I know I’m late to the party, but I completed Bioshock just now. I had, of course, heard the stories of there being a major twist in the tale near the end, and sometime after all the fanfare had died down, quite a bit of complaints that the story fell through after that point. I couldn’t disagree more.
Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.
They handled the main character’s facelessness and some of the weird coincidences and events very well in the end. You really need to play it through most of the way (at least until the big reveal – it’s got to do with words, you’ll know it) before everything clicks in and all your skepticism and doubts are cast aside. In several ways, the game reveals its hand and shows everything to you in a different light – indeed, the very way you’ve been playing the game.
Some complained that the game should have played out differently from that point on, but I think they’re missing the point there. Until then, you’ve been doing as told and after that point, you choose to carry on doing the same. The player isn’t given much choice in the matter and maybe this is what rubs some the wrong way. In my view, it ends very satisfyingly. The ending really struck a chord with me. It was beautiful, and meaningful, and memorable. The way they’ve chosen to not spell out everything leaves you piecing things together all through to the final shot of the hands.
So often I feel that completing a game is just a meaningless chore (still got that final fight in Dead Rising to clear), but in this case the whole experience is elevated – transformed – by seeing it all. Of course it helps matters that there is absolutely no padding in Bioshock. The last few levels are stuff you haven’t done before, all ramping up the tension to the finale. I was very lucky to be able to play the game in one sitting from Hephaestus and confronting Ryan to the end.