Review by horror_spooky

"Dethrones Gears of War as best 360 title so far"

Every once in a while there is a game that at first glance doesn't seem too interesting and maybe even like a cliché-ridden title that you just know will be a total bomb. Honestly, those were my first opinions on BioShock when I read the previews from the various gaming publications and when I saw the screenshots. My mind kept traveling to the million other first-person shooters like Prey, Doom, or Quake and the similarities I could already imagine within the world of Rapture, and I was beginning to think that all the hype was just going to lead to another disappointment for me. I was wrong.

What really makes BioShock stand apart from those previously mentioned titles is that BioShock's gameplay is almost completely nonlinear in terms of combat. I played through the game multiple times, and each time I played, I found new ways to kill the enemies coming at me, and they had found new ways to try to kill me, too. Depending on what Tonics and Plasmids you have available to you, there are a ton of different combinations to take down the crazed citizens of this failed underwater utopia, Rapture.

I mentioned the words Tonics and Plasmids in the above paragraph, and if you're using this review as something to use in order to decide whether you're going to buy or rent the game, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Tonics and Plasmids are similar and gained in the same ways, but Tonics aid you passively while Plasmids are more direct. For example, when you equip a Tonic (which is done at a Gene-Swapping Bank or right when you buy one) it will increase your stats or allow you the ability to do something you couldn't do before, like using first-aid kits to heal your health AND your Eve (BioShock's form of magic power). On the other hand, Plasmids are much more direct when you use them and far more interesting I'd say. Some Plasmids will have you shooting lightning from your fingertips while others will have you picking up nearly anything you see in the environment with telekinesis. Pretty cool, huh? There are different categories that you can equip Plasmids and Tonics under and there are only so many you can have equipped at one time.

Obtaining these Plasmids and Tonics is done at a Gatherer's Garden, which instead of using the game's main form of currency (money) to make your purchases, you use Adam. Adam is a strange substance that is basically a power source. To get Adam, you must take it from the Little Sisters seen running around Rapture with a Big Daddy at their side as they shove needles into dead bodies. Now here is where morality comes into play. You can either save the Little Sisters by killing the powerful Big Daddy and turning the little girls back to normal, but that gives you a smaller amount of Adam to play with. On the other hand, you can also harvest the Little Sisters by eating this slug that comes out of their body and gain more Adam, but this kills them in the process.

Not only is Rapture dangerous because of the variety of crazed citizens (called Splicers in the game), the bulking Big Daddies that stomp around with those evil Little Sisters, or the various environmental hazards that may be a threat, but there is also something else to worry about that is not human nor biological: machines. Turret guns will be at nearly every corner firing blindly at anything they deem as a threat. Cameras will catch you running by and send a troupe of flying turrets to cause your demise. However, you can convert these machines, and nearly everything else in the game, by hacking them. When hacking something, you have to play this short mini-game where you connect all of these pipe pieces together before this blue liquid reaches a point where it cannot go on anymore or until you reach the other end of the pipe. At first, this mini-game can be frustrating (though it is totally avoidable since you can find auto-hacks or you can simply pay the machine off), but after you hone your skills on it you may actually find it to be entertaining. There was a point where I was actually looking forward to the next time I would be able to hack something.

I've covered all the oddities, but what about something that every first-person shooter should have? What could I possibly be talking about? Well…uh…GUNS! BioShock has one melee weapon, a wrench, but it also has a pretty tight arsenal at your disposal also. Almost every gun has three types of ammo you can switch between, but I found switching the ammo to be a hassle, especially if you needed to switch in the middle of a battle. Also, a lot of the guns aren't very useful except for very specific situations which almost steals some of the fun of being able to use them. Throughout the game, you can find upgrades for the guns, and while this does add a certain level of more entertainment, it probably won't fully satisfy you. If there was one thing about BioShock that kept it from that perfect score I believed at first that it was inevitable to receive, it would probably be the way combat plays out while using firearms.

I vote BioShock for best story of the year! Seriously, the story in BioShock has so many twists and turns that it is a guarantee you will be totally shocked. Since the game does not rely heavily on cut-scenes, I figured that there would be moments that just wouldn't be as cool as they would be (as I found with other FPS experiences I have had), but that was not the case with BioShock. There are some terrifying moments that will make even the most hardcore horror fan jump out of their seat. Of course, finding out some of the background story by collecting those damn “audio diaries” was pretty annoying (especially since they can be interrupted by a radio call), and I hope that if there is a sequel that this system is done away with. All-in-all, the story of BioShock is a thrilling and enthralling one that no gamer should miss.

Before I played BioShock, I was pretty sure I had seen the extent of the 360's graphical power. I mean, there were some pretty impressive games in that department that I was almost entirely sure pushed the limits of the system, which I was somewhat disappointed at since I felt I had already seen all what the 360 could do graphics-wise. However, BioShock proved my suspicions totally wrong. The graphics, for lack of a better word, are mind-blowing. Right from the start you will begin to ponder how in the hell any game could look so pretty, but BioShock does it, and it does it with almost zero freezes (though I did experience ONE time) and virtually no glitches throughout. Now that's pretty impressive.

Frankly, I wasn't too impressed with the audio quality of BioShock, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily bad. It is true that the game shows off the most with its use of lighting and effects of that nature, but there were still some times where the audio was above average quality I guess. Once again, a department that was somewhat neglected by the developers since they were focusing on something else, but that doesn't mean the game isn't great—it just isn't quite perfection.

Very rarely is there a video game that comes out that I feel like I can play through it a million times, but BioShock is one of those games. However, the fact that the game makes you start over without keeping all of your abilities you earned from the last time you played through is kind of disappointing and does take away some of that feeling of, “Holy crap, I need to play this again!” Still, for the first few times I played through the game I found areas I didn't know about before, which just goes to show how immersive and deep this twisted city of Rapture can go. Also, there are no unlockable modes for completing the game with better endings, which is a disappointment, and there is also no multiplayer mode what-so-ever, which would have definitely brought the game to a perfect score, weapon and audio problems aside.

BioShock was one of those titles that I didn't expect to have that much fun, but it definitely proved me wrong. The experience is an engrossing one, and one that you won't be able to get out of your head for a long while. For 2007, everyone assumed Halo 3 would be snatching away the game-of-the-year title, but since I've played BioShock, I've been having my doubts whether Halo 3 can pull it off and provide a more entertaining experience than the one found in the underwater city of Rapture. As the seventh-generation marches on, there have been some pretty stand-out titles, but BioShock is probably the title that stands above all of them so far, but I am anxiously awaiting the next title that is equally, or even better, than this amazing underwater survival-horror first-person shooter.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/22/07

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

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