Take-Two Interactive’s earnings call for the second quarter of the 2019/2020 fiscal year has started rumors aplenty as to what 2K has under its development sleeves. CEO Strauss Zelnick said, in this call, that fans can expect “sequels from our biggest franchises as well as exciting new IP.” Naturally, fans are insisting that one of these sequels must be for BioShock. It doesn’t help that a rumor floated around in 2018 that a “secret 2K studio” was developing a new BioShock game.
After Irrational Games’ closure in 2017, many assumed that this meant it was the end of BioShock as well. BioShock Infinite wrapped up many things story-wise and, while there are several avenues for game writers to take the story down, gamers still had a sense of closure for the series. Ken Levine’s departure and shuttering Irrational Games was sad to be sure, but at least BioShock fans weren’t left hanging in the wind.
But, if these rumors have merit and there is indeed another BioShock in the works somewhere, is it possible for a new BioShock game to thrive without Irrational Games (or more specifically, Ken Levine) behind it?
First of all, I don’t know who can replace Ken Levine when it comes to voicing the Circus of Values and vending machines of BioShock Infinite. There could be plenty of imitations, but it won’t be an exact duplication. He may not be a pro voice actor, but he was a pro at voicing vending machines, which therefore makes him irreplaceable.
However, one thing the BioShock games always had issues with was the combat. They had great environments, great sound, great villains, and yet awful combat. Don’t even get me started on the Lady Comstock boss fight(s) from BioShock Infinite. Those were terrible, and even the sky-hook battles wore thin once you were ambushed at almost every corner. The first game’s combat was only slightly better, and that’s only because its final boss was slightly less annoying than Lady Comstock.
Any change to combat would be a welcome improvement, and I’m sure a developer under 2K’s wing would be up to the challenge. The bigger question about the quality of a non-IG BioShock comes from what the series is known for: environments full of wonder, fear, and narrative.
Aside from the infamous line of “Would you kindly,” the original BioShock was most remembered for the environment of Rapture. Never before have I played a game that forced me to focus on sound as much as BioShock did, and I don’t think I’ve played one since. Every step I took, I listened for sounds of cameras, Big Daddies, and Splicers stabbing things. I also constantly swiveled around in the glass tunnels, looking for possible cracks in the glass. If anything, the environment was the best character and villain in the game.
Then there is the narrative of Rapture itself, as well as Columbia. Most of the games’ narrative could be found in audio tapes or voxophones. Each piece was sure to give a small taste, and the history provided wasn’t always found in chronological order. It was left to the player to put the clues together and learn what awful things happened in Rapture, as well as how Columbia got to the current state that it is in.
Without those same people at the helm, it’s hard to imagine that any future BioShock sequel will provide what BioShock has always been known for: fear, wonder, and a deep narrative.