Bioshock: The Art of Reviewing

A week or so ago, I read the review of BioShock on IGN. Most reviews I read seem to be churned out in a cookie-cutter fashion. But this BioShock review by Charles Onyett was one of those rare pieces that has stuck with me since it was published. The question I have to ask is, why?

Of extreme importance is that BioShock was so well-received at IGN. It scored a 9.7. A game that got an average, pathetic, or even just a very good score would surely not lead to such a memorable review. Furthermore, BioShock is one of those rare, 1st class, highly-anticipated original IPs that seems to actually be living up to its hype. It's received solid scores almost across the board.

And I think the IGN review is doing much more than simply heaping piles of hot, steaming praise on the developers of BioShock. They're calling attention to it as a rare example of where the games industry should be heading; towards more unique, innovative, original games and away from derivative sequels, spin-offs, and never-ending streams of the same old shitty games year after year. As Onyett says,

This game is a beacon. It's one of those monumental experiences you'll never forget, and the benchmark against which games for years to come will, and indeed must, be measured. This isn't merely an evolution of System Shock 2, but a wake-up call to the industry at large. Play this, and you'll see why you should demand something more from publishers and developers, more than all those derivative sequels forced down our throats year after year with only minor tweaks in their formulas. It's a shining example of how it's possible to bring together all elements of game design and succeed to the wildest degree.

Furthermore, I just finished reading IGN's Metroid Prime 3 review, which received a 9.5, barely lower than Bioshock. However, the review was identical in scope, and especially tone, to any number of other reviews. I think this could be due to a couple of reasons.
  1. MP3 was reviewed by someone different, Matt Casamassina, who probably has a completely different writing style from Onyett.
  2. More importantly, MP3 is the third part of a trilogy, and admittedly only brings a few new tweaks, features, and adjustments to the Metroid experience. On the other hand, BioShock is completely new, and relatively innovative. According to IGN, it's a giant leap forward in terms of what a gaming experience can (and should) be.
What is the point of this look at a game review that has stuck with me far longer than it should have? The point is that more game reviews should be this memorable and unique. Or, to put it more accurately, more games should be unique and innovative experiences that allow for reviews of the caliber of IGN's BioShock review. It's a shame that more games just aren't worthy of the praise that BioShock has received. And ironically, there's a good chance I'll never even play this game. I don't own a 360.

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