NYT on BioShock: The Old Grey Lady Ain`t What She Used To Be
TomChick - News - 09/04/07 - Link

Among the mainstream games writers, I really liked Seth Schiesel's Game Theory columns in The New York Times. So I'm a bit disappointed to see that it's not his space anymore. Instead, a fellow named Charles Herold has taken over.

I noticed this when I followed a link implying that the Times wasn't really impressed with BioShock. The headline: "Slowed By a Lackluster Narrative"? Surely not!

Although Herold gives some qualified praise, I have to say he seems to have largely missed the point, and furthermore he dings the game for what I feel are its greatest strengths: its aesthetic and narrative.

Note Herold's criticism of BioShock in the Times' scoreless review:

It is odd, though, that Rapture, built in 1946, would rely on the then-passé Art Deco style, and odder still that the city would retain its 1930s aesthetic through 1959, when, the game indicates, things completely fell apart.

While BioShock has an intriguing back story, the game’s episodic, mission-based structure lacks the propulsive momentum of games like Half-Life or Max Payne. The story is better than that of many action games, but BioShock’s gameplay and visuals are so utterly brilliant that it is a shame it fails to reach the same level of greatness in its storytelling.

That's enough of a head-scratcher that I'm wondering if Herold was just casting about for a segue to his next paragraph, where he notes:

A more intriguing story can be found in the smaller and less ambitious Jeanne d’Arc, a hand-held strategy role-playing game that fancifully reinvents the Joan of Arc story.

Yeah, the cutcense in Jeanne D'Arc are certainly precious, but they're the equivalent of a cute little cartoon break between tactical puzzles.

It's also interesting to read Herold's take on the choice to rescue or harvest a Little Sister. Whereas Irrational has the presence of mind to cut away at just the right moment, Herold rather graphically supposes he's going to "slit open her stomach". It seems that Herold's concept of narrative is considerably more pedestrian and lurid than Irrational's.

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