Bioshock Audio Part Two: I figured it out
In a follow-up to the post from two days ago: I've figured out a big part of what makes the audio seem weird in Bioshock remastered.
In short: it has better environmental occlusion. And even though this is more realistic, it's also messing around with the soundscape of the original game.
So what's environmental occlusion? Well, basically, it's when objects in the game environment get in the way of the player's vision...or in this case hearing. For example, if a sound is happening on the other side of a wall I'm standing in front of, it should probably be muted or perhaps silent entirely.
The original Bioshock wasn't mixed like this though. You get to hear enemies' voices and music and environmental sound coming from a more or less constantly- fixed bubble around your location. Sometimes sounds are scripted to happen at specific moments, but otherwise if you're close enough...you'll hear it!
The sounds in Bioshock remastered seem muted because now the environment is taken into effect.
This is easily noticed in the medical pavilion, the first proper level of the game. Early in the level, the game forces you to explore a bit to find the incinerate and telekinesis powers. You'll pass under a sign that says Eternal Flame (a funeral home advertisement) and there's a lady pounding on a door screaming stuff at a man behind it. When you get close enough, that man throws a grenade and the door and the lady go flying.
You can hear that lady screaming at the dude from very far away in the original versions of the game. It adds some intrigue to that area, and hearing her voice first makes it both more interesting and more scary to go explore that area.
In Bioshock remastered, you won't hear her screaming and pounding on the door until you've already taken a few steps into that region. There's a small wall running along the entrance, and it seems to almost totally occlude her voice, which is still working otherwise correctly behind the wall.
That's how I figured it out, and this same "issue" presents itself throughout the newer version of the game. Is it "bad?" No. But it's different than the original artistic intent, and in "fixing" the occlusion problems with the audio, the developers changed several little audio moments.
It's still a very good remake of a very fun game. But it's not quite a one-to-one match for the experience of playing the original. I'm also probably being a little too picky. It's rare to see developers have a chance to take on an old property with brand new tech and art, and I think that's a good thing, personally. But maybe they could also include the original more often, a la Halo Anniversary?
If you're wondering why there's a lack of images in these Bioshock articles, I was most recently playing the Xbox One version of the game...and they've disabled the Xbox's capture features. I could still take screens on PS4 and Steam, but not on Xbox! So that's great.