BioShock

BioShock
BioShock Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3
Genre The Big Daddy of Shooters
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 9
Fun Factor: 10
Gfx/Sound: 10
Story: 8
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BioShock is a first-person shooter released in 2007 for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Many moons back, I reviewed the first hour of BioShock in a series of Xbox 360 reviews I did while borrowing my friend's system. I enjoyed the game immensely, but sadly, it was the one game I borrowed that I didn't beat (I even wasted my time playing all the way through Assassin's Creed). I'm not sure why I didn't choose to play through it, though I think I was actually scared. BioShock is a dystopian game set underwater with tons of crazed lunatics running around with masks on, not to mention its the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, considered one of the scariest games of all time by fans. So my wits got the better of me and I set it aside until now, and with my own Xbox 360 on the shelf and a copy of BioShock in my hand, I headed back into Rapture.

Waiting to play it was probably the best possible outcome, however. Late last year, I read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. When I first played BioShock, I had no idea who Rand was, what Objectivism is, and what any of that has to do with a first-person shooter. Well, now I've done my reading and I can honestly say I understand everything marginally more than I would have if I hadn't read the books. Anyways, I can definitely sense that BioShock is far more ambitious than just being a unique shooter with plasmids and great physics.

Here's my full review of BioShock for the Xbox 360.

What was awesome: Rapture. BioShock's world is a living, breathing, and one hell of a scary place. You can interact with nearly everything: break bottles, smash glass, and knock trash around. Then you start encountering enemies, and gathering plasmids, and you begin to realize just how deep the game is. The game's scripted events are some of the best I've ever seen. See a cool object on the ground? When you pick it up you'll undoubtedly set off an event that may toss a bunch of splicers at you, or even a Big Daddy. The game's entire story is also presented to you in the first-person view, there's only one cutscene I can think of at the very beginning of the game where you don't actually have control of at least your head. 2K Games did an amazing job at this.

Rapture is also a very creepy place. Its civilized world has collapsed and splicers hide in every corner, brandishing knives, guns, and their own limited plasmids. I really felt like I was in Rapture the whole time I was playing. The environments do such a great such grabbing you, immersing you in their world, and not letting go. Former citizens left voice diaries littered about, listening to them reveals the wonders of pre-war Rapture, the ruthless capitalism exploited during the plasmid arms race, and of the aftermath. The power vacuums left behind when someone prominent kicked the bucket, the development of the Big Daddies and Little Sisters, and many, many death screams.

So many of the game's battles are epic encounters. There are hordes of enemies when the going gets rough, but luckily you have a lot of ways to fight back. There's nearly an infinite number of ways to duke it out, I preferred sticking it to them with my wrench or setting them on fire, but it's up to you. It's all just so satisfying whatever method you choose. Big Daddies shooting grenades at you? Grab them mid-air with the telekenesis plasmid and toss them back at them. A group of splicers wading through knee-deep water? Zap the water with the Electro Bolt plasmid and they'll all fry to death. Bots got you down? Hack them and create your own army of them. The choices are staggering.

Like I mentioned above, I read Atlas Shrugged a few months before I played BioShock. Many would say this is a scalding critique of the novel, but I'm not sure I would agree with that so quickly. It will make you think though, especially if you're familiar with Ayn Rand's philosophy. I often found myself stopping to ponder characters' reasonings and action. While the main character is a bit more fleshed out than in most first-person shooters, the real stars are Andrew Ryan himself and Rapture. As Ryan says, "It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the ocean, it was impossible to build it anywhere else."

BioShock features a deep, well thought out story, at least for the first two-thirds of the game. I'll talk about the last third (spoiler free) later on, but everything just comes together so perfectly early on. Atlas and scattered audio diaries lead you on, revealing the story ever so slowly. You're constantly begging for more, searching every nick and cranny for information, reading the grafitti, heck, just staring at the beautiful art-deco architecture says more about the history of Rapture than anything in the instruction manual could.

Bioshock No Gods Or Kings Only Man

What I liked: While the wrench was a bit overpowered throughout the game, BioShock also offers an array of other weapons: pistols, shotguns, grenade launcher, etc., all with secondary fire and sometimes a third. You can equip your pistol with regular bullets or armor piercing (great for the Big Daddies), and the shotguns offer up an electric buckshot. All the ammo has a purpose and the game is usually willing to give you some time to figure out how you want to tackle a set of enemies. That's really the core of the game, while it can be pretty easy with so much health at your disposal, many of the fights are like puzzles. Can you get all these little humans to take out that Big Daddy for you? Probably, and that's the glory of the game.

With plasmids mapped to the L button and weapons to the R button, it's easy to switch between the two equipped attacks very easily. Early on, you're instructed to electrocute the splicers and then whack them with the wrench. Atlas calls it the old one-two punch. What would be great would be the ability to actually dual-wield plasmids and weapons, but the game limits you to only having one hand up at a time. I hear this is something they're working on for BioShock 2 though.

What I didn't like: Even a game like BioShock isn't perfect, so here come my few complaints. There's surprisingly very few types of enemies in the game. Basically, there's maybe five different types of humans, which attack you in different ways, whether it's with grenades or simply jumping down from the ceiling at you, you'll have them figured out pretty quickly. Then there's the machinery in the game, a stationary turret gun and a flying bot. These enemies are actually hackable, so you can use them against your enemies. Finally, there's the Big Daddies. They're strong and imposing, and generally require an actual strategy to defeat them. Sometimes you'll have the room to maneuver around and bait them from point to point, but sometimes you'll be forced to fight in a small room or stairwell, which requires entirely different thinking! While each encounter with any enemy is different, it would have been nice to see some more variation. Especially since the humans (splicers) go down with a couple of powered up wrench hits.

I mentioned above that the first two-thirds of the game featured an amazing story that almost feels like a pseudo-sequel to Atlas Shrugged itself. At a certain point, however (and you'll know which point I'm talking about if you've played the game), things... change. There's a big revelation, and your end goal is suddenly much, much different than it was before. It's not necessarily all bad, but I would have personally flipped the two major encounters around. Maybe someday I'll write an editorial about this.

One of the big advertised features of BioShock was that there were real moral choices to be had and that they greatly affected the game. Essentially, you can either rescue or harvest the Little Sisters that are being protected by Big Daddies, and depending on what you choose, the game might be easier or more difficult. I chose to rescue them all, and that was supposedly going to limit me in the amount of plasmids or upgrades I could buy, but I never had an issue with it. Honestly, from what I read the only real difference might be some in-game dialogue from one particular character and the short, rendered ending cutscenes. Too bad.

Bioshock Wrench Splicer

Scores

Gameplay: 9
A very solid first-person shooter experience. Even with the number of weapons and plasmids available to you, things never get out of hand. My only complaint is that things are simply too easy. I was never in danger of dying. There's always the super hard difficulty with no respawning available though...

Fun Factor: 10
So much to explore, so much to find, engrossing characters, and epic battle after epic battle. BioShock is frightening fun.

Graphics and Sound: 10
A believable in-game atmosphere requires a strong narrative, but it doesn't hurt to have to have excellent graphics with great art direction, and superb sound design. The voice actors are top notch and the soundtrack is haunting.

Story: 8
Very strong early on, but loses some momentum late, BioShock's story is still a force to be reckoned with. Ken Levine and his team did their philosophy homework.

Overall: 9
BioShock paints a world I would honestly want to live in, before its fall of course. It's a glorious game that swings for the fences and delivers. Everything came together for this game, and while it falls a bit short of what I believe it could have been, I was still not disappointed. BioShock is one of the best games of the last few years. Buy it.

Bioshock Big Daddy Little Sister Strangle

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