Shooter Difficulty Levels (especially BioShock)

Trying to figure out what difficulty level a pseudo-advanced gamer should be using is not straight forward nowadays.

I’m about to start Bioshock, and was reminded how easy Half-Life 2 felt on “Medium”. After breezing through Rise of Legends on “Medium”, I later found out it’s AI’s super unit creation ability was limited on the “regular” difficulty level - as another example. So for the full-out challenge, you should have played on Hard.

Of course, in games of past, even the “Normal” difficulty levels were insane. Plenty of games just cheated like hell to make your gaming experience miserable if you didn’t choose the “I totally Suck” level.

So… where does Bioshock fit into this spectrum? Is hard insane, or is it geared towards careful gamers who want the full experience? Is the Normal level truly Normal, or is it geared to players who don’t want a good challenge?

I want to get it right first time through, not get halfway around and decide, “Hmm this is way too hard or easy”.

note… I wish more developers would put some kind of note about which difficulty level gives the best game-play experience for people who aren’t Mr. Fatality but are still pretty good.

With bioshock you can change the difficulty at any time, the challenge seems to increase several levels in when enemies seem to become more resistant to damage. There were some frustrating sections, but overall it never got to “throw your controller against the wall” hard

Easy is REALLY easy. Your grandma could play on easy and never die.

Medium is pretty easy. Your niece could play on medium. I play on medium and I haven’t died yet, at the farmer’s market now.

Hard starts off nicely challenging then quickly escalates into a total bitch. It forces an entirely different style of play, where you use the environment to your advantage, lure enemies into turrets, that sort of thing. You still get infinite lives, so it’s pretty forgiving. It’s just a different game.

Really it depends on how you prefer to play.

Figures. Sounds like I’d fit right smack in between Medium and Hard.

Thanks guys. I asked here because I’ve avoided all press and info (except the copy protect stuff) on BioShock - as I wanted the same System Shock 2 experience I had years ago. I liked SS2 pre-patch, when your weapons degraded as the dev’s intended and you had to be super careful. You were scared shitless the whole game. Almost sounds like Hard is what you’re supposed to play at… if you’re forced to use the environment etc.

pfreak, what difficulty are you playing at?

[I]<<note>>

I’ve got to get my playtime in before my wife gets home in a few hours. She thinks the game sounds too scary and evil. Hehe.[/I]

A wise man once said - "Bioshock kicked my ass on Hard within an hour of installing. I mean, handed me my ass in a hat and asked me, “would you like a cup to collect your tears with that?” I believe he said it on this very forum, in fact!

But if you never die on Medium, doesn’t that take some of the scary stress out of the game?

Scary Stress - the only term I can come up with to describe the actual fear that your in-game character will die. I think the last time I really felt that was in System Shock 2.

To me, it very much feels like Bioshock’s gameplay was designed around Hard difficulty. You really just don’t get the same feel at all by playing on Normal, and you might as well read a book, watch tv, and propagate the species while you play the game on Easy. I’ve not seen a game so utterly deflated by its Easy mode, which is what my wife insists on playing…which is funny, considering she’s an amazing FPS player. I think it’s mostly because she’s on unfamiliar ground with a single player game, as not one single-player FPS has ever been good enough to catch and hold her attention. Up until Bioshock, she was strictly a multiplayer gamer, but I can’t get her off the 360 and out of Rapture…and I’m hungry. I might have to…make…my…own…food! U-Invent!

Well, you can forget about that in Bioshock. Irrational was, apparently, very scared of frustrating players, so the Vita-Chambers pretty much negate any fear of dying. In fact, they can often be used as crutches and to conserve ammo/health/eve, if a Big Daddy happens to be tromping nearby to one.

I love/hate the Vita-Chambers, actually. I love not having to sit through a reload of a savegame and then replay however much game has elapsed since I last saved. (This usually means I spend half my game time saving, which I am compelled to do, due to absolutely hating having to replay a bit I just went through.) I never felt the need to constantly save my game in Bioshock and could, therefore, get totally immersed in the experience.

That said, of course, the Vita-Chambers have their downside. First, the fear of death is absolutely removed entirely. Second, and perhaps worse, they can be used as a crutch, even unintentionally. I may not want to be revived at the Vita-Chamber, for example, but I haven’t saved in an hour and I just died and, well, this Big Daddy killed me and he’s awfully nearby the Vita-Chamber, and I’m low on Health and Eve…you know the drill.

The latter problem could have easily been solved if there was at least an option that you could toggle, allowing for enemies to heal whenever you respawn at the Vita-Chamber. That way, the crutch capability would be removed completely. You couldn’t exploit them to conserve ammo and health/eve, and you couldn’t use them to slowly pick off enemies from a difficult area by rushing in, killing one or two, dying, respawning, repeat, etc…Why they didn’t include a “Heal Enemies When Respawning” option is quite beyond me, actually.

Be sure to hack it first so you don’t have to collect so much raw materials. ;)

jpinard, I think you should just start out on Medium and if it feels too easy after a few hours, kick it up a notch.

I played the demo on normal and actually found it pretty damn hard. Not so much because it’s hard in the traditional sense (I don’t even know what that means), but because the enemies move so goddamn fast. They’d be right in front of me and I’d miss with Incinerate, and then they’d get the first swing at me. Enemies running at the speed of sound + me trying in vain to keep up + dark = me sucking. Ass.

Spending time playing nothing but GoW, R6 Vegas, and GRAW2 have gimped my Quake-speed skills. The Halo 3 Beta was probably the fastest thing I’ve played in the past year and that’s like molasses and toffee compared to BioShock.

I started on Hard, then moved down to Medium based on comments in these forums…now I’m waffling on what to do.

I’ll probably finish my first play on Medium, then replay on Hard.

Regarding Vita-Chambers…in SS2 I never used the respawning (though they were usually not as conveniently located), and one downside was that I was pretty much saving every few seconds. It was pretty immersion-breaking.

Hard all the way here, about 1/2 or more through. I do like this level pretty well. As for the Vita chambers, on Hard I think it would be rather tough to kill Big Daddies reliably without them, though I’m sure the more skilled can do that. Me, every fight with a Daddie requires at least three or four revives…

Use the trap bolts! They do remarkable damage to the Big Daddy, if you manage to lead him through a few of them. Lace the ground with some proximity mines, then grab your shotgun and ElectroBolt and you’re set.

Since I refuse to use Vita-Chambers, I’m playing on medium. Difficulty works out pretty nicely. Big Daddy fights are tough, and during many I end up having to reload at least once. I like the challenge of having to figure out how to take them down without the respawn crutch.

So the enemies don’t regenerate health when you use a vita chamber, even on hard difficulty?

Nope, they sure don’t.

I agree with you, enemies move alot faster and standard FPS tactics don’t work here (strafing, circling, good old running straight into them). I must have missed more then half of my shots on my first time thru. That’s the main reason I stuck with melee for the majority of my run, as they can’t really dodge a wrench to the face.

jpinard, I was on hard for the entire time, the middle of the game was very unforgiving and got pretty hard. Near the end I was so strong in melee I was able to beat down almost any enemy with the exception of big daddies. Also my plasmid/tonic loadout had a huge affect on my available tactics. A 2nd run with different plasmids might prove easier or harder then my first.

I read in a review that Bioshock uses the same bad death system of Prey: you respawn at no penalty and can continue dying and pushing till you progress even at zero skill.

I ranted to no end about this system from the design perspective so I’m not going to repeat all that. The point is that I understand it’s done to avoid downtimes due to reloading and progress lost, but the system completely removes the challenge.

And it’s particularly bad also because it would be so easy to fix while retaining the positive aspects: just heal (and respawn in some cases) the monsters and the challenge would be preserved while letting me retry without downtimes.

It’s quite surprising that only a few reviews point this out.

Wasn’t there some mini-game in Prey in which you had to earn your health back or something?

I haven’t used a Vita-Chamber yet, on medium, but that’s probably more due to my ingrained quick-load reflex action. Things are still tense enough, since I don’t particularly want to have to reload.