Review: Bioshock - 04/03/2008 by Michael
First Person Shooter
Following from the legendary games System Shock and its sequel comes the ‘spiritual successor’ Bioshock. Produced by 2K Boston/2K Australia and largely the same team as System Shock, this game retains many of the best elements of those games. Most notably the manner in which the games begin, You wake up, you don’t know where you are, everything has gone bad, work out what is happening and shoot some stuff. Sweet. This framework allows for real immersive gaming as to unfold the story and know what to do next you must really pay attention to the environment and characters around you, which is really not difficult when it is done with this much style.
To the story, you start of on a plane with a bit of a film noir feel, next thing you know you’re swimming for your life amidst the burning wreck of that plane. Lucky enough there is a structure sticking out of the ocean, so you head in there to find Rapture. Rapture is the underwater city built by Andrew Ryan where the elite and talented could live far away from the petty governments and slow minded ordinary folk who were slowing down the evolutionary process. However this little utopia seems to have gone wrong, no surprise, as the game would have been pretty dull otherwise. Upon arriving in Rapture you are met by some rather freaky junky-like characters known as splicers, whom you give a good beating to. It turns out that all mad scientists living under the seas got carried away with their genetic research and hence there are now a lot of mutants around. That is the basic premise of the game, it is best not to know too much before you play the game as it does unfold like a murder mystery through the narration of your guide, the audio logs found throughout the game and the ghostly apparitions that recreate some of the more disturbing moments, all of which are just the same as System Shock.
Whilst the story drags you in it is the immaculate and inspired game design that holds your attention. The architecture and general feel of Rapture is largely art deco inspired, transporting you back to a more wholesome time of the 40’s and 50’s when life was sweeter, and the use of actual music of that era played through crackling phonograghs in the game is simply the icing on the cake. All this sweetness and charm just makes the Rapture that you stumble across all the more disturbing because of the vast contrast. This is of course highlighted best by the little sisters who stroll around the city harvesting from the dead bodies strewn about the streets. Little kids are creepy. The other inhabitants of rapture, the splicers, are not much better, but the random comments from them tend to be slightly humorous adding just a bit of much needed levity. Overall the game design goes beyond that of most comparable games and becomes a work of art.
But if that is not enough the game also plays very nicely. It controls like any other fps, but the use of plasmids, genetically enhanced abilities, adds a little spice. Not only do you have your standard weapons, but now you can hurl fire or ice, fool your foes or just throw stuff at them with your mind. So many options and combos to try. However, this is where the largest problem with the game arises. To swap between plasmids and conventional weapons you must pull the trigger once to swap and again to fire. This creates a delay and in the heat of battle can be highly irritating, but is something you just have to deal with.
The enemies AI is rather good in this game, they will hide, take cover or ambush, to bother you, they run in chaotic patterns hence are hard to track and have some cool abilities of their own. However the enemy that needs the biggest wrap is the Big Daddy, guardian of the little sisters. This hulking diving suit wearing rivet-gun having, drill for a hand freakshow is one of the greatest enemies ever conceived. They walk about paying no attention to you until you attack them, then its on! Not many other enemies allow you to prepare yourself as much as you like then still beat you down, again and again. One of the Big Daddies will sprint at you with its giant drill, and when it runs the screen shakes as does the controller and you poo yourself a little, it is seriously scary. The other will shoot you in the head from whatever range with its giant rivet-gun whilst throwing proximity grenades behind you to prevent your escape, clever eh? I would play the game just for the rush of fighting the big daddies (and watching big daddies fight each other!).
As from System Shock hacking puzzles have come to Rapture, old school hacking. Basically its a pipe puzzle, get the flow from one end to the other in the allotted time to get cheaper items or make the turrets and cameras work for you. Easy enough, however as the game goes on there are hundreds of things to hack, so the pipe puzzles get seriously repetitive. Best to just use the hacking tool.
In summary Bioshock deserves all the praise that gamers and reviewers have heaped upon it. The attention to detail is what sets it apart. Things like the way you are rewarded for searching every nook and cranny with ammo or information, mean that there are practically no wasted spaces in the game, there is always something to find or fight or learn. The look of the game and the idea to place it under the sea enable the designers to make a world that is totally inclusive, when playing it is easy to forget the real world around you. This leads to a piece of advice from me, play the game with the sound up in a dimly lighted room with no disruptions, as people or things taking your focus off the game will mean you miss valuable information and plot development, which can be frustrating later on when you don’t know who did what to whom or why. So give it your full attention and you will be rewarded with a game that is as intriguing as a good novel, but with all the good old fun of shooting freaks in the back of the head.