Bioshock’s Camera – Shoot in More Ways Than One

Bioshock’s Camera – Shoot in More Ways Than One

Guess what, everyone? We’re getting a new Pokémon Snap! I can hardly believe that. People have wanted one for years, but I really never saw it coming. Keep dreaming, everyone! It works!


It only took 22 years for it to happen! Still, better late than never, I suppose. I’ll be honest I was never the biggest fan of Pokémon Snap. Not because I didn’t like the game, I did. I just never liked it enough to pull for a sequel. Still, even if I did, I never would have expected it to actually happen.


Now, I could sit here and talk about the original Pokémon Snap, and I very well may before the release of the new game. Today, however, I wanted to discuss something else. Pokémon Snap got me thinking of another game that also heavily features a camera. A very different game, I’ll admit.


About the only thing these two games have in common is that you take pictures of strange creatures in both. But in one, you may or not shoot them in the face with a shotgun afterward. Yes, Pokémon would be a very different kind of game then, wouldn’t it? I think it’s best these series’ don’t influence each other much.


Capture in Rapture

The Bioshock series has always been some of my favorite games to play. Not because they have grand stories or characters, even though their plots are decent, but because they’re just honest to goodness fun games to play.


Journeying through the terrifying city of Rapture, knocking splicers down one by one with literal magic and big guns and is a blast. One of my favorite things to do will always be using the cyclone trap to hit someone up in the air before launching a harpoon at them.


Zapping someone with electricity and shooting a rocket that then explodes into smaller rockets that also explodes is another favorite. Oh, don’t forget swinging around a wrench, either. That thing’s deadlier than the most powerful firearm.


As you can tell, the Bioshock games aren’t shy about giving you weapons and powers to deal with any manner of problem you may come across on your adventure. But these games, at least the first two, give you a very different kind of weapon in your arsenal. 

That is, as you may have guessed, the camera. Now I know what you may be thinking. Why do Jack and Subject Delta have any need for a camera? Well, I’ll tell you it’s not because they both secretly have a passion for photography and are using it as an escape from the reality they find themselves in.


They’d be immortalizing something besides corpses and soon to be corpses then. No, the camera is relevant to both of their jobs in Rapture. By utilizing these items, you can become stronger and even get yourself new abilities.


The games try to explain this mechanic away by saying that by capturing these creatures on film, you’re able to study them, I guess and find biological weakness the enemies have, meaning you do more damage. Not the best explanation, but I appreciate that they tried. 


This means the most efficient way to play the games is to take time in every fight to film the monster you’re about to murder. This is a bizarre choice, but I think a pretty fun and interesting one.


Those who have played Bioshock will know that it’s quite a scary series. Rapture is far from some underwater utopia, as it was promised to be. It’s a horrifying place, with even more horrifying creatures. The sound design is one of the most well-designed I’ve ever seen in a game, and the series makes my skin crawl in a good way, of course.


This is why I find the concept of the research camera to be so weird. Just imagine the scenarios this gets you into. You’re exploring this new area. You know splicers are around. You can hear them. But you can’t see them. You’re on edge. So rather than walk around with some way to protect yourself, maybe one of those many guns you carry around, you instead clutch a camera tightly on your person at all times.

Why would you do this? So you can get a great snapshot, of course. Once you finally find that splicer you’ve been trailing (or has it been trailing you?), you get a slight scare, maybe you jump a little bit out of fear, and you get yourself ready to act.


Unfortunately, before you can shoot that abomination down, you must first take around four snapshots of the creature first. To get the maximum research bonus, you know. As if that’s not humourous enough, you get to see the shots after you take them. Meaning that the splicer or big daddy acting as your model will usually have some sweet action shots as they launch themselves at the camera—the camera the player is holding.


I’ve always thought this feature was so smart. It’s a really odd thing to include in such a scary game. You’d think it would stop the game from feeling too frightening, but it doesn’t at all. One of the things that make games scary is when you feel helpless. You’d be surprised how much less on edge you feel when you have a way to defend yourself.


Back when I played Resident Evil 7 in VR, I was so scared I could hardly move. As soon as I got a gun, it completely changed that. I was able to move because I had a bullet conveniently labeled with the names of everyone who dared threatened me.


Bioshock, atmospherically, is a very similar game. It puts me on edge in the same ways. Having a weapon at the ready gives me the exact same sense of security. But the most efficient way to play the game is not to hold a weapon. To instead, walk around with your camera shaking between your fingers, like a shutterbug that wandered into the wrong side of the neighborhood.


It creates this very interesting dynamic. You sacrifice your safety by walking around unarmed, yet you are actually making yourself stronger by taking pictures before you fight. You are making yourself more vulnerable to defeat the enemies you do come across a lot easier. If you’re playing on more challenging modes, this is especially helpful, borderline required, really.


Bioshock is a horror game that becomes scarier because the most efficient way to play it is to willingly unarm yourself for the sake of making yourself stronger. Both Bioshock 1 and 2 give a feeling similar to this. However, Bioshock 2 figured out how to do this perfectly.


There was one problem with Bioshock 1’s camera. Though it could give you some fantastic shots every time you took a picture, it would essentially pause the game. This means you have time to think after you take the picture. Not an immersive thing for your horror atmosphere.


Back to Capture

Bioshock 2 fixes this by redesigning the whole research camera from the ground up. Rather than being used to take pictures, it is now used to record videos. This no longer freezes the game.

The big difference is that you now need to record your fight against whatever monster may be your subject rather than just taking four or so pictures to get your research bonus. During the recording, you get as many points as possible by using all weapons and plasmids at your disposal.


This is great for a few reasons. The main one being that it forces the player to switch their playstyle up. To use different weapons than they normally do. If you continue to record the same fights, it gets boring and gives you fewer points. This new concept also makes more sense as far as the logic behind it.


I don’t know about you, but I find it much more believable that watching a recording of yourself fighting a monster will reveal more weaknesses than a few selfies gone wrong will.


There’s also how much it helps the overall atmosphere of the game. Do you know what’s a little frightening? Pulling out your camera and trying to take a few pictures of a big daddy as it charges at you, drill at the ready, bloodlust in its eyes.

Do you know what’s frankly horrifying? Pulling out your camera at a ticked off big daddy, hitting record as it tries to maim you, all the while you attempt to back away and pull a gun out to fight back. Seriously, big daddies are the thing of my nightmares. I’ll never forget the first one I fought.


Still, the game helps you a bit in that department by pulling whatever the last weapon you held out after using the camera. This means you can defend yourself somewhat quickly. But there’s always the chance you won’t have the appropriate weapon out. Life in Bioshock comes at you fast. You’ll be hopping around frantically all the time. The camera just adds one more thing to worry about.


The camera in 2 definitely works differently, and I’m sure not everyone will prefer it over the one in the original Bioshock. Still, I believe it was the natural progression of things. I think videos over photos make much more sense in a game all about fast-paced fighting.


While it’s humourous, stopping to take photos in Bioshock 1 really was a chore that broke immersion a lot of the time. Not to mention the fact that buying film was a pain. Giving the player infinite in 2 was a great decision. In retrospect, putting a limitation on something like that feels pointless, especially since film was so cheap. 


All it really made you do was run to vending machines more times than you would have otherwise. Meaning you got to hear that wonderful voice even more. Playing through the game again made me realize just how much Bioshock 2 improved the research camera. The whole game, really.

I still think the first game is the best. I think it’s by far the scariest and has probably one of the best, if not the best, atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in a game. As well as having some of the best sound design I’ve ever played in a game as well. Just ignore the image above. I don’t know why that happened, but I needed to show it. I swear it’s scary.


But I can’t deny how fun Bioshock 2 is to play. I think the game flows much better than its predecessor, and the camera is just one example of that. Maybe I’ll take about more examples of that in the future.


When it comes to first-person shooters, Bioshock will always be on top in my mind. I can’t wait until we get a new game. I’m sure I’ll have a blast with it, just like all the others.


Oh, yeah, Pokémon Snap. I’m looking forward to that too. Can you tell I just wanted some relevant excuse to talk about Bioshock? I also wanted a reason to play the game again.


Thank you very much for reading


Which game do you think handled the camera better? I’ll always be partial to the videos, but I can’t deny that the photos just had something special to them.

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