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Ken Levine: BioShock gameplay innovates well compared to Portal, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor


Speaking to VG247 at Develop yesterday, 2K Boston's Ken Levine said that he didn't understand why gamers had leveled criticism and the scope of innovation in BioShock's gameplay compared to the steps forward the game made in terms of narrative.

"Honestly, I've been very open to criticisms in terms of narrative, etcetera - you've probably seen me talk about that, and I've tried to acknowledge things about it - but I'm not exactly sure I understand the complaint," he said.

"If you think about the Big Daddies, if you think about the plasmids, if you think about the hacking, if you think about the security system, if you think about being able to upgrade your powers, compared to the Call of Duties, the Half-Lifes and Medal of Honor, I don't understand [the complaint]."

He added: "Look at BioShock compared to Portal and other first-person shooters that came out last year. Portal, outside of the narrative, the gameplay's innovative but on a fairly narrow axis, right? They do their one thing and they exploit it very well. I don't mean 'one thing' in a derogatory sense: it's a great thing."

BioShock lead designer Bill Gardner, however, did concede that gameplay innovations may have lagged behind those made in the game's storytelling, but that the stance was intentional.

"I think there's an element of not wanting to throw too many curve balls at the player, and I think we knew early what the advancements were that we were going to make in the narrative, and we didn't want to alienate people," he said.

"That's not to say we weren't trying to do anything different... Certainly emergent gameplay's been done in other games, but I like to think that things like the one-two punch and the way the plasmids work with the powers with the weapons, the environmental stuff [meant] we brought a lot of new things to the table."

Develop concludes today.

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Patrick Garratt

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Patrick Garratt is a games media legend - and not just by reputation. He was named as such in the UK's 'Games Media Awards', the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. After garnering experience on countless gaming magazines, he joined Eurogamer and later split from that brand to create VG247, putting the site on the map with fast, 24-hour a day coverage, and assembling the site's earliest editorial teams. He retired from VG247, and the games industry, in 2017.