Once in awhile you’ll play a game so groundbreaking that it will leave you in absolute amazement. I finished Bioshock on Thursday, and I’ve been wondering how I can possibly begin to describe the experience. First I have to say this game really isn’t for everyone. Not everyone will appreciate or understand some of the things in the game. Even though it wasn’t made for the majority, the game still gained a massive amount of hype and has certainly lived up to it. Check MetaCritic and you’ll find that Bioshock has one of the HIGHEST game critic aggregate scores in recent history if not all time. It’s out for Xbox 360 and Windows only, but I recommend the 360 version unless you have an excellent PC gaming rig. If you have any sort of interest in playing a videogame that provides a peculiar but engrossing experience, Bioshock is definitely worth at least a look.
Irrational Games which is now known simply as 2K Boston and 2K Australia has crafted a wonderful and artistic game. The game engine is Unreal 3 technology and it looks absolutely superb. The effects are astonishing, the art deco art and architecture are beautifully crafted, and the settings are unlike anything you’ve seen in a first person shooter. Beyond the graphics, you’ll find audio logs with radio transmissions throughout the game that convey a lot of backstory and give you hints as to what is going on. It’s not entirely necessary, but I recommend you listen to every audio log you come across otherwise you’ll miss out on a lot of the story. Bioshock is more than just a first person shooter, it’s a mystery and it’s up to you to find out what’s going on.
The year is 1960. Somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, you’ll wake up to find that your plane has crashed into icy uncharted waters. Through the smoke and ashes, you’ll discover a lighthouse that sits on a small island…and so Bioshock begins. Welcome to Rapture. As you take what’s called a bathysphere down into the murky ocean depths, a man named Andrew Ryan will begin to narrate what Rapture is all about. He has built this underwater city as a way to escape the confines of the world. It is a place of total freedom, where capitalism is unhindered, where people are free from the meddling of governments, where science can flourish unbound by ethics or morals, and where every dream can be realized. As you descend into the city, you can see that something has gone horribly wrong. Look past the facade and you can see that the scientists, artists, and industrialists that once inhabited the city have endured something terrible.
The idealism that Andrew Ryan dreamed of is no more. Rapture is littered with destruction, rotting corpses, creepy little girls that loot bodies, and mutated citizens called splicers roam the tattered hallways. You begin to realize that the society here persists in a state of decadence because somewhere along the way, an experiment went wrong. What are those little girls doing sticking giant syringes into people anyway? Why did this beautiful city fall to such ruin?
First you have to understand about ADAM and EVE. ADAM is mostly to blame for what’s going on in Rapture. Apparently the people of Rapture crave the stuff and will do whatever it takes to get it including murder. It’s a substance that allows you to gain plasmids which are sort of like special powers. Bioshock is heavy on character customization. You have a limited number of upgradeable slots that you can unlock in time. You can get plasmids that shoot electricity and fire out of your hands and though there are many different types, you’ll find that these two are generally the most useful. Incinerate is particularly fun as you can melt ice which looks very cool and burn your enemies to the ground. Watch out though because they’ll run to the nearest body of water to put themselves out. Just switch to your Electro Bolt plasmid to shock them to death while they wade in the water. There are also passive tonics in the game which serve to enhance your physical strength, enable you to run faster, or upgrade a variety of character attributes. It’s all very similar to Deus Ex or Deus Ex 2 and the nanomodifications in that game.
You have EVE which is similar to mana and it is used to charge plasmids for use. ADAM is collected mainly from those creepy little girls that walk around the game rambling about angels. You’ll reach a point in the game where you have to make a decision. Do you harvest them or save them? This fits in nicely with Andrew Ryan’s theme of freedom. If you choose to harvest the little girl, you’ll get 160 ADAM and be well on your way to getting the evil ending for the game. If you choose to save the little girl, you’ll get 80 ADAM and if you continue to save every little girl you encounter, you’ll get the good ending for the game. Be aware though that each Little Sister is guarded by what’s called a Big Daddy, a hulking monstrosity that will attack you if you get too close to a Little Sister. A Big Daddy is rather hard to defeat at first but it gets easier as you become more powerful. Luckily, the game has a very forgiving system. There are Vita Chambers throughout the game that act like checkpoints and also will heal you and give you some EVE back when you are killed. Furthermore, enemies don’t automatically go back to full health if you die. That means if you’ve been hammering away at a Big Daddy but die as you are one shot away from taking it down, you can come back and finish it with one shot. Bioshock doesn’t punish you with death penalities. Some may find that this is somewhat of a handicap and it takes away a lot of skill from the game. I’m a seasoned veteran of first person shooters yet I never found it to be a crutch.
There are also weapons that you get throughout the game like a machine gun which is basically a tommy gun or a grenade launcher which looks like it’s been pieced together from random things. Since it is 1960, don’t expect any high tech gadgets such as in Half Life 2. The problem with many of the weapons in the game is that they don’t exactly feel as strong as they should. A shotgun blast from point blank range should be able to level an enemy splicer yet later in the game for whatever reason, it takes about three shots. Enemies get harder for no reason and there are no cues as to why this happens. You’ll also find that enemies only come in a few variations. They’re mostly all splicers with some gimmick and the enemies get boring really quickly. At first you’ll feel fear as you hear the sounds of a splicer coming at you or a splicer moaning about the trials and tribulations of Rapture. Later it becomes sort of like a Doom 3 run and gun as you instinctively just fire without caring what enemy is coming at you. Since weapons become less effective, you’ll end up using plasmids more, and I’m not quite sure if this is what 2k Games intended. You could conceivably go throughout the whole game using the tactic of shocking an enemy and beating them with a wrench but there are many ways to do combat. The variety is what I like most about Bioshock. There are just so many indirect ways to do things, it’s great that you aren’t forced to use one or two weapons because it’s the absolute best way to kill your enemies.
The game also does a good job of keeping you on track with three things. You have an arrow that points to the direction you should be going to achieve your objectives, you have a detailed map to look at, and you have game hints in case you get stuck. These helping hands are both good and bad. It’s pretty much impossible to get lost or not know what you should be doing in the game. However, you might not explore everything the game has to offer if you just follow the arrow which would be a shame because Rapture has breathtaking locales that are begging for exploration. This might not be a problem to gamers that are naturally curious and like to explore an environment.
As you walk down the dilapidated hallways you’ll catch great views of the sea and of Rapture from windows, and you’ll notice that everywhere you look, water is dripping and eroding away Rapture. This is where I have to praise the developers for doing such a great job with the water. It looks so incredible…absolutely the best water I’ve ever seen in a videogame. The atmosphere that is created is also quite good, particularly because of the sound. Take some time and just stop to listen to some of the sound effects. The music is mainly wonderful set pieces from the sixties and the splicers sound like people driven insane. Listening to one of them is kind of sad. These splicers are not zombies, they’re still normal people. They’ve just fallen into an unstable state as they’re trapped in this underwater city with their ideals and dreams crushed. It’s almost as if they want you to put them out of their misery as they rush at you screaming “Don’t judge me!” You’ll hear a voice over at some point in the game say “Why do they wear the masks? Maybe there’s a part of them that remembers how they used to be, how they used to look, and they’re ashamed.”
Everything blends together so well in Bioshock. The developers have really worked hard to create a compelling piece of interactive fiction. It’s really more than just a typical game, it will leave a lasting impression on you. The best aspect of Bioshock is the story with all the twists and turns. All the elements work together so well as the plot and characters are carefully fleshed out. Andrew Ryan in particular is an excellent character with the vocal gravitas of a real life leader rallying for change and freedom. You may think he is absolutely crazy with delusions of grandeur but much of what he says is quite persuasive. He claims Rapture was not impossible to build underwater, it was impossible to build anywhere else. As you look around the city, you have to agree that a place like Rapture would meet with strong opposition in the real world. There are apparently lots of Ayn Rand references throughout the game which I can’t pick up on since I’ve never read any of the books. I have to say I was a little disappointed that the ending was so abrupt for a game that spends such a considerable amount of time building up a deep story. Other than the very few flaws in the game, Bioshock is a monumental game design achievement. 2K Games and Irrational Games have raised the bar and every first person shooter from here on out will be measured up against Bioshock. They have succeeded in creating an original game unlike the usual derivative sequels or hackneyed first person shooters. After playing this game, you wonder how you can go back to playing anything else that isn’t this amazing.
Now, “would you kindly” go and play Bioshock?
Please check IGN and Gamespot for their excellent reviews as well.
Here is a video review from GameTrailers.com taken from YouTube
Original Link: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/23824.html