Review by VGF

"Would you kindly buy this game?"

Its a belief of mine that each year, every major console gets maybe one big hit that really helps define the console. And BioShock is the Xbox 360's long overdue hit. Straight from the brilliant minds of 2k games, BioShock is a unique gem which does so much without overdoing anything...almost.

BioShock starts off in the 1960 with the anonymous hero flying over the Atlantic when, all of a sudden, he blacks out, and the next think he knows the plane is underwater. He swims over to a mysterious lighthouse in the middle of the sea, looks around inside, and eventually takes a submarine-like vessel (called a bathysphere) down into the ocean. On the way down the player gets the chance to watch a video about the man Andrew Ryan and his discontent toward the governments. Then, when the video ends, Ryan's underwater city (Rapture) is exposed. But from the moment the player sees Rapture from the inside, its obvious that Andrew Ryan's utopia is anything but. The mood really gets set when the man there to greet you gets killed by a savage creature immediately after the bathysphere emerges. You grab the radio from the bathysphere and work your way into Rapture. Luckily, you're not alone, as a friendly fellow, who goes by the name of Atlas, is there to help you out. Working with Atlas, the real adventure begins.

BioShock is a first-person shooter (FPS), there's no denying that, but its much more than a traditional one. There are plenty of weapons to be found in Rapture. First of all, there's the standard melee weapon of BioShock: the crowbar. Other than that, there are many weapons that are cliche FPS items: Pistol, shotgun, machine gun, even a makeshift grenade launcher. Perhaps the biggest joy comes from the other firearms, though. Crossbows are certainly not a common weapon found in FPS's, nor is a gun that's able to shoot out either fire, electricity, or liquid nitrogen (great for killing warts ;D). Other than the nice assortment of weapons, there are also multiple ammunition types for each weapon. Besides the basic ammo, there's also some other goodies like electric shotgun shells, and armor-piercing bullets. The wide variety of ammunition helps give variety to the game, as certain types of ammo will perform better against certain enemies.

But the greatest weapon BioShock has to offer is yourself. Throughout the game, you'll find special abilities known as tonics and plasmids. Tonics are simple and just enhance your abilities in some way. Some help out with hacking, some improve physical abilities, and some help give nasty side-effects to creatures that physically hit you. And while tonics are very useful, plasmids are where the real fun comes into play. Plasmids simply mess around with your genetic structure and give you superpowers. It starts off with just lightning at first, but soon after that you'll be shooting fire, ice, and bees at people. And while plasmids are used as a direct weapon quite often, that's not always the case. There are a good few plasmids that can be used to toy with the enemy by messing with the surroundings, or just plain tricking him.

With plasmids in one hand, and weapons in the other, then come the enemies. In Rapture, there are really only two harmful creatures: Splicers, and Big Daddies. Splicers seem to be nothing more than mutated humans who've gone insane, and they let you know it. After the first few encounters, the Splicers' presence lingers, and they help create the atmosphere that is constant in Rapture, so you're always watching out for yourself. And while Splicers may be the genus, they are separated into a variety of species. Each type of Splicer has a different style, while some just charge and swing a pipe, others may sit back and fire a machine gun, or use plasmids. Their threat is only outdone by their aggressiveness and once they set their sights on you, they will rarely stop.

The only thing that is creepier than turning the corner and seeing a gang of Splicers, is turning that corner and running into a large metal beast, a Big Daddy. The Big Daddies are really a trademark of a game, large and fierce, with a heart made of stone. Except that they like to run around with little girls, or Little Sisters. Battling Big Daddies is a major theme of the game, they are powerful, fast, and can take a large amount of damage. But to get the most out of the game, its necessary to fight them so you can get to the Little Sister. Small, fragile, but mutated, what to do with the Little Sisters is a running theme throughout the game, and one that'll influence how the game is played.

One thing that seems to take away from the combat however, is the lack of a death penalty. When you die, you are instantly revived at the last Vita Chamber you passed. And that may sound like a standard function, but all the progress obtained before death, is still there. Meaning if you had a Big Daddy one shot from death, and he finishes you off, you can run right back, pop a bullet into him and he'll be dead. Some people won't have a problem with a lack of a death penalty, others will, but overall, it just detracts from feeling of achievement.

When you get into a bit of a pickle, hacking objects is a good way to swing things in your favor. Hacking is quite simple, if you played Pipe Dream way back when. If not, the goal is to connect two pipe together before the water gets to a dead end. After completing a hack (or by using an auto-hack tool or buying your way out) you'll be rewarded depending on what you hacked. Machines and camera will fight enemies instead, while vending machines will become cheaper. There's plenty of hacking to be done in the game, so be prepared.

To be blunt, the soundtrack in the game is AMAZING. While some of the music you'll hear throughout the game seems a little out-of-place, it only adds more to the experience in the long run. Through the same, cheery music in when you're surrounded by Splicers and a very awkward, yet fulfilling, situation arises. Of course, the music isn't always playing, and that's a good time to listen to the lovely sounds of Rapture. Strolling along a dark corridor and hearing a distant moan of a Splicer, or minding your own business and suddenly hear the roar of a Big Daddy. Together, the music and sound effects really add to an already amazing atmosphere.

The plot of the game is easily the greatest part. Besides whats right in front of you throughout the game, there are also many, many diaries to collect left by the citizens of Rapture. And using said diaries, the history of the dystopia is slowly revealed, creating an amazing story that's far beyond what most games show. The story, like the city, is filled with an enormous amount of detail, and overlooking that is virtually being robbed of the game's greatest pleasure.

Despite the greatness of BioShock, replayablility isn't too high. One, maybe two, complete runs will satisfy most people for a good long time. But, like any great game, it'll always be fun to revisit after a fair amount of time. The other notable exclusion in the game is the lack of multiplayer. By no means does that hurt the quality of the game. But anyone who gets a hold of BioShock and expects a brilliant multiplayer experience is sadly mistaken.

BioShock is easily one of the best games this generation. On average a player will get 15-20 hours on a play through, more or less depending on how they play. And while the game would be possible to beat in a multiple-day rental, I still say Buy it! After one play through, you may not want to play it again for the plot, but there are two endings, based on your actions. And its a game where you might find fun just sticking the difficulty on easy some day when you're bored, and going around throwing bees at people. It really is a brilliant title and nothing short of an artistic masterpiece.

Graphics: 10/10 - some of the best we've seen
Gameplay: 9/10 - can get tedious at times, lack of death penalty hurts a bit.
Sound/Music: 9.5/10 - Great. Can be dull occasionally, but not enough to become boring.
Value: 9/10 - $60 is steep. You'll definitely be happy with one run, but replayablilty depends on the person.

Overall (not average): 9.5/10 (rounded down)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/23/07, Updated 08/31/07

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

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