The highly anticipated spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock finds the player exploring the underwater dystopia of Rapture, a setting that borrows more from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged than the lonely, zombie filled space ship corridors of the System Shock series.
Would you kindly hit the jump to see whether this underwater odyssey sinks or swims.
From the opening first few minutes alone, it is apparent this game is a visual and atmospheric treat as you crash land in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by walls of fire and the floating debris of the plane you were travelling in. With your lungs bursting for air you fight to reach the surface, and seeing no land but an odd building you have very little choice but to proceed.
A banner hanging down states “No gods or kings. Only men” and it is this ethos upon which the game’s story is founded, the classical Greek tragedy of man’s hubris leading to inevitable ruin, and throughout the game you will experience this ruin in both the characters that make up the world, and the city itself.
The graphical appearance of this game is astounding, carrying a time-locked stylization across vibrant party areas, dingy research centres and manic hospital wards. Lighting is often used to create dramatic set pieces as shadows creep round corners allowing you to imagine the monstrosity before ever seeing it, or going out altogether leaving you trapped alone in the dark, although, you are rarely alone.
The enemies you face in this game are wonderfully crafted, ranging from the ordinary demented grunt (or ‘Splicer’) to the now iconic Big Daddy. The combat with the splicers can often get repetitive but is broken up by the larger fights such as the Big Daddy, or the occasional boss battle. These bosses are always voiced fantastically, which is no shock when you realise how much the rest of the game uses superb audio. From the atmospheric sound effects, to audio diaries littered about the place providing additional story for those who want to venture into it but are easily ignorable if you just want to get into the meat of the combat.
You are offered the standard assortment of combat choices that you would expect, with a wrench as the melee weapon or a range of guns to sate your blood thirst. On top of these you are given plasmids; experimental DNA altering substances that allow you to use super-human powers, that include fire, ice, electricity and bees. That’s right, that’s not a typo, and I assure you I’m sober! You are able to fire bees at the enemies; it may not be the most effective weapon, but, they’re still bees! (it gets points for originality). You are able to choose a selection of these plasmids to carry around with you, as well as bolstering some abilities or damage with various tonics allowing you to customise your character to your own play style.
The depths at which you can customise is unfortunately limited though, and more often than not you will find yourself gravitating towards the same plasmids time and time again. This is far from the only flaw in the game, with glitches such as the twitching of enemy corpses popping up every now and then, a repetitive and tedious mini-game to simulate the player hacking which is a jarring experience to an otherwise highly immersive experience although the enemies are always gracious enough to let you finish what you are doing before performing the ever so arduous task of, let’s say, attacking you and a final boss that pales in comparison to the rest of the game’s content.
There is also the case of Vita-Chambers, checkpoints around the game world which resurrect you, leaving any damage you may have caused on your way to the grave how it was when you left it, causing even the hardest difficulty settings to be a case of nothing more than slightly more deaths than the easier settings with no particular challenge increase.
The case for an against this sort of affair is one that is splashed across the internet almost as much as Final Fantasy fan art, yet I don’t feel it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the game any more than a checkpoint or an “insert coin to continue” prompt, as these all exist in some kind of meta-game state where your death had no relevant impact on the plot and is essentially ignored as if it never happened.
Despite any negativity, this is still one of the finest First-Person Shooters on the market, allowing you to play in a variety of manners in an immersive and highly enjoyable setting, and with a sequel on its way there is no reason not to play this game, except, I suppose if you had no arms then I’d say you had a pretty good reason.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
The Playstation 3 version of the game has downloadable challenge rooms to extend the game’s longevity
Occasional glitchy corpse, but overwise vastly impressive graphics and an atmosphere that will make you pause to relax and remember it's just a game
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Smooth, intuitive, fast, frantic and almost everything you could want from the genre. Slightly more variation would have seen this soar to a 10.
From audio diaries to sound effects to the superb voic acting, this game delivers an audible treat
endings (only two, a good and an evil) and tonics to customise the game to be played in different ways. However, after a handful of playthroughs there is really nothing left to do.
One of the most immersive and engaging FPS on the market, with so many positive elements you'll almost certainly forgive and forget any negative side to the game.