Bioshock Infinite and “1999 Mode”

Having first developed the game System Shock 2 in 1999, the game developer Irrational Games is looking to “retro-fit” their newest  installment in the Bioshock franchise by implementing features of their first game.

The full article can be seen at this link.

The 1999 mode in Bioshock Infinite is intended to give more weight to player choices by emphasizing the permanence of which skills the player develops and which upgrades are chosen. Although this game play mechanic may not seem like such a big hurdle to overcome, the scarcity of resources such as ammo and money to buy upgrades forces players to choose a specific path; you cannot become a “jack-of-all-trades”.

Sacrificing the general readiness for a specific skill set, the 1999 mode forces players to conform to a method of play according to the choices they made early in the game. For example, if a player chooses to develop weapons use and upgrade the magnum specifically, it severely affects the ability to improve plasmid powers or even skill with another gun.

Due to the specific nature of the 1999 difficulty, players will often see a “game over” screen if they do not learn the proper way of playing the game that the developers intended for the player-specific path. On top of that? There’s no reverting the difficulty in this mode and the only way to go back is to restart the game under a different difficulty.

I get it. This mode was meant to be hard. But this also raises a couple questions. How can the player know which upgrades to choose that matches their future playing style without trial and error or even the luxury of failure? Have video games begun to coddle us too much? Bioshock Infinite looks like a promising buy if you’re looking for a game that’s willing to kick you while you’re down. And even if you’re not, it’ll be interesting to watch where this notion of “1999” takes us in future games.