How Resident Evil 4 Influenced BioShock

“During playtesting for that opening, we’d have people go in the corner and put there heads down or stare at the vending machine and do all this other stuff. Meanwhile, there’s this awesome cutscene where the big daddy is smashing this splicer’s head through the glass. We wanted to make sure you saw that stuff.”

In an effort to get players to focus on key scenes, Garnder contemplated the possibility of using a more traditional and controlled cutscene style.

“I remember saying to [BioShock director] Ken [Levine], ‘You know, occasionally Resident Evil does take control of the camera here and there. This is an important scene. Don’t you think that maybe for a couple of sequences we can take control?’” asked Gardner. “Ken put his hand on my shoulders and he goes, ‘You know, we’re doing this for a bunch of reasons. The second you do that, the directors, the creators, the designers, are putting their hand on the player’s shoulder and saying, ‘You’re going to be safe, you can’t be hurt here.’”

Levine’s desire to keep the player in control echoes the sentiments of studios like Valve who believe that turning the player into a viewer is a tremendous blow to immersion. It’s a complicated approach to game design that often requires designers to go the extra mile in terms of crafting effective scenes that allow the player to retain freedom of movement.

While that is certainly a broad example of how a game like Resident Evil 4 showed the BioShock team what did – and didn’t – work for their vision, the game’s influence can also be felt in smaller ways.

“We got to a point when we were looking at Resident Evil’s interface for the inventory,” said Gardner. “There was a long debate about whether we wanted to use a similar inventory system. If you look at System Shock 2, it had that Tetris-like interface that has you try to maximize what you’re carrying around. We thought having that kind of Tetris-y mobile interface might be an issue, so we spent a lot of time studying Resident Evil and the way people reacted to it.”

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