Bioshock Review

''I am Andrew Ryan and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? No! Says the man in Washington, 'it belongs to the poor.' No! Says the man in the Vatican, 'It belongs to God.' No! says the man in Moscow, 'It belongs to everyone' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small...''

It is the year 1960. You play a mysterious character named Jack, a man born to do great things. After a plane crash over the Atlantic Ocean, he is forced to enter what seems to be an inconspicuous lighthouse. After climbing into a small submarine called a Bathysphere, Jack plummets fathoms under the water. A screen obscures his view and he is greeted by Andrew Ryan giving an influential pre-recorded speech. The impromptu dialogue describes his city as a flourish of artistry and science. As the word 'Rapture' is defiantly ushered into Jack's ear, the screen slides back to reveal the huge underwater city. You are lead to believe this utopia is an escape from government, a beautiful metropolis where science has no constraints and artists would not fear control, but the moment you step foot into Rapture, it is clear things have gone wrong. Horribly wrong.

 

Rapture will amaze, intrigue and frighten you, all within the space of five minutes. 

 

Bioshock sets an incredible atmosphere the second you step foot inside its halls. Everything presents itself as creepy: the 50's music playing in desolate art-deco' bars, the Splicers (Rapture's insane ADAM addicts) roaming the city, humming, whistling, singing, and muttering words to intimidate the player, and the setting itself with its vintage appearance and dark, twisted personality.

The gameplay is mostly similar to many other first-person shooters. You have several weapons at your disposal, ranging from a simple wrench to a crossbow that can fire electric trap bolts. However, Bioshock contains a unique twist: Plasmids. Plasmids are made possible from ADAM, a substance found in a sea slug at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This strange substance alters genetic codes and turns a normal every-day human into an electrified powerhouse with one simple dose. Players use these wonderful Plasmids to shoot fire at enemies and thaw ice, surround enemies with a flurry of raging wasps, and even freeze Splicers solid. All these can be used in combination with conventional weapons for interesting effects. However, the more direct Plasmids like Electro Bolt always seem to produce the most devastating results. Players will learn the 'one-two-punch,' or ''Zap 'em and whack 'em," within the first ten minutes, and to be honest, it will take out most normal enemies with little effort. 

 

''Steady now. Your genetic code is being rewritten!''

 

Throughout the game players will have many opportunities to upgrade abilities and acquire improvements to weaponry and Plasmids. This provides a good sense of progression. Power to the People stations are placed around Rapture, providing quite conventional upgrades to weapons like increased fire rate or increased damage. Gene Tonics bought with ADAM from a Gatherer's Garden, found, or invented allow the player to passively tune their Bioshock experience. A melee enthusiast may choose Wrench Lurker and Bloodlust whereas a more environmental player may choose Speedy Hacker and Alarm Expert for example. Enhancements of Plasmids are rather limited, with each one providing an exaggerated effect of the previous version.

The story of Bioshock is simply phenomenal; the plot takes an exponential turn two-thirds of the way through that will leave you Bio-shocked. However, it's not just the immediate narrative players should confide in. Audio diaries are littered throughout Rapture; these voice recordings weave a rich, full story of the days when Rapture functioned as a city and of the ADAM that ultimately led to the metropolis' downfall. All of these are fantastically acted which adds to their realism and effect on the player. I found myself pausing the game when I found one to listen to it with great care and attention. If players choose not to bother with these audio diaries they may find themselves slightly confused about Rapture's ruin, a shame for less patient gamers.

 

Dr Steinman, a doctor drove crazy by the possibilities of ADAM.

 

Bioshock unfortunately does not play host to a big variety of enemies. There are five types in all. Players will encounter the conventional Thuggish Splicer, who mindlessly charges with a blunt object, and the Leadhead Splicer, who possess guns. The other Splicers are rather interesting, like the Spider Splicer whom crawls up walls and along ceilings to throw deadly hooks at you. But the most threatening enemy is the Big Daddy, the behemoths that defend the innocent children while they gather ADAM from dead bodies. These fights are long and drain a lot of ammunition.

Upon victory, a moral choice presents itself to the player when dealing with the Little Sisters, but in all honesty the game won't change drastically if you choose to rescue or harvest them. If the player chooses to rescue a Little Sister, only a small amount of ADAM will be provided; however, deadly gifts stuffed in teddy bears provide compensation with each girl freed. How cute. If the player decides to harvest a Little Sister, they will relish in the larger amount of ADAM but without added payment.

 

''I'm ready for dream time Mr B.''

 

Bioshock takes about eight to ten hours to complete. However, the game begs to be played again as all the audio diaries deserve to be heard. There are four difficulties on the PlayStation 3 version as Survivor is exclusive on that system. For players who desire a challenging Bioshock experience, I recommend venturing into Rapture on that difficulty with Vita-Chambers turned off. People expecting a precise, action-oriented shooter turn away now! This game is not for you. But for people who are looking for a shooter with a fantastic atmosphere, brilliant characters, and a deep story, buy this game now. ''And with sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.''

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date: Xbox 360, PC: August 21, 2007; PS3: October 21, 2008 
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)

XION's picture

Very happy to see this here. Well written, to the point review. I'll go on record, being a harsh critic on nearly all games, that Bioshock IS one of the greatest games to ever be released. You mentioned the art, story, atmosphere, gameplay mechanics and highly intelligent political investment this game has to offer. It's one of the very few games I had emotionally been moved by. Andrew Ryan secluding himself in his office stating how proud he is the thriving city has become, when in fact he knows what it has really become. Sander Cohen, cleverly artistic and crazed, longing for another talented being to side with for a disturbing set of deranged objectives. A world full of art, intelligence, a powerful sense of music, tone, mood, and voice. I've beaten it twice, taking about 15 hours each to just look and listen. Beautiful, intriguing, and awe inspiring. Bioshock was an unforgettable experience, a masterpiece in my honest opinion.

Burchy's picture

@XION

I 100% agree. If you are that emotionally invested in the Bioshock world then you should invest in the Bioshock ''Rapture'' book written by John Shirley, an award winning author. It explains how Rapture came to be and the events leading up to its downfall. Its around 500 pages and is currently around the £5.00 mark on Amazon.

XION's picture

@ Burchy

I own the "Rapture" book, but am currently reading two other books at the moment. Dead Space Martyr and Future Noir - The Making of Blade Runner. But as soon as I'm done, I'll most definitely begin reading it. I just don't want to overwhelm myself. I had recently bought those books in addition to I, Robot, Dune, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I was born a sci-fi child, I just can't get enough of it.

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