PC gamers get BioShock'ed

BioShock has undoubtedly been one of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year, and its release to unanimous critical acclaim is certainly helping to solidify its place as a soon-to-be-classic. I've been playing the game since its release day, and I'm enjoying it a lot. I'll be writing the review, so I'll save my thoughts on the game itself until then.

I wanted to address a more immediate issue that's affected countless gamers all over the world, namely the atrociously planned release of the PC version of the game. Normally, the PC version of the game is the way to go. Assuming you have a reasonably current system, the graphics will look better, the game will probably control more fluidly, and you'll have access to user mods that can extend any game's life significantly. However, in the case of BioShock, I'm tempted to say that if you have the choice, you should either wait a month or two to buy the game, or buy the XBox 360 version.

The PC version stumbled out of the gate with a host of problems. First were the litany of activation headaches related to SecuROM's activation. Many gamers were unable to activate the game, and the SecuROM protection had a limit on the number of time the game could be re-installed. Gamers who downloaded the game from Steam were also greeted with activation headaches. Personally, I purchased the game from Direct2Drive (which I prefer over Steam because you actually get the game files, just like a retail copy, which is useful for tweaking and mods) and didn't have any troubles with the activation. But my headaches were yet to come.

The PC version of BioShock is buggy. And I don't mean a few minor bugs here and there. I mean this game crashes more than a blind ballerina. Just tonight, in only a few hours' play, I was treated to three hard freezes (requiring a system restart) and two crashes to desktop. I find myself unable to get truly immersed in the game because the crashes are so frequent. I have to quicksave every couple of minutes just for peace of mind, which, since the quicksaves bring up a save screen, really hurts my sense of immersion in the game.

One thing I really pride myself on is that I run a stable rig. But I'm only human, so I checked online to see if anyone else was having issues with freezes and crashes. Turns out the developers' boards were ablaze with angry gamers demanding a prompt patch to fix widespread stability problems. 

But there's another issue that irks me just a bit, which is the fact that despite what appears to be a widespread issue, the game got high-flying scores across the board. Now, I am certainly enjoying the game, despite having to restart my computer every now and then. But countless games have been penalized for the most minor bugs, and now BioShock, released with months of fever-pitch hype, gets a free pass. Now, it's possible that not everyone reviewing the game is having issues. But it seems like most of the reviews came from the 360 version, with just an aside talking about the changes to the interface to suit the PC.

I'm sure these issues will ultimately be resolved, but it's a slap in the face to PC gamers – especially fans of System Shock who really looked forward to this game – to release the game with some major stability problems. I can overlook the occassional AI glitch or scripting bug, but when a game crashes randomly and repeatedly (I was, on some occasions, able to duplicate the crashes), it's pretty tough to enjoy it. And it's especially irresponsible on the part of critics to get sucked in by the hype and overlook these issues.