Review by Allyourbase

"Grossly overrated"

Just because it's majority opinion doesn't mean it's correct.

BioShock has earned a boatload of awards and accolades from the media and video game players alike. While it is deserving of some kudos, "Game of the Year" should not be one of them. It's easy to get caught up in BioShock's original narrative of an aquatic dystopian city or its alternative take on the first-person shooter, but in reality, these serve as the veneer on an otherwise unremarkable game from a gameplay standpoint.

To sum up the plot, BioShock puts you in the shoes of an unknown protagonist who crashes his plane in an unknown part of the Pacific Ocean. You come upon a bathysphere that sends you down into the underwater city of Rapture. You quickly come to learn that all is not well in the city, as it has now been populated by genetically modified freaks called Splicers. An unknown man named Atlas is your only companion – of sorts – providing guidance over the radio as you navigate Rapture's various areas to try to figure out A) what the hell happened to Rapture and B) how in the world you're going to get back up to the surface. Other than him, you're pretty much on your own.

It all sounds good – if the gameplay were a little more fleshed out.

On top of the standard FPS fare of pistols, machine guns and heavy-duty artillery, you can alter your DNA through power-ups called Plasmids to give yourself powers. You can send bolts of electricity shooting from your fingertips, shocking your foes or jets of flame to incinerate them.

Not your style? You can also send hordes of swarming insects to distract foes while you stand back and plug them full of holes. Or entice enemies into attacking each other. Or hack nearby gun turrets to blast enemies. it's up to you. The variety of choice is what sets BioShock's combat system apart from other shooters.

Using these powers consumes EVE, which is similar to magic points in RPGs. The biggest flaw in BioShock's combat system is that EVE can only be replenished by two methods – using EVE hypos or dying and respawning. It never feels like you have enough EVE to wage war against the denizens of Rapture. The powers simply consume way too much EVE bar.

On the other hand, ammunition is plentiful, although that's in relative terms. You can find it lying around or even invent ammunition types by finding random trinkets and then throwing them into a machine. Unfortunately, ammo is still in rather short supply. It's easy to lose track of ammo and more often than not you'll find yourself out of bullets and resorting to whacking enemies with your melee weapon to get by.

That leads into the next complaint. Perhaps the frequency of ammunition/EVE shortages resulted in the need to create a respawn system. Simply put, there is no penalty for dying in BioShock. You simply respawn in a nearby Vita-Chamber and any damage you inflict on an enemy is carried over. While tiresome and boring, it is entirely possible to play the entire game using only your wrench – and maybe EVE powers – and wearing down opponents in a battle of attrition with the same results as if you decided to bother deploying any semblance of strategy.

There's stil more.

Enemy variety is poor. Throughout the entire game, you only encounter six types of enemies. There are the Thug Splicers, who wield wrenches; Lead Splicers, who pack pistols; Spider Splicers, who are straight up freaky; the aptly named Houdini Splicers, who can turn invisible; security robots and turrets; and the infamous Big Daddies who seem to be plastered everywhere.

BioShock gets horribly laggy at some points. While that might be permissible in an online game, it's inexcusable for an offline single-player mode. (By the way, BioShock has no multiplayer mode – online or otherwise). It's amazing this kind of glitch got by quality-control.

For people who care to be in total control, there's no option to remap buttons. You're pretty much stuck with the control scheme 2K has laid out for you. It's frustrating should that scheme not jive with your style.

The game itself is rather linear and that Atlas does plenty of hand-holding for you, as he has you going from objective to objective. There's no room for alternative methods of accomplishing your goals and the linearity wears thin, no matter how compelling the plot might be.

Make no mistake, BioShock is a visually compelling game and introduces some concepts that redefine the way first-person shooters play out, but it's plagued by horrendous gameplay issues. If you really must play BioShock, it's better off as a rental. Game of the Year it's not, not by any stretch of the imagination.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/07

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


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