Review by BrokenDreams13
"Truly one of the greatest games ever made."
Every great many years there comes a game so amazing that it becomes legendary and is used to judge everything that comes after it. BioShock joins the ranks of games like Half-Life and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as eternally great icons of what games can be as an art form. Irrational Games, now known as 2K Boston, have created something here that is truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word. In a world where there seems to be another first-person shooter ever week, this game pushes the boundaries of what the genre can do and creates something so unique and fascinating, that it's hard to even classify this as an FPS. What we have here is one of the front runners for 2007's Game of the Year, and truly one of the greatest games of all time.
Debates have raged on for years on whether or not the story matters in a video game. It has been said by many that games are the one form of media that don't necessarily depend on a great story to impress, and while this is true in some cases, in others it's just the opposite. Some games thrive on their story telling ability and the impact it has on players. This type of game was precisely what Ken Levine, creative director of 2K Boston, had in mind when he thought up the story for BioShock. So the arguments for story or no story are irrelevant here, because this title serves up one of the most creative and unique stories ever told, regardless of the medium.
You start the game in the passenger seat of a commercial airplane flying over the Atlantic Ocean in 1960. Then all of a sudden the plane mysteriously crashes into the water, and as you come to find yourself submerged in the ocean, you begin to realize that you may be the only survivor. Once you hit the surface you begin to swim up to an unusual lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. Once inside you locate a small device called a bathysphere and your journey begins, in the underwater city of Rapture, a city created by an objectivist with a certain distaste for governments named Andrew Ryan. The governments of the world were just not good enough for him and he decided it was time for a change. The city of Rapture is where he took some of the world's brightest and best citizens to live and practice their craft without restrictions. But by the time you get there you quickly realize that something has gone terribly wrong, and you are left to figure it out.
I wont delve much farther into the story here as to prevent spoilers, but this really is a hallmark in story telling and a true testament to the writing genius that is Mr. Levine. All of the characters are brilliantly developed throughout the game, and even lesser roles are explained in the fullest. Most of the storyline is told through audio diaries that you pick up throughout the game. It's a terrifying way to put the pieces together in an attempt to find out just what happened to Rapture. Levine says his inspirations for the story came from works like Fight Club and various Ayn Rand novels. The Ayn Rand references are quite visually apparent since the little sisters, the small girls that roam the city, are actually modeled after Ayn Rand herself, and one of the most important characters in the game is named Atlas. However, these are just a few inspirations that Levine drew from, but those alone call for an amazing story, and like I said before, that's exactly what BioShock has.
Run, aim, shoot, repeat. That's been the formula for shooters ever since the early days of Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, and now we are finally seeing a change of season for the genre. BioShock is very open-ended when it comes to gameplay, and you can pretty much play out most of the game anyway you choose. The main focus during your quest is to not only uncover this strange mystery, but to also evolve yourself in order to survive. You do this with something called adam, a strange serum which is the basis of everything down in Rapture. It gives you the opportunity to use strange powers called plasmids as well as some other neat tricks. The first plasmid available in the game allows you to shoot lightning out of your hand, Sith style. Only two plasmid slots are available to you on the outset, but over time you can earn more and more slots and use many of the plasmids you discover while playing. All of the plasmids use another serum called eve to keep them generated. Needless to say adam and eve will be at the top of your shopping list while in Rapture. Adam is obtained from the little sisters that roam through the city. These are small girls who scout the streets in search of dead bodies, which coincidently hold the adam. The little sisters are protected by intimidating big daddies. These guys are men in special diving suits especially trained to guard the little sisters to the death, which is exactly what they will do if you get too close. If you leave the little sisters alone they wont harm you, but you always need adam, and that can present problems. Only two plasmid slots are available to you on the outset, but over time you can earn more and more slots and use many of the plasmids you discover while playing.
Other enemies you encounter on your visit are just your average, everyday type of people. The only problem is they abused the powers they were given and eventually turned into monsters known as splicers. There are various classes of splicers throughout the game, and they all present their own sets of abilities and weaknesses. Level scaling rears its ugly head once again, but it's not as terrible as it was in games like Oblivion. As you evolve the difficulty does rise, but you can't fault the developers for trying to keep the challenge up.
In a sea of greatness there is always one ugly duckling, and for BioShock that happens to be a small bug that makes the gameplay a bit choppy during long play sessions. But if you only play for an hour or two at a time this wont even be noticeable, and could easily be patched with an online update. The cons are almost too minimal to even mention, but like every game before it they are there, no matter how small.
Many developers have used Unreal Technology and their Unreal Engine 3 in their games, but none have made it work quite like this. In fact, games using UE3 can range from downright terrible to modern masterpieces. It really is unusual to see a renowned game engine's performance fluctuate like this, but that's beside the point. The point is that BioShock looks absolutely phenomenal, and might be the best looking game we've ever seen. The detail is immense, and the surroundings are extravagant. The game also features some of the best water effects ever seen in a game, and really gives you a sense of urgency and claustrophobia. All of these great visuals add to a ridiculous atmosphere that makes a sci-fi first person-shooter scarier and more terrifying than most horror games on the market today.
The atmosphere isn't helped by outstanding graphics alone, because when this group of hardworking, dedicating employees begin a project, the one thing they take more pride in than anything else is sound. This is 2K Boston we are talking about here, the creators of the cult classic System Shock 2. From sad cries out in the distance to one of the most frightening music scores around, everything is absolutely perfect from top to bottom. Every shot fired, head smacked, and step taken sound exactly the way it would in real life. As a whole, BioShock sounds supremely better than any other game to date. It's rare that something is released that just blows everything else away that came before it, but this fits the bill. The intense audio qualities, combined with the beautiful visuals just create a living, breathing world, and the aforementioned atmosphere is the best in recent memory.
Not only does BioShock look and sound great, but it also plays well and features some outstanding controls. Simply put, the game just feels right while playing it. This being 2K Boston's first console game, they really did a fantastic job getting to know a gamepad rather than a mouse and keyboard. It feels like any other terrific first-person shooter, with all of the plasmid powers implemented very well. Battles are nice and fluid, and never feel clunky at all. Another testament to the wonderful work of 2K Boston.
In the age of the internet, single-player only games are very hard to come by. Online multiplayer has become so popular you could almost call it a fad. However, single-player only games are usually filled with a rich, well-developed storyline and a better, more memorable experience as a whole. So you can't be too bummed about the lack of multiplayer, because the focus was on the most important thing one-hundred percent. Plus, would you really want to play a possibly rushed multiplayer component? It didn't work for The Darkness, and it probably wouldn't work here. The open-ended style of the gameplay, along with the arcing storyline and different moral paths are enough to warrant some tremendous replay value. BioShock is one of the few that can do it without any multiplayer at all, and it also happens to be one of the greatest game of all time.
There really isn't much else that needs to be said about this game, it's just simply perfect in almost every way. It would be a disservice to yourself not to at least try this game and let it slip through your fingers. Don't miss this opportunity to live the adventure and uncover the mysteries of Rapture. Ken Levine is a true genius, and what he wrote here is fit for a novel with a movie adaptation to follow. The visual and audio qualities are some of, if not the best in recent memory, and pretty much everything sets new standards in what games should be. No matter what Roger Ebert claims, video games can be considered an art form, because there is most certainly an amazing artistic value here. BioShock is not only one of the most beautiful video games ever created, but it's also an artistic masterpiece over all mediums. Now if you haven't already, would you kindly go and purchase this game right now?
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 09/14/07
Game Release: BioShock (US, 08/21/07)
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