s first hours are exponentially harder than its later hours.

One of the major concerns about the first Bioshock was its lack of online multiplayer. Bioshock 2 remediates this flaw by including a multiplayer mode unlike that of anything else in the shooter-market. Like in the single-player game, players dual-wield plasmid powers and guns, and the same strategic combinations still stand. Unique to the mode are hackable turrets for strategic defense and “corpse-research”, which allows for a substantial damage bonus to be acquired if one photographs a fallen-enemy’s corpse. Much like Call of Duty, a persistent system of unlocks is available giving the player reason to continue playing. Much unlike Call of Duty, combat is not frustrating and always balanced. Unfortunately, in my experience with the game, the only playlist that is consistently populated are for the Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch gametypes.

Bioshock was lauded for having one of the most impactful narratives of any action-game to date. As a gameworld-exploration of the moral ramifications of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, it ventured into territory unknown to most gamers.
Taking place over ten years after the events of the first game, Bioshock 2 returns the player to the dystopian world of Rapture. The underwater city has been overrun by drug addicted splicers led by the cruel-Collectivist/Altruist Sophia Lamb. The player takes the role of Subject Delta, the original Big Daddy, who had his protectorate, Eleanor, stolen from him by Lamb and was forced to commit suicide. One day, he finds himself brought back to life and begins a quest to rescue Eleanor.

Unfortunately, Bioshock 2’s narrative is far less impactful than that of its predecessor. The new Rapture of the 70s, in its glorious ruin, is far less visually impactful than its predecessor. It is still beautiful, especially in its underwater areas, but the world itself does not support the game’s main theme of the dehumanizing aspects of collectivism. Sophia Lamb is not as charismatic or deplorable an antagonist than Andrew Ryan, and her influence in the gameworld is not as pronounced.

The game features a series of moral choices that will influence the story’s conclusion. Most of these amount to the decision to spare or kill a key enemy, and it becomes immediately clear what the game considers good or evil. This binary approach to morality is problematic given the comparative depth of the game’s philosophy. I chose to rescue every Little Sister I encountered and was equally rewarded as if I were to harvest them.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous from an artistic and technical perspective. The dystopian 1950’s-era Art Deco world is pronounced, richly unique and starkly believable in its bleakness. The underwater city is collapsing, and evidence of decay is omnipresent in the world as water leaks in through cracks and breaches in the windows and wood begins to rot.
Excellent use of light and shadow strongly improves the visual impact of the game, setting forward the bleak mood of Lamb’s version of Rapture. Great sound effects lend an appropriate visceral rush to combat, and a 40’s era soundtrack grounds the setting nicely.

I greatly enjoyed my time with Bioshock 2, and while it may not be as unique as its predecessor, it remains refreshing and absorbing to those jaded by identical military shooters. The wonderful graphical style, realized gameworld and deep combat win the game the commendable score of 4.25/5.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street – Police Brutality

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you may be aware that Wall Street has fallen under mass protests against corporate corruption and an imbalance of power. Anonymous has covered the protests extensively, calling them out as a beacon of social justice in an increasingly bleak world. Check out the below video, its the 60s of the 2010s.

From the above post, this is what Anonymous believes.
  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy; (always has been Anon’s strong suit)
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility; (Varies amongst the members of the collective, many do not act accountably for their actions) 
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions; (The voice of the internet generation)
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression; (What the world needs)
  • Redefining how labor is valued; (Humans are not assets) 
  • The sanctity of individual privacy; (Needs work, Anonymous, as a hacker collective, needs to solidly define ethical uses of hacking and protecting data)
  • The belief that education is human right; (Protip: Government Education isn’t reliably funded)
  • Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source. (What about piracy? That’s an issue that should be discussed from all sides. Interesting topic given the GeoHotz case and the Great Playstation Network Outage of 2011)
Incredible stuff is happening here, stay tuned.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Sites 93

After a hell of a week, here are the Sunday Sites for the past two weeks. Firefox extension that floods search engines with random queries so companies cannot create an accurate profile of you. Fascinating thread on the sociology of Anonymous members. IT’S REAL! The result of Camp Wall Street is shocking in its effectiveness. Nope. Keeping anonymous defriending protects real-life relationships.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories of a 7-Year-Old of 9/11

The following is a draft of an article slated to appear on the round table.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, a day forever engraved into the collective consciousness of the generations that lived through it. For America, it served as a rite of passage into the annals of world history, marking a new era of diplomatic relations. It served as the catalyst for rampant Islamophobia, an increasingly chaotic global economy and greater militarization of national security.

On the local level, the September 11th attacks have made their mark on the memories of every member of the Stuart Hall community. I myself remember clearly the day of the attack. I was abruptly woken up the morning of the attack by my mother. She seemed panicked, telling me that the Twin Towers had been attacked and destroyed. I was incredulous and thought she was joking.

When I arrived at school, it became bleakly clear that she wasn’t. Half the kids of Mr. Bertrand’s Second Grade class were missing. My carpooler was reticent to drive me, fearing that a similar attack would transpire at school because “that’s where all the tall buildings are”. That night, Nick News interrupted standard programming to hold a special episode explaining the incident to the confused and puzzled children of the world, their innocence, like that of the nation, shattered prematurely by the tragedy.

Ten years have passed since that fateful day sent ripples through the world, and a solemn sense of reverence permeates through the populace. Senior Joe Hildula says that “I believe it is a time to mourn, but it is definitely not a time to throw invective around or take sides and put blame on Muslims”. Andrew Fejt commends the service-minded spirit surrounding the anniversary, “It’s awesome that people are being constructive about it”. Devan Patel adds that “It will forever leave a mark on history, as the generation that experienced it, I don’t think we can see it through a historical perspective, but rather a personal one.”

America is a much changed nation ten years into the 21st century. Technological innovation has turned the internet to the mainstream and communication has hence changed. Two Bush administrations and one Obama administration has left the nation wary of surveillance and corruption. What has not changed is the indefatigable sense of love and reverence towards those lost on that day.

Note: if you please, please observe an online “Moment of Silence” by removing your profile picture today as I have. Thank you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times by -Marlith-
Sign of the Times, a photo by -Marlith- on Flickr.
Goodbye Borders, you've done well to show us that the only thing that's going to get the nation to read is a "Going Out of Business" Sale. Thank you also, for giving comfy chairs to sit on as I demoed books before buying them off Amazon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Sites 92

Busy as hell this week, hoping to upload a review of Bioshock 2 if I’m lucky Wikileaks browser, all cables in a easy-to-navigate, searchable format Frickin’ awesome Thought you might like Essay on ethics of piracy Fact: I won six clicks to philosophy in 2 turns.