Bioshock ReviewCain Dornan
Here I was playing the opening hours of one of the most anticipated games of the year, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed with what I was experiencing. It wasn’t the intricately detailed environments that felt underwhelming, nor was it the solid gameplay mechanics that flowed and functioned almost flawlessly. The problem was the lack of an engaging storyline, the type of story that we were all promised about by Irrational Games (now 2K Boston/2K Australia) when we were first show tidbits of the game all those months ago. You see, for the first few hours of BioShock, you never really quite know exactly what you’re doing. You don’t know who you are, where you are from, why you are here and where you are going. You’re essentially running around aimlessly, moving from point to point, mowing down hordes of enemies and taking in the breathtaking environments that the developers have managed to conjure up.
Although you’re virtually blindfolded during the early portions of the game, it still doesn’t fail to impress. You’ll marvel at the game’s truly next-generation environments that offer so much detail; you’ll smile at the interestingly designed creatures and the whole Big Daddy and Little Sisters system, and you’ll willingly follow the instructions issued to you by a mysterious man who offers you escape. The game’s atmosphere makes you believe what is going on, even though you don’t quite understand any story until you are a good few hours into the game.
For those who have largely turned a blind eye to the game so far, BioShock is set within a remote, underwater utopia known as Rapture. Created by an ideological businessman, Andrew Ryan, the city has fallen foul to a twisted turn of unfortunate events. You stumble across this underwater city as a lone survivor after your plane crashes in the middle of the ocean, with a mysteriously eerie small island governed by a lighthouse offering you the only escape from the water as the wreck of your plane rapidly sinks nearby.
You soon find your way to a submersible bathysphere which takes you down to the city. After being greeted by an inspiring video and a breathtaking view of the metropolis, it quickly becomes apparent that not everything is right in Rapture. You arrive to see some mutated freak hacking apart a corpse, before attacking your bathysphere and then retreating into the shadows. You’re quickly contact by a mysterious man over the radio who offers you the chance to escape the city in return for helping to save his family. With your bathysphere now in ruins, you have little choice than to listen to the man in hope of finding a way out.
You’ll come across several different characters along your journey, each contributing to the experience in one form or another through their fantastically unique personalities. You’ll spend your time moving throughout the different areas, unraveling the reason behind the destruction of the city and other happenings that we’ll avoid talking about to avoid spoilers. As previously stated, the first few hours of BioShock do not engage you as much as you would initially think. However, you soon find your footing and the game’s story begins to piece together beautifully, becoming the engrossing, unpredictable storyline that we were all hoping for.
It is at this point where the game really begins to shine. With everything beginning to piece together, you begin to care about what’s going on in the game. The game becomes more than a gory, violent bullet-spraying spectacular than what it originally appeared to be. BioShock becomes the gripping, edge-of-your-seat action shooter that is becoming increasing rare as our retail shelves fill with poor wannabe releases.
Outside of the use of your fair arsenal of effective weapons, you can also wield an alternative form of energy, known as Plasmids. These are essentially mutations that allow you to wield alternate powers, such as shooting bolts of electricity or fire from your fingertips, moving objects with your mind, summoning whirlwinds or causing your enemies to fight between one another. Plasmids are powered by Eve, which is blue serum that you find scattered throughout the stages.
Gene Tonics can also be utilized, which grant you enhanced passive abilities that increase your strength, awareness, re-healing abilities, improved hacking skills and various other useful enhancements that can be swapped and matched with other. These manage to inject slight levels of strategy into the game, giving you the option of improving your strengths according to your game playing style. These additions, while helpful, aren’t an essential element of the game, as it’s quite easy to progress through the entire game without having to use these. The game doesn’t force you to, leaving those who simply want to shoot things and nothing else to do so, while offering others some variation from the usual running and gunning. There are clear benefits in making us of these Gene Tonics, as you’ll find it more difficult to play through the game without these helpful extras.
Different stations situated throughout the game give you the option of upgrading weapons and selecting which Gene Plasmids you wish to have equipped. As you’re limited to how many times you can upgrade weapons and the number of Plasmids that you can wield at any one time, you’ll need to make decisions on which ones to equip according to the situations that you find yourself in.
There’s a fair collection of different creations that you’ll engage along your journey, most of which consist of various different forms of the “Splicer.” Essentially, these creatures are corrupted humans that have virtually become the undead, attacking you with superhuman abilities. The two key enemies, which you’ve likely seen in videos and screenshots of the game, are the Big Daddies and Little Sisters. The Big Daddies are hulking creatures that have a large metal drill attached to one arm, or carry a large grenade launcher, and wear an outfit that is slightly reminiscent of an old-school diving suit. These creatures protect the Little Sisters, who are possessed little girls that roam the corridors with huge syringes, plunging them into corpses to suck out ADAM, the scientist-invented scourge that lead to the downfall of Rapture.
With you needing ADAM in order to upgrade your abilities, these girls soon become a key to the success of your quest, and it’s here where you need to make a moral decision: do you save the Little Sisters, returning them to normal and receiving a small amount of ADAM as a reward, or do you harvest them, destroying their existence in order to gain a larger chunk of ADAM for your use? The choices you make determine more than just the amount of ADAM that you’ll get, and it’s an interesting inclusion that forces the player to make a decision based on their morals.
As I’ve already expressed multiple times earlier in this review, BioShock is absolutely gorgeous to witness in action. The screenshots simply don’t do it justice, as the intricately detailed environments that are littered with objects and things to see are staggering. It’s similar to Gears of War in the way that the developers have clearly spent so much time in developing an environment that not only looks real, but feels real. Playing the game with full surround sound, lights dulled and presented on a large HDTV, the game really manages to grab you and pull it into its stunning world. Character details are detailed and animate brilliantly, and the top-notch voice acting really helps create some interesting characters that you deal with. I was expecting to be treated to a beautiful game. BioShock leaped well beyond these expectations.
After playing through BioShock and having enough time to reflect on all the great things that were loved about this game, BioShock really blew me away. Initial impressions of the game weren’t overly high. However, the more you play the game, the more you are sucked into its engaging world that you’ll never want to leave. It starts off slow, picks up the pace a few hours in, begins traveling like a speeding bullet towards the end and explodes in utter amazement by the end of the game – which, thankfully, is wrapped up so brilliantly well. Tired of lifeless shooters? BioShock is, without a doubt, the game for you.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.