|Platforms||Xbox 360, Windows, PS3|
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
|Score||9 Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 9
|Buy from Amazon|
BioShock was widely heralded as the 2007 game of the year. I always pay close attention to games labeled as such because they're generally important to video game history and have great influence on the industry. BioShock seems like it will be no exception. It's a first-person shooter for the PC and Xbox 360 and is set on the dystopian underwater city called Rapture. Our hero unwittingly arrives there and must uncover Rapture's dark secrets while staying alive. Rapture was built by Andrew Ryan, an Objectivist who attempts to fulfill his dream society under the sea. Things obviously don't go smoothly.
BioShock has sold millions, won a ton of awards, and probably has a ton of sequels on the way. But how does the first hour of it fare? Let's dive into BioShock and experience Rapture.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I start a New Game and the first thing to do is set the game's brightness level. BioShock wants to be very dark but I compromise with it and find an appropriate level. Loading... 1960 in the Mid-Atlantic. We're on an airplane, a man is talking about his life and looking at some pictures in front of him and smokes a cigarette. Suddenly there are screams and the plane goes down! The BioShock logo appears, dripping with water.
01 - I'm in the water, drowning. Parts of the plane are whizzing past me at intense speeds. Fire laces the top of the water. Awesome looking water and flame effects. I have control now and have to make my way through the wreckage.
02 - I swim by the plane slowly sinking into the water and make my way towards a lighthouse sticking out of the ocean. It is the only way to go.
03 - I enter and the doors shut behind me, it's completely dark. Suddenly the lights come on illuminating a sign, "No Gods or Kings. Only Man."
04 - I make my way down the stairs and into a bathysphere waiting for me. I pull the lever and descend. Suddenly a sixties-esque video starts playing. It's Andrew Ryan! Who?
05 - Andrew begins the video by defending the common man against the state and church. The video cuts away and we get a beautiful look at Rapture, his underwater city. It truly looks awesome. Science holds no morals here. His words, not mine.
06 - There's whales and squids swimming through the underwater skyscrapers. Neon signs flicker all over. The art design is incredible. The designers have perfectly captured this era that I can not properly put into words. The bathysphere docks and we go to the loading screen.
07 - A couple of men are talking over the radio. There's a man outside my vessel's window. Two actually, and I watch in horror as one guts the other in a bloody mess. The guy has claws for hands. He jumps on my vessel and starts ripping at it! Sparks and screeching, a frightening earful.
08 - The man runs away, phew. I pick up a radio and a man named Atlas starts talking to me as I leave the bathysphere.
09 - I'm looking out the windows now, a great sight. There's moaning and heavy breathing all around, scary atmosphere. A sign that says "Ryan doesn't own us." A "splicer" appears in front of me but then a flying robot chases him off.
10 - I pick up a wrench and knock away some rubble. As I start climbing a staircase someone throws a flaming couch down to me. I attempt to jump over it!
11 - At the top of the stairs is a deranged looking man, we duel with wrenches and I win with two devastating blows to the noggin. I search his body and take a first aid kit.
12 - I'm able to beat down on the surroundings with my wrench, it's quite powerful. In something that looks like a vending machine I find a large needle with a red substance in it. For some insane reason I put it into my forearm!? Why would I do that? My hands start glowing and I collapse over the balcony.
13 - I'm out cold and some splicers appear over me. They mention that it looks like my cherry has been popped.
14 - The splicers run off in fear as a giant walks up, and then a little girl. The girl has a large needle, but she sees that I'm still breathing and they walk away. What a truly frightening sequence of events. I stand up and my left hand has sparks running through it, I can now throw electricity!
15 - Wow! I throw lightning at a door panel to override the controls, as I step into the tunnel, part of the plane crashes through! I have to crawl through part of the fuselage to continue, all the while it seems like the entire tunnel could collapse from the water pressure. What an awesome scene.
17 - In the shadows I can see a splicer run by, on the radio Atlas tells me to give him the one-two punch, lightning and then wrench. I miss with the electricity a few times but eventually get my point across.
18 - I have two bars on my screen, one for health, the other for plasmid power. When my plasmid power runs out I inject myself again. Man, I do not think I could handle this needle-driven world.
19 - An elevator in front of me collapses in a flaming mess and a man on fire runs out. I put him out of his misery. Poor chap. I take the other elevator up. Atlas starts telling me about his family and how he's cut off from them. He asks for my help. I don't think I have a choice but to help. I have to head to Neptune's bounty.
20 - I hear a woman's voice softly singing and in the shadows can see her over a baby carriage. Someone sane?
21 - Nope, she's singing to a six-shooter. I knock her out with my wrench and upgrade to the pistol.
22 - I head down to the remnants of a 1959 New Year's Eve party. There's hats strewn about along with liquor. A woman starts shooting at me, it takes four wrench whacks to knock her out. I also pick up a recording of some sort, I listen to it.
23 - A woman named Diane McClintock is talking about how she was stood up by her date on New Year's Eve. It seems pointless, but it adds to the atmosphere.
24 - At the end of the recording there's screaming as something bad happens. This may have been the beginning of the end for Rapture.
25 - I walk out of a kitchen to find a few splicers walking in a pool of water. Atlas tells me to zap them, they go down quickly to the powerful electricity.
26 - I walk into the woman's bathroom (complete with Fallout-esque drawings for women and men signs) and I see the ghost of a woman muttering at the sink. She says she's too spliced up. Creepy.
27 - In the men's room one of the stalls is blown away, leading to the next area. Down below I can see an interesting sight... a little girl is stabbing a dead body with a giant needle, over and over again.
28 - Atlas explains it's a little sister, a transformed girl, and not for the better. They carry Adam, the thing everyone wants.
29 - Suddenly a splicer shows up and starts to attack her. Out of no where comes the Big Daddy! The giant hulking monster slams the slicer into the wall incredibly violently. The Big Daddies protect the Little Sisters. I do not plan to mess with those guys.
30 - The cool thing is everything in the environment can be searched. I've found cake, alcohol, cigarettes, needles, power bars, you name it, it's here. I love the interactivity.
31 - It's very satisfying frying splicers in the water. Woah, a dead Big Daddy. Can they be killed?
32 - Suddenly the gates close around me and the alarm sounds! What's going on? Someone has just tried to flamethrower me!
34 - Running from the alarm I head towards the Medical Pavilion. I'm locked in a room now. Andrew Ryan is talking directly to me. He asks if the CIA or KGB sent me? Did they?
35 - Splicers start banging at the window, oh crap, there's a lot of them. Atlas tells me to run, and I do. Loading.
36 - Next objective is to find the emergency access, I'm officially in the Medical Pavilion. Hey, a vending machine, with a creepy clown as a mascot. And it's selling needles and vodka. What is this, Moscow?
37 - I pick up another message, again from Diane. She's talking about how her splicing hasn't gone too well. Sounds like she's had a lot of medical work done.
39 - A security bot is blocking a door, I have the option to hack it... cool. It's basically a game of Pipe Dream, easy enough.
40 - Wow, the hacked security bot is now on my team, not bad.
41 - Another spoken message, from a man named Steinman. He's a surgeon here, seems to be doing some nasty stuff to his patients. "Change your look, change your race, change your sex. It's your's to change." Crazy, but I suppose he has a point though, huh?
42 - I've found the emergency access, but it's locked down. There's a security panel though, so I activate that. Atlas tells me if I want to use the access I'll need Steinman's key. Gotta find the good doctor.
44 - I hit the emergency button and it's like the Gates of Hell have opened up. Splicers run into the Medical Pavilion in packs, time for a battle. But I have a trusty machine gun with me now.
46 - Wow, a little intense. I even accidentally electrify my robot friend and it's out of commission for a moment. A lot of the splicers are dressed as surgeons. Not a good sign.
47 - I check my map, the Medical Pavilion is HUGE! This is not one hour's worth of work here.
48 - Another verbal diary from Steinman. As he's talking I come across a turret which I zap and now I can hack.
50 - A diary from Andrew Ryan, ranting about his views and values on health care.
51 - Speaking of health care, I come across a health station I can hack... interesting. I hack it successfully and now the station will hurt bad guys if they try to heal on it, awesome.
53 - I hack another turret and watch it mow down some splicers. I take that back, I watch it horrendously miss some splicers. How can machines be such horrible shots?
54 - Two vending machines, one of them for ammo. I can hack them both and reduce their prices. Interesting concept. Why not just make them free?
55 - My little flying robot friend is really in trouble, he hasn't hit much but at least he's taking shots for me.
56 - Ooh, a security camera. I zap it and start the hack.
58 - Nifty little sequence here, I'm inside the Eternal Flame, Rapture's crematorium. There's a body next to the furnace, I hit the button to incinerate it, the body goes in, and out comes something called Hacker's Delight. A physical tonic, it will help me hack better.
60 - I run across a grenade tossing surgeon. Atlas informs me that I'll need to find the telekinesis power so that I can grab the grenades mid-flight and blow up some rubble. Wow, that sounds pretty awesome. Too bad BioShock's first hour is up.
Time for some scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 1
BioShock's gameplay is nearly flawless. It controls great: use your weapon with the right trigger and throw lightning with the left. This immediately opens up so many gameplay options later on and even in the first hour you can use Atlas' handy "one-two punch." Shooting lightning at splicers standing in pools of water is so obviously simple but I have never seen it done before! It just works so well with this game. And like I talked about in the Graphics and Sound section, the game's atmosphere is marvelous. BioShock's first hour is dark and scary, and the level design is top notch. The game introduces its core mechanics gradually while never pretending it is going easy on you. Hordes of enemies, turrets, and flying robots you can hack are all present in the first hour, and ready to kill you.
Fun Factor: 9
Well, maybe BioShock's atmosphere was a little too intense! I don't do too well with scary games, and BioShock was no exception. Some parts were very slow going because I was frightened to see what was around the corner! As opposed to some people, I don't see this as pure enjoyment, but the deep gameplay and involving storyline kept me enthralled either way. One of the best parts was how deeply interactive the environments were. You could take your wrench and pretty much destroy everything in the vicinity! Bottles and boxes are crushed under its weight. Or you can pick up bottles of alcohol, smoke some cigarettes, or eat a power bar. All have varying effects on your health and plasmid powers, and it's fun to experiment. The game's political viewpoints were also very interesting, Andrew Ryan may be a bad guy, but he does have some good ideas.
Graphics and Sound: 10
Beautiful. Stunning. Incredible. Plenty of words describe the first hour of BioShock in terms of graphics and sound. The game's presentation is the new high level mark for video games, whether they're on the console or the PC. There are many different points to praise but I'll just focus on three: the water effects, the game's atmosphere, and the voice acting. Firstly, Rapture is completely underwater at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. This means there is a ton of water. I don't know how they did it but 2K Games had me thinking I was going to get soaked at every turn. From the innocent drip to water rushing in at me during amazing scripted sequences, it was perfect all around.
Water in such quantities, deep under the ocean, is incredibly intimidating. The world of Rapture is dark, foreboding, and crawling with some of the creepiest humans ever in video games. I was scared while playing BioShock because of the unknown. Lights flicker out, screams can be heard in the distant, and simply never know what will be revealed next. Speaking of screams, the voice acting was stellar. There wasn't a lot, and you never saw the speaker face to face, but the writing and direction drove the story as much as anything else.
BioShock's story isn't shown to you in cutscene after cutscene, but delivered to you while playing, sometimes while in the middle of battle! Andrew Ryan is introduced quickly as both Rapture's great mastermind and possibly the key to its downfall. Almost definitely the man we'll be taking on at the very end, but within the first hour just heard over the loudspeaker. Citizen's stories are also told through voice diaries you find along the way and it is up to you to piece things together. And finally the mystery man, Atlas, who you only meet over the walkie talkies. It's definitely very atmospheric to feel like you don't have any real allies, but I feel like the game's first hour was missing something. I can't place my finger on it, but maybe it was the lack of background on me, the main character. Even seemingly obscure characters like Doctor Steinman have more information on them. All I know is that maybe I was sent by the CIA or KGB. Not a big deal though, as I expect things will be fleshed out later on.
One incredibly odd thing: why does our hero immediately inject himself when finding a needle on the ground?
Not too many flaws in BioShock's first hour, as this is one of the greatest hours of gameplay I have ever played. Rapture is a truly wonderful and frightening place, and BioShock is the ultimate medium to deliver its story. The game has me craving more and more of it, but at the same time has me timid at the prospects of continuing on. How many more horrors does BioShock have waiting for me? Will I encounter a Big Daddy head on? Is this game the pinnacle of first hours? I think it falls slightly short in my mind, but that shouldn't diminish BioShock as a whole. Go play it.