Review by Yedokai

"Good game? Yes. Game of the year it is not."

There's been a lot of hype revolving around Bioshock, and unless you've been living under a rock you've been exposed to some of it. I didn't pay attention to any of the hype until after I had beaten the game, at which point I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It seems like everyone and their mother thinks that Bioshock is the best game ever and that it should be game of the year.

Now, I have nothing against Bioshock. It's a good game, and in ways it's better than most of the trash you'll find on store shelves. But it's not game of the year material...not by far. Let me start out this review with what Bioshock does right...

THE GOOD

1. Atmosphere

If you remove the enemies from the game and focus purely on the visuals, Bioshock is beautiful. Simply beautiful. It's not just that it looks good or has good graphics; the atmosphere really makes Rapture feel like an amazingly unique and yet believable place. This is by far what Bioshock does the best, and I tip my hat to the developers for it.

2. Story

If you love a good story, you won't be disappointed with Bioshock. It's extremely compelling, it has some fun twists, and around every corner there are things that you can learn about this city, the people in it, and what has happened to bring the place into the state that it is currently in.

3. Voice acting

Voice acting in video games always has the potential to just be awful; that's part of why it's extremely refreshing to hear voice overs that not only aren't bad, but are perfect, Hollywood quality. They really bring life to the game.

4. Camera Research

In Bioshock, you can research your enemies by using a special camera to take pictures of them, and by doing this you can earn certain powers and increase your damage against them. It's a nice little system that helps break away from the otherwise constant action so that you can get some pretty snapshots. I liked it!

THE MEDIOCRE

1. Enemy AI

Artificial intelligence in games has seen drastic improvements over the years, and Bioshock seems to take a big step backwards in this department. Humanoid enemies, known as Splicers, come in several varieties, but none of them are intelligent. All of them pretty much run straight up to you, or randomly strafe while they take periodic shots at you. There's no use of cover, no teamwork, no nothing. They are dumb, and they come across as such. When an enemy with a knife is running straight towards the guy who can shoot lightning from his hands and is holding a flamethrower...well, the enemy is not going to win, but he's going to try anyway. Dumb as toast. The one thing enemies do that is even mildly not dumb is trying to find health machines when their life is low...but that's hardly intelligence.

The only AI's that are interesting at all are the melee-type Big Daddies, and only about half of the game's levels have these; forget the fact that you never even HAVE to fight them.

2. Plasmids

In Bioshock, you upgrade yourself using plasmids that you find or buy. These allow you to do amazing things, like shoot fire from your hands or freeze enemies temporarily with ice. However, in practice they aren't really that amazing. Your flame power is just a one-shot flamethrower that can melt the occasional ice block. Your wind-related power is just a land mine. And then you get down to powers that make enemies fight each other, make dummies that enemies will be tricked by, and the power that temporarily makes certain enemies your friend...and you realize that this stuff has all been done before. Where's the innovation? Sure, in this game your powers are coming from your hand instead of a gun or some sort of ACME gizmo, but that doesn't make it original.

The only two powers that are interesting are telekinesis and the lightning ability, and even telekinesis falls short of expectations. Telekinesis pulls things to you, moves it around, and then throws it. The basic system is done well, but try to pick something up and use it as a shield of sorts and you'll find yourself still getting shot to pieces, despite the fact that you can't see anything because your screen is eclipsed by whatever you're holding.

Lightning is a cool ability that has a wide variety of uses. It can stun guys you shoot, electrify water, temporarily shut off machines, and open broken electric locks. If only the other abilities you gained were as interesting and useful...

3. Weapons

The weapons aren't supposed to be anything amazing in Bioshock, because the core content is supposed to lie elsewhere. However, you WILL be using them, and they bring up their own problems.

Plasmids are supposed to be the cool thing about Bioshock, but the weapons that you find do a good job of taking Plasmids down a notch. What do I mean, you ask? Well, being able to summon fire with your fingertips is pretty cool...until you pick up a flamethrower that can launch a constant barrage of flames. In fact, more than one weapon you find has the ability to light things on fire, freeze things in ice, and even electrify them, making your powers that do these things that much less unique in some cases, and just plain useless in others.

The other problem I had with the weapons is that many of them block a huge chunk of your screen. If Bioshock was just a simple shooter like Counterstrike it wouldn't be a big deal, but a healthy amount of what you'll be doing in Bioshock is scrounging around every last corner to find tapes and ammo and keys and whatnot...and the loss of a corner of your screen during this process is not very happy-making.

THE BAD

1. Enemy Voices

The Splicers in Bioshock just won't shut up. It's interesting nowadays that enemies regularly talk instead of just being silent like they used to be. When I shoot an enemy in the leg in whatever game I'm playing and he screams "Bastard!", that makes sense and brings the game to life.

However, in Bioshock, while there are a few quick, generic outbursts that enemies can spout, most of what you will be hearing is akin to monologues. You'll just be strolling through the streets of Rapture, and for the 50th time today you'll hear, "We thought we could hide from the light...we were wrong!", and you'll be like, "Oh, it's that guy again..."

Yes, enemies in Bioshock just walk around randomly saying stupid, lengthy phrases. It really takes away from the idea that each of these enemies is an individual citizen of Rapture and makes you feel like you're fighting the same guys over and over again. It totally breaks the sense of immersion that the atmosphere of Rapture otherwise lulls you into.

2. Scripted sequences

While certain scripted sequences are done extremely well (like, for example, the introduction to the first boss), many others are done poorly. Early on in the game you will often find a character banging on a door talking to a person on the other side. Watch them for awhile and they will just repeat the same scripted sequence over and over and over again. Like the point above, it just totally breaks the immersion and reminds you that you're playing a game.

3. Death

When you die in Bioshock, you come back to life at the nearest respawn device. There is no cost for this or disadvantage. In fact, every enemy will still have the exact same amount of health as they did when you died. So, let's say you're fighting a boss. You get him down to a quarter of his health and you die. All you have to do is run back to him, take that remaining 25% health, and you win.

This makes it so there is no challenge to the game, and no challenge means that there's no rewarding feeling that you get from overcoming a challenge. It's like no matter how you play, it doesn't matter, because you're inevitably going to win anyway.

4. Bugs

Big bugs in games are pretty much unforgivable in my eyes. Tiny bugs are understandable, but anything that really hinders the game should have been found and corrected before the game was released.

I played the entire game through without experiencing any bugs. However, my girlfriend got to a point in the game where the game would play normally for a second, then drop her framerate to zero, then play normally, then zero, alternating once a second. It probably doesn't sound half as bad as it really is...but trust me, it's enough to make you tear your hair out, and enough to make me never want to play Bioshock again because I might have to deal with this bug.

After checking the message boards on GameFAQs, I found that this was a decently common bug that many other users had experienced at this point in the game. This bug alone takes my score for Bioshock down a point.

Additionally, enemies are supposed to forget about you when you die, but I've had enemies run through the level all the way to my respawn point because of bugs that didn't wipe their memory.

5. It has to be said...

You're exploring a room, and you come across a blue vial. You're thinking, "What's this?" and press a button to investigate it further. However, instead of investigating it, your character picks it up, takes out a huge needle, and injects the stuff into his wrist. WHAT?!?! Where did that come from? I don't remember telling my character to do anything as crazy as that. It just plain didn't make sense. It doesn't break the game or anything, but it's just ridiculous.

Summary

So all in all, Bioshock is a good game that suffers from a few bugs and way too much hype. If you aren't expecting to play the game of the year, you'll enjoy a rental, but the bugs alone make it not worth a purchase.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/22/07

Game Release: BioShock (US, 08/21/07)


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