Game: Bioshock
Release Date: 24th August 2007 (Europe)
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3

Bioshock is a very special game. As soon as you step foot in the underwater city of Rapture, you will realise that you will have a hard time escaping again. Throughout the course of the game you will meet some of the most interestingly disturbing, as well as engage in one of the best plots I have seen in a game. This is a great, compelling adventure that sets the bar for storytelling in gaming.

Presentation

Rapture is a wonderfully dark place. Created sometime in the 1940’s, by the main antagonist, Andrew Ryan, in an attempt to provide a haven where the world’s greatest scientists, artists and musicians, can be free of government restriction and oppression. You play a nameless character, in the 1960’s, that is on a plane that crash-lands over the Atlantic Ocean. Being the only apparent survivor, your only hope is the nearby Lighthouse that you enter to try and seek refuge. Inside the lighthouse, you unwittingly enter a Bathysphere that takes you down to the seabed. As you reach the bottom, a voice over by Andrew Ryan explains his motives and objectives for the city, and then you witness your first glimpse of Raptures exterior. A shining light on the ocean floor. Within a very short time, you will realise that Andrew Ryan’s great vision of governmentless prosperity has completely and utterly failed.

You learn when you reach the city, that permanent genetic modifications have become normality in Rapture. Sometime in the cities relatively brief history, a sea slug was discovered, that, if used on the human body, could give the user various abilities, such as shooting electricity and fire out of their hands. This genetic substance was called Adam, and the fuel needed to sustain these powers is called Eve. The abilities you gain are called plasmids, and these are the active effects that Adam has on your body. As well as these, you have passive effects that are called Gene Tonics, which you can change at the aptly named Gene Bank. Those who have become addicted to Adam, the ‘splicer’s’, have mostly become psychotic and murderous and they roam the city corridors looking for their next fix

The game does a breathtaking job in engrossing you in the world of Bioshock. As a fantastically realised setting, Rapture is definitely the star of the show. You’ll play through various different environments as you progress, from an underwater forest that provides the city with oxygen, to a medical pavilion that has been taken over by an insane surgeon. Each of these settings is beautiful in such a way that you wonder why you want to stay in this city that is so derelict and dangerous.

The games story is absolutely unmatched in current generation titles. It is one of those plots that has no notable fault from beginning to end, the narrative is so incredibly well done, and the twists and turns are some of the best in gaming. Each character you meet along the way will both shock and humour you, often at the same time, as most of them are absolutely insane. You will find so many delights here in the dark world of Bioshock, that you will undoubtedly wonder why you simply cant stop playing. For an only-single-player game, Bioshock’s story is of a good length. If you simply want to play through the game from stage to stage without exploring at all, you could complete this on the standard difficulty in about 12 hours, but the beauty of Rapture is the addictive need to explore the world around you, and if you do so, you can easily stretch your playtime to about 20-25 hours. This is to also say you will only play through the game once, and I simply wanted to play through the game again straight after I finished, if not only to see the various different endings.

From a visual standpoint, Bioshock is a very pretty title. While not up to the standards of games such as Gears of War, Bioshock’s unique art style helps it truly shine. Everything about the art design has been thought through, and planned with a passionate approach to ensuring the player is IN Rapture, rather than just presenting the player with an uninspiring sequence of events. The lighting is a very important aspect in a horror game, and while not a true horror title, the lighting is a really strong aspect in Bioshock. Sumptuous rays shine through the glass from the outside world, while the flickering lights cast shadows across the environments. The water also plays a large part in Bioshock, unsurprising for a game set underwater, and while the water doesn’t necessarily act completely realistically, it looks fantastic.

From an audio perspective, Bioshock is one of the best games I have ever experienced. The voice acting is top quality in every aspect. All of the main characters you meet have brilliant personalities, and the enemies you meet throughout all have lines that are plentiful enough that they don’t become stale. The soundtrack is also stellar, with authentic songs that play eerily on jukeboxes and vinyl players throughout the city, and the score provides suspense beyond belief. Screeching violins will haunt you as the various mental denizens of Rapture attack you, while slightly out of tune pianos will play as you creep through the city.

Gameplay

In essence, Bioshock is an FPS with some RPG elements thrown into the mix. Being a slight hybrid of both genres, it’s a great thing that Bioshock succeeds fabulously at both aspects. The gunplay is really good, however slightly unsatisfying when compared to a true FPS like Halo. You get a various arsenal of different weaponry to use against your insane opponents, such as a Tommy Gun or a Crossbow. You can upgrade your various guns at a limited few upgrade stations throughout the game. You should make sure you choose carefully when upgrading your guns, as each station can only be used once, and there aren’t enough throughout the game to upgrade every gun to the max.

As well as the guns, there are obviously the various Plasmids, which you can obtain. Some of these Plasmids are found throughout the games duration, and are essential to get past various stages in the story. However, some are optional and are purchased not by using money, but by using Adam. This is one of the biggest parts of Bioshock, how you gain Adam. To do this, you have to fight the monstrous Big Daddies, who walk the corridors of Rapture in their diver suits, protecting the Adam gathering, ‘Little Sisters’. The battles that ensue here can be some of the most intense battles you will see in a game. The Big Daddies are not foes to be reckoned with, and they will shoot, charge and pummel you with either their huge guns or their Power Drills that are integrated into their suits. Once you manage to beat a Big Daddy (and you’ll have to try VERY hard on the harder difficulty), then you will have to make a choice about how to deal with the Little Sisters. You can either save or harvest her. If you save her, you will obviously take the righteous path throughout the game, and will be benefited in various ways throughout your playthrough, but will receive less Adam to immediately spend on Plasmids. If you harvest her, you will receive double the Adam you would if you saved the Little Sister, but will receive no further benefits. There are various endings to game, of which I will not spoil, but the way you deal with the Little Sisters has a lasting affect on the story.

Once you have chosen how you want to deal with the Little Sisters, you are then able to spend Adam on Plasmids and Plasmid Upgrades at the Gatherers Garden, a Plasmid vending machine, of which there are many around Rapture. There are three stages to most Plasmids, the first of which being a basic offensive attack, such as a single bolt of electricity, however once upgraded fully, this level 3 electro-bolt will erupt from each enemy causing a group attack. You can also use Plasmids to turn the environment against your enemy. For example, if you see a group of Splicer’s standing in a standing pool of water, you simply have to electro-bolt the water and the entire group will be affected. Or, if you see a group of enemies standing in a pool of oil, set the pool alight with your Incinerate plasmid and the entire group will be set on fire. The way you can use Plasmids in various different ways is a really fun way to play, and gives the game another edge instead of being a standard FPS.

One thing about Bioshock that might frustrate players is the inclusion of Vita Chambers. These Vita Chambers act as checkpoints in the world from which you can respawn from when you die. The frustration occurs in the way that when you die, you respawn as normal, however the enemies you were fighting before, stay at the health level that you managed to get them down to before you died. This, while useful for some novice players, or those who cant get past a certain stage in the game, removes quite a lot of the challenge, knowing that dying is a small drawback as you can simply return to take more health off your foes. That said, for the really dedicated players, there is an achievement to play through the entire game on the hardest difficulty, without dying. I can definitely say that this is a tough feat.

The RPG element of Bioshock really shines through when it comes down to the non-linear nature of the game. If you want to play this in a linear fashion, then you are definitely free to do so, and the optional Objective Arrow will point you directly to your next objective so you are never lost off the path. However, with such a wonderful city at your disposal, being off the path is definitely not a bad thing. Bioshock encourages exploration, and you will find some great little encounters off the beaten track that you wouldn’t see if you simply played the game from start to finish. It’s almost a shame that Rapture isn’t more open to explore, but the way that the Open-World play and Linearity are so well balanced keeps the game at a perfect pace.

Verdict

Bioshock is a wonderful piece of storytelling. Everything about the game is so well presented and original enough to feel absolutely fresh. It’s got so many flawless aspects and everything about it comes together in a seamless way. I have fought so hard to not give this game a perfect 10, and whilst there are minor faults in the slightly inferior visuals or the stunted level of challenge due to the Vita Chambers, these are so miniscule compared to massive amount of positive things there are to say about this game. I would recommend this game to any player, whether you love FPS’s, RPG’s or Horror games, this game will offer you something that you can appreciate. I love this game, and for me it is one of the best titles ever released, if not the best title on this current generation.

9.5/10

Presentation: 10

A phenomenal art style and wonderfully told story are presented in full form here

Gameplay: 9

The plasmids are an original and compelling way to fight enemies, and while the gunplay is good, it is a little unsatisfying for true FPS fans

Visuals: 9

An unbelievably believable art style is slightly let down by the game engine

Audio: 10

Never have I heard such engrossing voice acting or evocative sound work

Lasting Appeal:

From point-to-point in 12 hours is good for what is essentially an FPS. To do everything would take at least 20 hours, and you should definitely stay around in Rapture for as long as you can.

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