Lots of posts, I know. I just finished Bioshock over the weekend. It was fun, and the setting was certainly atmospheric. However, I can't see why the game won awards for its story, more than its setting. The moral choices were pretty stark (SPOILERS - save the Little Sisters or kill them), and your choices ultimately weren't that consequential, except that it gave you one of two different endings. But, the limited moral choice aside, the biggest issue I had was that Bioshock was not so much a story-driven game but an exploration of recent history. Ken Levine gave an interview recently on why stories in video games suck, and he revealed that a remarkable amount of Bioshock's story was left on the editing room floor. It was condensed from a span of months to a single day. And that leaves the player out of some pivotal events in Rapture's "history", and instead he/she is left with picking up audio recordings of what happened. It is an exercise in - at best - piecing together what happened, rather than participating in the events.
And that hamstrings the emotional kick of the game. The audio recordings alone did get me to sympathize with certain individuals or revile others. But the foregoing the opportunity to interact with these people, either as events were going on or in the aftermath, was a narrative and emotional waste. Instead, you’re just left with shooting a bunch of psychos.
But I don’t want to be too harsh. Bioshock was good, and it had some excellent moments of set-piece story underpinned by a light layer of philosophy. But the story never matched the atmosphere. And the fact that Bioshock is renowned for its story is more an indication about the story state of narrative in video games, rather than a positive recommendation for the game.