The open world of BioShock 4 may sacrifice One of the best parts of the original game

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Almost nothing official has been reported about BioShock 4, but leaks suggest that the game will take place in an open world set in Antarctica. This is a setting that video games rarely explore, so the series, known for its fantastic world-building title, understandably captures many. However, an open-world orientation may mean that one of the greatest aspects of the original BioShock will be lost.

BioShock 4, which is rumored to be called BioShock Isolation, will be the first installment of the series after BioShock Infinite 2013. First announced in 2019, the development is being conducted by the new studio 2K Cloud Chamber. In addition, the original creator Ken Levine has confirmed that he is not involved in the project. These behind-the-scenes changes explain why BioShock 4’s approach seems to be very different from previous games. At the moment, the series has set an incredibly high bar for the newest game, so how this new direction is implemented can create or destroy the greatness of the game.

Incredible BioShock atmosphere

The Delight of BioShock is one of the most iconic game settings of all time. The underwater city balanced the atmospheric horror created by masterful sound design, clashes with enemies and the art of the environment, with an exciting narrative, both through the development of the story and through contextually placed audio diaries. Combined with some elements of survival gameplay, this created a world that was tense and truly frightening at times, but did not become so focused on fear that it distracted from the game.

Part of what made this possible was the claustrophobic atmosphere of Delight itself. The dark corridors and crumbling structure reinforced the feeling that being stuck in this place was truly unnerving. The transfer of BioShock 4 to the open world means that this kind of imprisonment no longer exists. This is also confirmed by the job listing, which suggests that BioShock 4 will have an “urban crowd system”. All of this sounds a far cry from the disturbing loneliness of BioShock 2007. This may mean that any attempt at atmospheric horror in BioShock 4 simply won’t be as effective.

Of course, this isn’t the only time the series has made such a move. BioShock Infinite greatly expanded the level design and tonally moved away from the horror elements of BioShock and BioShock 2, but thematically it was suitable for the third game. The city of Columbia is mostly bright and noisy, but on closer inspection is clearly dangerous. This presentation was a good reflection of the ideas of American exceptionalism and religious motives as a facade for much darker truths.

However, what’s different now is that BioShock 4 sounds like it fits the atmosphere of the original game much better than Infinite. It would be quite difficult to find a more lonely and desolate place on Earth than Antarctica. Even the rumored name BioShock Isolation suggests that it may try to take a more restrained approach than BioShock Infinite, but the open world can make it much more difficult.

If the places where the missions take place are too open, then trying to create tension and atmosphere of the first game is likely to be difficult. The feeling of isolation on the map is one thing. Many open-world games are good at making the player feel lonely outside the cities, settlements and buildings they contain, but it’s hard to inspire fear of the question: “What’s around the corner?” if there are no narrow corners and corridors out of the question. Similarly, if previously linear audio diaries are now scattered across an open map, their storytelling potential may suffer due to the loss of context they once added to the disturbing scenes around them.

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