No gods or kings, only man and his iPad. 2K announced on Monday that it’s porting the original BioShock to iOS devices, with a release “ later this summer“ (winter in Australia). In other words, approximately six years after we first heard BioShock was coming to phones. The port is being handled by 2K China – the same team that brought XCOM: Enemy Unknown to iOS last year.
Some heavy lifting had to be done to get BioShock in under iOS’s 2GB app size limit, so most of the high-end graphics effects are gone (fog, et cetera) and the geometry looks like it’s been simplified quite a bit. Still, it’s Rapture, running on the iPad and iPhone.
It’s certainly an impressive technical feat, but at some point with these iOS ports I think someone needs to say, “Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.” BioShock is a fantastic game – one that’s a bit more obvious in its flaws now than it was in 2007, but still an important example of game storytelling.
But does it make sense as an iOS game?
XCOM: Enemy Unknown certainly did. It’s a slow, turn-based game that you can consume in ten or fifteen minute chunks – jump in, take three or four turns, save, and quit. Also, the click-heavy controls were already primed for touchscreens.
BioShock is a fast-paced action game with complex shooter controls that requires split-second timing and multitasking. Brian Crecente at Polygon has already said the game “is a mesmerizing experience” as long as you’ve paired a Bluetooth controller with your device – in other words, as long as you’re playing it like a real console game.
But how many people are going to purchase the game and try to play it with the touchscreen overlay controls? I can guess the answer is ‘a sizeable amount’ and that’s a shame. Overlay controls are a pox on mobile games – rather than devising a control scheme that makes sense, they’re the laziest way to make a non-mobile game run on mobile devices.
So yes, it’s impressive from a technical standpoint that BioShock now runs on iOS devices. I’m just not convinced that’s the type of mobile experience we should be lauding.