Return to Rapture: The original BioShock is coming to iOS this summer
No gods or kings, only man and his iPad. 2K announced ton Monday that it's porting the original BioShock to iOS devices, with a release " later this summer." 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 sizable 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.