I never played the original System Shocks 1 and 2. By the time I heard how awesome they were, Windows 98 was a distant memory and that was that. I did, however, spend many an hour working and reading through the massive interactive literary masterpiece that was the original Deus Ex. If I sound gushing, it’s because I really do think Deus Ex remains the best game yet made in its genre. I have yet to come across.
So discovering Bioshock has been a real pleasure, because it contains that same sense of story discovery, and a similar level of rich references to literature and philosophy. It does not contain as much volume of content, the themes are not as mature as Deus Ex, and ethical choices are fewer (really there is only one). Where Deus Ex was a response to singularitarian philosophy (if I can lump Drexler, Kurzweil and others into this category), Bioshock seems to be very much exclusively about Ayn Rand’s ideas. “Who is Atlas?” says it all, really. I’m only halfway through, so please no spoilers.
It’s been a long time, and I suspect it will be another long wait before a similar masterpiece makes it through the games industry filter.