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BioShock: Graphics & Performance

Widescreen...

Of course, the PC version is not just jelly and ice cream and there are a few serious gripes that many people in the bit-tech community have been quite vocal on. We've certainly seen the brute of it and we hear you, peeps!

The first gripe that came up is the now infamous widescreen "problem", which caused a pretty big uproar on most remotely-related forums, including in bit-tech's community.

Initially it wasn’t something the sceptic in me wanted to believe was a big problem and I have to say that Joe and I didn't find the lack of FOV an issue as it can be argued that the game's claustrophobic nature benefited from the narrow field of view.

Anyway, the uproar was significant enough for 2K Games to issue a statement about the problem, which we've truncated below:

"BioShock was primarily developed and tuned for widescreen mode. Artists and designers worked with widescreen displays and chose a field of view (FOV) that best reflected their intentions with respect to the way the world is perceived, the perceived speed of movement of the player relative to the world and the amount of the world they wanted to be viewed for the best game-play experience. We went through dozens of iterations and finally settled upon a widescreen aspect ratio that best suited the gameplay experience...

BioShock: Graphics & Performance To crop or not to crop BioShock: Graphics & Performance To crop or not to crop
Click to enlarge

"... Once this FOV was established, we chose to keep exactly the same horizontal FOV for standard def displays, so as not to in any way alter the gameplay experience.

"Instead of cropping the FOV for 4:3 displays and making all 4:3 owners mad in doing so, we slightly extended the vertical FOV for standard def mode: we never wanted to have black bars on people’s displays. (This way, everybody is happy…) This does mean that people playing on a standard def display see slightly more vertical space, but, this does not significantly affect the game-play experience and, we felt that it best served our goal of keeping the game experience as close as possible to the original design and art vision on both types of displays."


That, was that, as they say. Or, at least, you'd think that was the end of it...

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it, that wasn't the end of the story. A keen enthusiast from the Widescreen Gaming Forum came up with a field of view hack, proving that the game could run at the correct widescreen aspect ratio without the top and bottom of the screen "chopped off".

BioShock: Graphics & Performance To crop or not to crop BioShock: Graphics & Performance To crop or not to crop
Standard Field of View vs. Wide Field of View - Click to enlarge

Having sat down and used the patch, I have to say that it does improve the gaming experience and makes it all the more immersive, if a little less claustrophobic. We've included a couple of screenshots comparing the different field of views above – for the correct 16:10 FOV, we used 0.833 / 0.833 on the sliders in the patch. Not surprisingly, these developments resulted in 2K Games issuing another statement:

"And as for widescreen, we also want to say we completely understand a user's desire to augment their FOV. BioShock is a harrowing experience, but we don't want anyone to feel limited (or motion sick!). So we are in the process of working on an official PC patch to give widescreen PC users a choice to expand their horizontal FOV, and are investigating creating a similar update for the 360."