Review by Thorpe

"BioShock invites you to a mysterious underwater world that you'll be gripped to."

BioShock is something you'll want to fully explore to find out all the hidden surprises along the way. It does very well on many levels - the story, the graphical feel and the level design. It is set in a standard first-person view. For a lot of the time, you'll be shooting down enemies or killing them some other way but BioShock manages to put a dosage of that "adventure" and "thrilling" feel to it. Put all these components together and it proves to be a great experience.

Your character is put into a city called "Rapture" and you'll come to notice how the developers have made great use of the technology for the console. Throughout, you'll be seeing a lot of water. From looking out of the windows and seeing the rest of the city underwater, to seeing water dripping from the cracked ceilings. The water looks very realistic and the physics from it are impressive. When you first are able to control your character, you will notice the level of detail put into the water around you and how it reflects the objects near it. It's incredibly impressive when you encounter a flood of water headed your way early on.

BioShock's city of Rapture isn't a very nice place to be. It's freaky and often thrilling when you progress through it. The theme of it seems really well done and certainly keeps you gripped to playing more. The opening introduces you with a cutscene that opens up your adventure into the city of Rapture. When you regain control of your character, you are left stranded in the sea. From there on, you'll begin to uncover the secrets and freaky nature of this myseterious city.

It does a nice job of gradually building you up to doing the more intense action. You won't necessarily be placed into the action straight away but you will just have the ability to move around and look into the crisp detail of the environment around you. It seems you have just crash landed from a plane into the sea and there are no other survivors - only you. As you arrive to this lighthouse in pitch black, you won't feel very welcomed. The typicalcliché of the gigantic doors closing behind you, leaving you trapped certainly shows from now on - this is bad news. You just know there is no going back.

The only way forward is to go down to this bathysphere. This will close it doors and proceed to put you into the underwater world of Rapture. You can sit back for a little while here - as you admire the view around you. You'll go past marine life, buildings with illuminated signs and notice the messages inviting you into Rapture. The feel of this reminds me of the underwater scenes from Artificial Intelligence: AI. So, if you thought it was bad enough being trapped in a lighthouse building, then think again. This time you're trapped underwater. Confused? Well, you'll hear a message from the great Andrew Ryan - a guy who seems to be the big man of Rapture. Along your journey, you will uncover many more dark and disturbing messages.

Throughout, you'll have this radio that you are required to pick up from the bathysphere. The guy here is referred to as "Atlas" and has an Australian accent. He is here to help you get out of this mess and to save his family. Don't expect things to be too linear as you'll come across a few twists and turns depending on your actions. Now, the freakishness is clearly present upon stepping out of the bathysphere. You'll come across these things called "splicers" and they certainly do seem to define "freaky." Upon looking around the environment, it is noticeable that the place is a trash - full of broken objects.

The splicers aren't nice at all. Luckily, you won't have to put up a fist fight with them. The game indicates you to go find a wrench and start smacking away at your freaky enemies. Variousinstructions are given to you so you know what you are doing. It can feel solid hitting them; bits of blood splurging out from their bodies from your hits. Also, if you happen to hit anything else, such as a wall - you'll notice it chips out parts which is a neat addition. Throughout, you'll pick up new and interesting weapons such as a machine gun, shotgun, a grenade launcher and more. Using some weapons will make killing enemies quicker and easier but you've got to consider your ammunition.

Weapons can be dropped by enemies and you can purchase ammunition from vending machines with the money you've found along your way. Money can be dropped by enemies, found in tills, safes and other places. Each enemy and many objects can be searched. You'll often find pistol rounds, money and health pickups. You may find bigger sums of money once you've defeated these things called "Big Daddies," a rather large looking thing that is there to protect the "Little Sister."

Vending machines offers things at certain prices. Of course, you can often get things for cheaper if you decide to hack them. Hacking a vending machine works simple on the early parts. You are placed into a mini-game, where you have to connect a series of pipes from one end to another. The challenge here is you are on limited time and it can often prove difficult when you cannot find the right parts. It's not just vending machines that can be hacked. Other things can be hacked such as safes, security cameras and turrets. These work on the same mini-game too. If you just cannot be asked to hack yourself, you may have an option to auto-hack it. Auto-hacking is limited and can cost you money. Good thing is - once you've hacked something, it does remained hacked. Hacking things can prove helpful too. If you've hacked a turret, then its light will turn from red to green. So, from now on it will destroy any of your enemies trying to get you. The hacking works good but you may just find it getting repetitive once you've done it so many times. There are achievements for hacking certain things and doing over 50 hacks.

As you explore the city of Rapture, you will begin to pick up details and messages that indicates this is not set to present day. The various audio diaries, themes of the rooms and objects indicate this. The audio diaries are scattered and often hidden in parts of the levels. You will often find clues (such as codes for opening doors) and hear interesting stories from greatly-voiced characters in these audio diaries. Picking them all up will unlock an achievement. Doing so won't be easy since there are loads of these and some can be hidden fairly well.

Now, there is a good variety of weapons to use but you've also got "plasmids." These plasmids are used from your left arm and this is limited too. You'll need to pick up something called "EVE" in order to top it up. Your first plasmid will allow you to electrocute enemies. This stuns them and gives you a chance to kill them with your weapon. If they happen to be in water then the electricity does indeed react with it. Another neat addition made too. Along the way, you will get other plasmids such as one that can flame enemies. You may also use plasmids for overcoming certain obstacles. Electricity can often override some locks and using a flame can melt ice revealing a new route to progress through. There are also some fun ones present too. One can turn asecurity camera to attack enemies rather than yourself. Another can turn a Big Daddy to your side and help protect you like you are its own Little Sister.

Certainly on the more easier difficulties, you probably won't have to use some of these plasmids. On the harder difficulty, you may want to be more tactical and use the right plasmids at the right time. You can only have a few plasmids applied to your character at one time. There are plenty of stations to swap them over and so there is no worry here. Another thing your character has is "tonics." These can boost you in certain ways and feel like you are giving your character some intense drugs. One tonic will electrocute an enemy if they manage to get a hit on you, another can make you move faster and another can make you turn invisible if you are standing still. So, enemies will have no idea where to attack. There are many more that you can try out too.

Using a good combination of plasmids and tonics can make things easier. There is indeed a great variety available to collect and purchase. You can't purchase these with money you have collected. For these things, you need something called ADAM. ADAM is sort-of a currency for just purchasing these. Earning it is done by killing the Big Daddies and then getting the Little Sisters that you will notice. Each level has a set number of Big Daddies with Little Sisters. This can be found out by pressing the Start button. Big Daddies are very violent but they will never attack you if you are not disturbing them. If you fire a shot at them, they will turn against you. They will run very fast and push you away, deducting your health quite a bit. In this situation, you may want to use a plasmid or just go in with a shotgun.

Once they're dead, you will notice their light has gone. Unfortunately, the Little Sister will be crying. You will need to decide what you want to do with them next. Your actions on the Little Sisters decide what way the story will turn out later on in the game. The two options here are to either "Harvest" or "Rescue" them. Rescuing them is a more friendly way but you don't earn much ADAM. However, harvesting them will give you a lot more ADAM - meaning you can purchase more plasmids and tonics. It may seem that harvesting them is the easiest thing but at times you will get bonus rewards if you regularly rescue them.

The enemies start to change later on. Some simply won't just be shooting at you. Some will start throwing flames at you and others canteleport across the room. This certainly makes it a much more harder process. Other enemies can drain your health if they manage to throw a grenade by you. So, you've got to be careful around these splicers. Splicers you may notice do actually have a bit of intelligence. There are nearby health stations that they can top up their health at. Usually, you would probably be thinking that these can only be used by you. Topping up health can be done in a few ways. You can find various snacks on tables. There also things likecigarettes and alcoholic beverages. These work different though. If you smoke a cigarette you will have your health decreased a bit but your plasmid health is increased. The health stations are your best bet for getting health. You can pay the amount to receive a health boost, hack them or destroy them to receive one full health pack. Obviously, once destroyed, they can not be used again.

If you manage to lose all your health, you will die but you will spawn at the nearest vita-chamber. Thankfully, you will notice the enemies you may have killed have not re-spawned too which is very forgiving. Most of the time, the game runs smoothly and loading times are only mainly used from switching to levels. However, sometimes it may feel like it has frozen on you, when you have just found a tonic. A message appears on-screen telling you what its effects are but it may still be loading other parts so it seems to freeze temporarily. Also, it seems the frame rate seems to be unstable at times. This was noticed later on in the game and replaying it at times often found that the frame rate problems were coming in too often. The game can run at a higher rate slightly through the options but decreases the graphical look a bit. At times this helped but did not completely stop the issues.

For the most part, you'll know what to do next. The game gives you objectives to complete. Some objectives are sub-objectives to one main objective. So, you may find yourself constantly exploring a level to get one objective done. Objectives are shown by using the Back button. You can also be given hints too. A map is also shown which can help at times when it asks you to go to a particular location. The map shows you where many things are including vending machines, goals and stairways. At times, you will notice an arrow in the center at the top part of the screen. This is to guide you to your goal but you may find you want to explore other rooms for hidden secrets. Some rooms don't have a clear entrance. You may find you have to destory something or crouch down into a small passage way to get through them.

You will encounter a few bosses in BioShock. These can basically be taken down using the same methods you used for taking down the regular splicers. It just takes a little longer to deduct their health. It would have been nice for a bit of variety between these bosses. These are often voiced with insane speeches and will certainly add to freaky factor that BioShock offers. Spicers can be random with their speeches too. They will sing and can have very creepy laughs. It is incredibly thrilling when one of these suddenly jumps out at you whilst throwing some hooks. On top of that, you have some classic tracks in locations. These can be heard from nearby jukeboxes usually. There's a few funny moments too. Like in one part, you can knock over a the music player that the splicers are dancing too. Doing this makes them very angry and you will have to prepare for them going to attack you.

BioShock is certainly appealing to many players out there. It's not yet another first-person shooter that you can just blast through. It's a mysterious adventure that you'll come to love and feel gripped to. It certainly has some great shooting moments but those looking into anadventurous and yet freaky-styled game should consider purchasing BioShock. It's beautiful with its water effects and often unique style at times. Certainly one of this year's games not to be skipped.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/26/07

Game Release: BioShock (EU, 08/24/07)

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