Published on March 25th, 2014 | by vrex0
Developer(s): 2K Boston (Irrational Games) & 2K Australia; Additional work by: 2K Marin & Digital Extremes (PS3), Feral Interactive (OS X)
Publisher(s): 2K Games; Feral Interactive (OS X)
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3, OS X
Release Date: August 21, 2007 (Xbox 360 & PC), October 21, 2008 (PS3), October 7, 2009 (OS X)
Perfect (or close enough to it)
With the final DLC for BioShock Infinite being released today and the recent news of Irrational Games shutting down, I thought it would be fit to look back at the game that started it all. Back in 2007, the original BioShock was released early in the lifetimes of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I’ll be discussing some of the plot (without delving into spoiler territory), the progression of the game, mechanics and gameplay, and some other aspects of the game like atmosphere, music, etcetera. Hopefully this review will inspire you to pick up the game if you haven’t played it before, or revisit it.
The game begins with our main character, Jack, flying in an airplane over the Mid-Atlantic. He says one cryptic line – which is his only dialogue in the entire game – and suddenly, the airplane crashes. Floating amidst the burning wreckage, you as Jack only have one way to go: towards the strangely located, towering lighthouse. A red and gold banner paired with a golden bust of a man great you upon entering the lighthouse. The banner reads: NO GODS OR KINGS. ONLY MAN. Descending the staircase in front of you, the only exit seems to be a small, submarine-like vessel located at the base of the lighthouse. And this begins your descent into Rapture.
Rapture is where the entirety of the game takes place – a city created at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Rapture was envisioned, funded and built by a man by the name of Andrew Ryan. After witnessing the destruction in Hiroshima, Ryan wanted to escape mankind with the best and brightest and wait until the “parasites” of the earth ultimately destroyed themselves. Rapture was supposed to be a shining beacon. Andrew Ryan described it as “a city where the artist would not fear the censor; where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality; where the great would not be constrained by the small”. But when you arrive in Rapture, it lies in ruin. All of its past inhabitants are either dead, in hiding, or are raving mad due to the influence of ADAM.
This is what gives BioShock its distinctive feel; you are constantly alone apart from when you are being attacked by the lunatics known as “Splicers”. Any and all human interaction is limited to transistor radios or by finding old tape recordings scattered throughout the city. Due to the lack of people available to explain what happened to Rapture, you have to fit all the pieces together for yourself by listening to the recordings. This collection sub-quest isn’t required; it simply adds to your overall experience in Rapture.
Upon arriving, you witness a Splicer kill a man before retreating. It is now that you are introduced to your guide – a mysterious man named Atlas. He guides you through Rapture via radio and introduces you to plasmids. Plasmids are a gene-altering substance that gives humans amazing powers by splicing their DNA (hence the addicts being referred to as “Splicers”). They are created using ADAM and fueled with EVE.
(Just to give you a brief synopsis of ADAM, it’s a strange substance found in deep sea slugs, discovered by one of Rapture’s scientists. ADAM has the power to repair and recreate cells, which when altered allow for the creation of plasmids. This power however is highly addictive, which is why the Splicers have become obsessed with getting more ADAM and have gone insane.)
Atlas tells us that the only way to survive in Rapture is to get ADAM, and there’s only one way to get it. Running about Rapture are mutated, little girls known as Little Sisters. They travel through the city via vent systems, looking for dead bodies filled with ADAM. They then recollect the substance by stabbing the body with a modified syringe and then drinking it. (How…adorable.) As they are essentially walking ADAM farms, killing these little girls is the only way to get ADAM. Seems easy enough, right? The only issue is that to get to a Little Sister you must first defeat her protector – the Big Daddy. The Big Daddy is easily the most recognizable character in BioShock; it and a Little Sister are featured on the box art. This frightening mix of man and machine are powerful and heavily armoured. Early in the game, when you need ADAM most, your lack of plasmids and weapons make getting to a Little Sister extremely difficult. (Especially if you’re going for the Brass Balls Achievement/Trophy; absolutely awful…) But if you manage to effectively use what you have available, you’ll be rewarded with the precious ADAM.
Most of the enemies you encounter throughout the game are just a variety of Splicers; Big Daddies are the only true threat in the game, but are necessary for advancement in most cases. You need ADAM to purchase plasmids that are used to overcome certain obstacles.
Onto the gameplay: BioShock is a first-person shooter with a twist – customization. This customization doesn’t necessarily lie in weapons like one would assume (though you can upgrade weapons and plasmids to stronger tiers throughout the game). Instead, the customization comes from what is called a “tonic”; another creation made possible through ADAM. You can mix and match which tonics you use depending on your game style. Tonics can make you more resistant to melee attacks, hacking machines easier, or even made First Aid kits more beneficial. You can purchase these tonics with ADAM or find them throughout Rapture. The best thing about tonics is that there’s no commitment. If you don’t care for the effects of a certain tonic, or come across one with effects you prefer over you older ones, you can simply switch it out for a different tonic at designated stations.
Although an FPS, BioShock utilizes dual wielding; your right hand holds your weapon (you gain access to a variety of guns throughout the game, and also have a melee weapon) and your left hand controls plasmids. This involves using strategy to make the most of what you have on hand. For example, the first combo you learn in game is electrifying your enemies with a plasmid and then whacking them with your melee weapon while stunned for massive damage. Atlas refers to this as the “One-Two Punch”.
Although released in 2007, BioShock has held up well graphically. Although the character models are a bit still, the terrain is fantastic. Due to the humans you encounter being deformed Splicers, I don’t see the character models being a glaring issue; if anything it adds to how ugly you’re supposed to perceive them. The game stays in a very dark palette, using a lot of blues and greens since you often are surrounded by ocean views (which, by the way, are absolutely beautiful) that effectively adds to the game feel Bioshock is trying to give off.
The original score is by Gary Schyman, and – just like the graphics – wonderfully compliment the feel of the game. He convinced the lead writer to record the soundtrack with real instruments rather than digitally producing the music and it really paid off. The original score contains songs that invoke very specific emotions; it has eerie, suspenseful, and also emotional pieces that can send chills throughout your body. You can really tell how much effort was put into its composition. Apart from the score, there is also licensed music of the time scattered about Rapture. Some of these include “How Much Is That Doggie (In The Window)?”, “If I Didn’t Care”, and “Papa Loves Mambo”. They’re usually slightly distorted, playing on old jukeboxes.
Overall, Bioshock is an all-out amazing experience. Before playing BioShock, I hated FPS games, but the story was just so compelling and the atmosphere was so dark and intriguing that I dealt with it and how I can tolerate the genre. BioShock was able to become my favourite game of all time despite being one of my least favourite genres. So yeah. Play. The. Game.
+ Amazing story
+ Awesome game feel
+ Beautiful score and fitting graphics
– Gameplay glitchy in certain parts
– Short, unfulfilling ending
Final Score: 5 out of 5