Developer: 2K Boston
Publisher: 2K Games
Released For: PC, Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewing: PC (Windows 10)
DRM Versions Available
Released On: Aug 21, 2007
MSRP: $19.99 (originally $59.99)
For years now bioshock was described to myself as an amazing game with incredible story. It’s been described as one of the best games of that year, and yet only now have I finally had a chance to sit down and enjoy the game properly. I adore alternative timeline ideas and Bioshock made me remember why. It’s story and atmosphere are incredible and has some amazing voice acting and music that truly pulled me into the mysterious city of Rapture. Where there are no gods, only man. Only when the player arrives after a plane crash to find that Rapture is not all it claims to be. It’s your job as the player to discover what happened and escape, all the while talking to a stranger helping to guide you only known as ‘Atlas’.
The game starts off while the player is in a plane being flown to an unknown destination when the plane crashes into the middle of the atlantic ocean, leaving you as the player stranded in the freezing water. You swim towards a strange lighthouse nearby. When you enter you are greeted with lavish banners, posters, signs, and giant bronze monuments. A sign above reads “There are no gods, only man”. You travel down a spiral staircase, and enter a strange sphere to be transported down and through the water. This is where the player will first see the famed underwater city of ‘Rapture’ run Andrew Ryan; the creator of Rapture. After the sphere door gets stuck on the way up, you are introduced to a character named Johnny being ripped apart by a creature known as a ‘Splicer’ in front of you. A mysterious voice calling itself by the name ‘Atlas’ then requests your help to save his family, and that’s when the game begins.
The game is an FPS at it’s core with RPG elements featuring collectables, weapon/power upgrades, and open exploration levels. These collectables include things like audio recordings, plasmids, and little sisters. The main FPS element allows you chose from a variety of different weapons you unlock by playing the game. Each weapon has 3 different ammo types. Then you have your Plasmid powers that use adam which include things like electricity, or personal upgrades such as easier hacking of turrets which can be found in each level or bought by the vending machines. These vending machines use money the player finds around Rapture to buy things like ammo, upgrades, or other powers. One unique plasmid include a power that allows you to shoot hordes of bees at your enemies. Around levels you will find creatures called ‘Little Sisters’ accompanied by creatures called ‘Big Daddies’ which protect the sisters while they collect Adam off of corpses. Either by rescuing the Little Sister or harvesting her you will be rewarded with adam. It’s an extremely simplified morality system, but it works well enough.
You Also will come across different enemies including splicers, security devices, and big daddies. Each enemy has different versions that help to vary up the gameplay. It’s a nice way to have different enemies that still feel like they belong in the mythos. Some better enemy variety in general though would be nice.
I also enjoyed the level design. The art deco alternative timeline idea was not only played out well, but felt unique. Bioshock has a certain atmosphere that’s hard to wave a finger at. The levels aren’t overly complex, and the enemies aren’t overly complex either, but everything feels well done and is uniquely stylized. While I do believe graphically the game could look better, some of the lighting effects they use are extremely well done.
The story might be the best part of the game. Not because it’s particularly unique, but because the story is the game’s driving force. The storyline is about betrayal. It’s about betrayal and explores different social issues, as well as interesting character and society concepts along with contemplating if you are a slave to a system you don’t understand, or if you are actively making all the decisions on your own. All the characters are well-defined, have their own personal unique features, likes, dislikes, and memorable voices. Characters like the mother of the ‘Little Sisters’ with her German accent became actually quite fitting and her backstory of being in a German prisoner camp during World War II is an example of how it feels like each character purposefully belongs where they are and not simply shoved into place. They feel real, and the characters act like how I would expect them to. Is the story unique? Not particularly. Stories of greed and betrayal have been done before, just as stories of if you’re really in control of your own destiny or destination. Just like my Alan Wake review however, the game’s story is not the drive necessarily but the interactions between the characters that help to build the story. You can have a good story [believe it or not] and if character interaction is weak you won’t feel the story’s impact nearly as much.. A few ways they implement the story are voice recordings which are scattered around the city. This is the player’s main source for background story and context. There are also visions you see of dead characters as you play along. While this is exposition at it’s worst, it’s explanation is ‘satisfactory’ for me which is that it’s their adam is floating around and as you collect it you see their memories. It’s a bad trope in storytelling as a general rule, but they are sparse and not used often enough or contain any story-changing information to make me cringe.
There is also the music to mention. It’s incredible. I walk into an abandoned restaurant with banners thrown about, kill a splicer, walk through to see a giant sign reading “Happy New Year 1959” faded and dim. I Walk over to the bar to hear the Ink Spot’s ‘If I Didn’t Care’ in the background in a faded art deco bar and it was a truly memorable moment. Not because of the music itself, but because the game felt a somber moment and didn’t add a dozen enemies to distract you, but instead left you to be amazed by the audio,blending with a 50s atmosphere.
While most of my experience with Bioshock was extremely positive, I did have a few minor gripes. For one while the controls are remapable and feature controller support, the default layout wasn’t the easiest to get accustomed to. Mainly having the Z key be how you zoom in, which was annoying. I also had a strange effect while using an Xbox 360 controller where the camera took a few seconds of it being moved to seemingly go to it’s normal speed. I’m not sure if it was a glitch or not but thought I would mention it. And, while I did enjoy the narrative the game offered, the ending was fairly lackluster for me. For such an amazing story the ending felt weak and the ending boss battle was cookie cutter. It took me 11 hours to beat the game, but I also didn’t attempt to collect all the voice recordings or Little Sisters, so expect the game to take the player anywhere from 12 hours to 16 hours to complete.
Overall this is a great game that is worth checking out if you’re a fan of fallout like settings with great narratives that offer fairly well-balanced gameplay and fantastic music.