Review by megametroid
I really expected this game to be great. From the previews I read, it appeared to be a fresh, invigorating sci-fi-horror FPS, similar to Half-Life. And it is, for about an hour. Let's get this review started.
One of the most hyped things about Bioshock was it's bizarre storyline. The game takes place in a decimated underwater utopia known as Rapture. The city is overrrun by citizen psychopaths enhanced by "Adam", a genetic material which has mutagenous effects on the human body. Along with these people, known as Splicers, are the Little Sisters, which harvest Adam from dead bodies, and the Big Daddys, iron hulks which serve to protect the Sisters. You play as a silent protagonist who is in a plane crash during the beginning of the game, and happens to stumble upon Rapture while fleeing the wreckage. Throughout the game you'll meet several important characters who will help or hinder you. It's your choice who you should trust and who you shouldn't.
Now this is all fine and good. As you go through the game you'll experience a few major (albeit fairly predictable) plot twists that mix things up a lot and give you reason to keep going. Based on pure story, Bioshock is above average. But there is a flaw. The only contact you have with NPCs is through the same type of radio communication we've seen in about eighty other games. You hardly ever see characters in person, let alone face-to face. It takes a lot of personality away from the game. You never feel emotion for any of the characters since, after all, they're only blank faces on your radio. Again, this is a flaw. But don't get me wrong; I'm surely willing to look past bland dialogue as long as the game itself is good. Moving on.
If it were based purely on visuals, I would give this game a 10. The environments look absolutely spectacular in all of their decayed and grimy glory. There are many different textures and random objects laying around. The much-hyped water effects do impress, but honestly I thought they looked about like any other 360 game's water. Splicer character models are good and mutated, and the aforementioned Big Daddys and Little Sisters are suitably creepy. Weapon models are above average.
Like I said, the visuals are awesome. But I also count animation and effects in my graphics section. This is where Bioshock fails to impress. Whenever you kill an enemy or witness a ragdoll effect of any kind, the body will fall to the ground in a jerky, stiff, overall crappy animation. It almost looks like it's stop-motion animated. Also, when you shoot a weapon the recoil animation has that same stiffness. It doesn't look next-gen at all, and neither does the odd looking stream of smoke that will issue from your gun barrel shortly after. Fire effects are about average, and look more like bright orange powder than flickering white-hot gasses. Blood is similar. When an enemy is wounded they'll produce a 2-D looking blood texture instead of the disgusting particle effect you would expect from a next-gen game. Compared to the chainsaw effects of Gears of War or the zombie carnage of Dead Rising, the gore effects for BS (heh) are pathetically average.
Bioshock has a very good soundtrack that gets you in the mood to explore an underwater hell. It's mostly stirring orchestrated pieces or music straight from the 40's and 50's (Somewhere Beyond the Sea, etc.) which clashes perfectly with the violent madness happening onscreen. It's just what you'd expect, which isn't bad at all.
BioShock also has some great voice acting, though not on the same level as something like Half-Life 2. Each character has a distinctive accent and personality that you'll come to love or hate. Your Splicer enemies will shuffle about the environments and ramble on about nonsensical topics until they spot you and let out a cry of anger. Little Sisters have the stereotypical-yet-effective creepy little girl dialogue that you'd expect, happily exclaiming things about angels and puppies as they draw blood from Rapture's dead. Sound effects are bleh. Your weapons mostly sound flat and boring, particularly the shotgun which is oddly quiet. But overall Bioshock's sound is a success.
Now this is where it starts falling apart. I could rant on and on about how Bioshock has revolutionary weapons and powers, or an amazing variety of gameplay types. But it doesn't. Which means no ranting for me. Most of the game plays out like a first-person Resident Evil. You find a new area, glean every single bullet and item you can find from the level, shoot a few crazy people/security robots/Big Daddys, look for story info, and fight a boss. Occasionally you'll even go on an backtracking item hunt. Boring.
But Bioshock's combat is what makes it revolutionary, right? That's what the game is all about! Wrong. It's decidedly old school/boring. You get the standard Generic First Person Shooter weapon set: a melee weapon, pistol, machine gun, shotgun, grenade/rocket launcher, and a crossbow. There's also a flamethrower-type weapon that's thrown in but never really used. You pick up and keep every weapon you find, no Halo-style strategic weapon swapping here. Again, old school/boring. Each weapon has three ammo types which are effective against certain enemies.You do get a few really cool ammo types, such as trip line crossbow bolts and exploding shotgun ammo, but usually it boils down to common ammo, anti-splicer ammo, and anti-armor ammo. Nothing too revolutionary there. It IS worth mentioning that you get a camera that you use to research enemies. You get various rewards for doing so, such as increased damage against that enemy, or... actually that's usually about it. The camera is fairly useful. Back to the guns.
Weapon combat consists of.... shooting the enemy and pressing a button to use first aid every once in a while. And like I said before, the weapon effects are flat and uninspired. When I shoot a foe with a shotgun and see that they didn't physically react at all AND it only took down half of their health bar, I'm not exactly thrilled. Bioshock's weapons get a D for Dull.
Your enemies aren't very varied or interesting. You get three flavors: security bots, Big Daddys, and crazy people. That's it. Not very creative OR revolutionary. The crazy people are called Splicers, which makes them sound a lot cooler than they are. There ARE different types of Splicers, which basically means they can either shoot (gasp) punch (WOW!) or throw fireballs at you (OMG GAME OF THE YEAR). It doesn't help that you fight lots, and lots, and LOTS of these guys. The hyped Big Daddys are exciting and pulse-pounding to fight at first, but once you find the better ammo types they become a bore. Security systems, including cameras, bots, and turrets, can all be hacked to fight for you. I thought this was a bit more fun. When you hack something, you play an interesting minigame where you make a pipeline that leads to an exit valve. If you mess up the flow of the liquid, the machine short circuits and takes damage. A fun diversion, but it seems like a lot of work for something that you'll do throughout the game.
Now, for the other half of combat. Plasmids, Tonics, and Adam. These are perhaps the main focus of the gameplay. You get Adam from killing a Big Daddy and harvesting or rescuing his Little Sister. For killing the Sister you get twice the Adam, but you feel bad :( . For saving her, you get half the Adam and a heck of a lot more achievement points when you beat the game. Adam is used at vending machines to buy Plasmids and Tonics. Plasmids are awe-inspiring, disgusting augmentations to your very body and soul that let you perform ungodly acts of violence. Or not. They're like any other magical Jedi powers you've had in another game. Telekinesis, electricity, fire, or a few useless trap-style powers. Meh. They don't do much damage either. The game encourages you to find creative, time consuming ways to use all of your Adam to kill that one enemy, but it's so much easier and faster to simply pump him full of .00 Buck. Plasmids are more of a novelty.
Tonics are far more useful. Basically, they upgrade your character's stats in some way, whether it be damage resistance, more research points for taking pictures, or even giving a nasty electric shock to anyone who dares touch you. They allow a great deal of customization and variety to your character, something the game is sorely lacking in other respects. Tonics are good fun.
Bioshock is certainly a good game. Not great, but good. Don't waste sixty dollars and get bored of it quickly like I did though. I'd much rather play Gears of War for the fiftieth time than pop this dull game in. Rent it and see if you like it. Maybe it's just me.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/24/07
Game Release: BioShock (US, 08/21/07)
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