Bioshock Remastered, Promise, and Emotional Torture

We’re all huge fans of the BioShock franchise here on The Slowdown, but we’ve also had our fair share of the game series. We awaited each game, lathering ourselves with collector’s editions (remember the original Big Daddy statue that would crack in half?), with nightly chats about lore and story, and even with articles written on the game here in the archives. They are some really good games. Some guy named John Lanchester once said somewhere that Bioshock “was the first game he played that had the ambitions of a novel” and I find that very damn agreeable.

It’s just that no-one in particular was looking forward to The Bioshock Collection in the traditional sense. We’re not console gamers, so they just weren’t in the view, or on the horizon. The games are bygones for Ken Levine, too, who had claimed the games took such a toll on him that he thought sequels would make him “[…] lose my mind, and my marriage.” 1)

We too were arguably done with these anomalously nihilistic, brutal, and taxing video games, perhaps even with additional future games in the series, the idea of which has soured somewhat with Levine’s surprise dissolution of Irrational Games as it were in 2014. With the joint release of the remastered versions of BioShock 1 and 2 on the PC, however, I have been made a fool.

I’ve been roped to care for something that was supposed to be both free and carefree.

You see, when the remasters were announced, it was revealed that existing owners of BioShock 1 and 2 would receive the PC remasters for free. I was pleased to find myself among this lucky crowd. Being the sucker that I am (for free, as in free beer) I downloaded the games on Steam and then proceeded to spend two days figuring and configuring out how to make them work, tirelessly jabbing at the game’s .ini files and Nvidia’s driver panel with various concoctions and conflagrations to come to some sort of workable conclusion.

Monitor out of range, resolution issues, wrong aspect ratios, popping textures and models, lighting problems, abject stuttering, poor performance and terrible configuration options – I had all that and more. Tiny FOV. Mouse acceleration. It’s amore. Suddenly, however, there was light at the end of the tunnel: An announcement of incoming fixes, promising to address almost all the major issues with the two games:

  • General Mouse Fixes, including better Mouse Smoothing, Sensitivity and Acceleration Options in BioShock;
  • Additional Speaker Mode Options in Audio Settings in BioShock;
  • Improved FoV Slider Options in BioShock, BioShock 2 and Minerva’s Den;
  • Support for 21:9 display ratios in BioShock, BioShock 2 and Minerva’s Den;
  • General stability improvement to reduce instances of game crashes. 2)

This announcement, of course, was posted on the 20th of September. It’s now the 6th of October, with 2½ weeks of radio silence since the announcement. The BioShock Steam forums – solely dedicated to the airing of feelings of despair, anguish, and anger – are a mountain of misery caked with complaint. Had I not, uh, experienced these remasters myself, reading the forums would make me have a modicum of sympathy for the developers, Blind Squirrel.

But alas, I keep saying to myself, angrily, and as if I knew it all, and so much better to boot, “These problems were already present in the original games.” I’ve muttered to myself, as well as more than one acquaintance, “Mouse acceleration is the worst feature ever implemented.” And for that I blame Blind Squirrel, 2K Games, and like whoever. Like every developer in the world. And the consoles. With a capital C.

To be made to care for what you don’t care for is a terrible thing.

I don’t know that I can properly enunciate just how demeaning it is to be taken hostage so, with these mounds of offense, furore, and complaint being imposed upon yourself. Why have I been subjected to all this outrage culture? Just how bad (as in evil) are these remasters?!? “No wonder they gave them out for free!,” someone cries out, imbued subsequently with that supremely particular sensation only sharp wit can bring that will almost certainly last for the rest of the person’s evening.

It is such a fool’s errand and such a losing battle. Should I play now, in this half-live half-dead state the two games are in, or wait longer still for fixes that might never materialize?

It makes me more than a tiny bit ill to find myself complaining about mouse acceleration out loud – it’s something that you truly want to keep to yourself in civil society, but can’t, because it just is that bad. Placing the true weight of the matters at hand on a scale – the cost (negligible, years ago), the effort (quite a bit), the potential reward (a functional game) is a joke. The only thing that is serious here is that nothing is going to give me back that little but very important portion of dignity that was stolen by these shitty remasters.

It’s easy to invoke here the sunk-cost fallacy, or the escalation of commitment, but I feel this only gives a name to the problem, not the explanation: Why should I care now, given that I didn’t before? This feeling is impossible to explain away intellectually, because it is a primal response.

Airing all this feels just right but a little bit sad. Perhaps I don’t even want to play the game any more – out of spite, maybe, or not. I don’t know. As the wise man once said, “Why don’t you play the original game?”

I don’t know.

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