Review by nastynate3118

"Little sister, can't you find another way? No more living life behind a shadow..."

Introduction

BioShock was released in 2007 for the PC and Xbox 360. This game attempts to mix the first-person shooter genre with a very RPG-like philosophical story. I dislike when games try to sound overly-intellectual, but this game pulls it off very well and stands as an interesting video game imagining of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

As I stated above, the game is a first-person shooter mixed with RPG elements. You control a man named Jack as he explores an underwater city of Rapture. As you progress through the game, you acquire new weapons and abilities known as “plasmids.” These are analogous to magic spells and have different powers. You also can acquire upgrades for your weapons and find items called Tonics that will give you upgrades to your powers. I love this addition to the game and the fact that you can really build Jack any way you want to. There are plenty of things to collect and find that keep your hands glued to the controller.

The gameplay itself is very tense and has aspects of the survival-horror genre. The game reminds me of Doom in the sense that it uses lighting to increase the tension in an area and keep things interesting. I was really impressed with the AI of the enemies in this game. They rarely behave erratically and usually work together to try and bring you down. They will take cover and deploy a variety of weapons against Jack, increasing the challenge of the game in a positive way.

Keeping in line with the philosophical themes of the story, there are different morality decisions that need to be made regarding Little Sisters that are found in the game. Little Sisters are young girls who possess a tremendous amount of ADAM, the substance that gives you powers in the game. You can either save them or harvest their ADAM and become more powerful. This can alter the ending and really enhances the gameplay.

There are a couple of problems with the gameplay that are present. Throughout the game you have to perform a puzzle mini game when you hack into a machine where you have to connect these pipes so that water flow goes from point A to point B. The mini game itself is fun but becomes very tedious and repetitive as you have to do it well over 100 times as you play the game. There are also machines scattered throughout called “U Invent” machines. You collect different materials and can use the machine to synthesize new items. I found these machines to be pointless because you already should have plenty of items and the reward is not worth the time to collect the materials.

BioShock effortlessly blends the FPS, RPG and survival horror genres together with a hint of the puzzle genre. You will be happy with the varied and tense gameplay.

Interface- 7.5/10

The interface is the weakest aspect of the game. There are no problems with navigation as there is a giant arrow on the top of the screen that is always telling you where to go, so it is difficult to get lost. Ammo and item readings are easy to read and it is very simple to switch between plasmids and weapons.

The menus are not set up well and are difficult to navigate through. There are menus and submenus and a lot going on in them, plus an additional options menu. It's a behemoth of text that is wholly unnecessary. I also dislike the fact that the subtitles that appear do not match up with the line that is being spoken. It really is a buzz kill when text appears revealing an important plot point and that line has yet to be spoken.

Story- 9/10

The plot of BioShock revolves around a character named Jack who is exploring an underwater city called Rapture. He is involved in a plane crash in the beginning of the game and stumbles upon the city seemingly by accident. Rapture is a dystopian environment led by a man named Andrew Ryan who created the city based on philosophical ideas that espouse individual freedom and an absence of laws. Jack is more concerned about escaping Rapture and encounters a man via radio named Atlas who serves as a guide throughout the game. The presentation and dialogue is done almost exclusively through radio transmissions, very reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid. Similar to that game, there are several plot twists that completely change the course of the story and keep things fresh.

As you progress through the game, you can collect radio diaries that develop the various characters of Rapture. I was really impressed by the complexity of the cast and how they articulate their motivations and individual desires. The script is very engaging and well-written and manages to not sound too intellectual to the point where it makes no sense.

The multiple endings are a nice addition but are incredibly short and lack a sense of closure, which I found a bit disheartening. Still, BioShock has an excellent plot and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Graphics - 9/10

The best way I can describe BioShock's graphics is dark and moody. Lighting is used to create tension and add to the horror of Rapture. Yellow seems to be a dominating color throughout the game to show rust and the decay of the areas you explore. I love the attention to the minutest details of the game to lend to its 1940's feel. Rapture looks absolutely amazing and it really feels like you are exploring this ruinous city in the ocean.

The only complaint I have with the graphics comes with the enemies in the game. They do not look or act natural at all, and I do not mean this in a complimentary way. Their faces are very 2-dimensional and always seem to have the same expression. In comparison to the outstanding graphics of the rest of the game, I think the enemies do not match them in terms of quality.

Sound/Music - 10/10

BioShock boasts a soundtrack that is both tense and scary. The music can go from quiet and brooding to explosive seamlessly. I also love the 1940's music that plays throughout various areas. It adds more life to Rapture. The sound effects are strong and the designers did a good job altering the volume of various sounds to add depth to the game.

The best part of the audio is easily the voice acting. The performance of Andrew Ryan is both maniacal and introspective. Atlas has a great voice as well.

Play Time/Replayability - 9.5/10

I finished BioShock in 14 hours, 42 minutes and 6 seconds. This is a decent length for the game and I took my time exploring areas and collecting items and radio diaries. The multiple endings and difficulties add a tremendous amount of replay value to the game. The fact that you can have different weapons and combinations of upgrades also helps.

My only criticism is that I feel like a New Game+ mode would have really benefited this game. It would be fun to play through the game with different abilities and collect every single upgrade, but I digress.

PROS
+Varied, tense gameplay
+Morality decisions offer depth
+Plenty of upgrades and items to collect
+Navigation is made very easy
+Excellent plot presentation
+Script is well-written
+Dark and moody graphics bring Rapture to life
+Tense, atmospheric music
+Excellent voice acting
+High replay value

CONS
-U Invent machines are pointless
-Hacking puzzles are repetitive and tedious
-Subtitles do not match spoken lines
-Menus are cluttered and cumbersome
-Endings are very short and lack closure
-Enemies look unnatural and 2-dimensional

Final Recommendation

BioShock shows off the artistic capability that video games have. It is one of the best Xbox 360 games I have played and is a must have in any 360 owner's collection. It is smart and accessible and most importantly has fun, varied gameplay.

Final Score: 8.91667/10 rounded to 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/13

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


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