Review by kiriyama2
"Leaks. Lunatics. Rebellion. And now bleedin' ghosts. Ain't life in Rapture grand?"
I think it's no secret that the Xbox 360 isn't exactly starved for first person shooters. Or indeed shooters of any variety. Most of them are pretty much the standard fare, sure the majority of them are enjoyable. But it's usually just the typical you're a space marine, go whack those alien bastards. Or the you're a soldier, go kill those commie and/or terrorists, for world peace, type of game. Which I don't really have a problem with, I enjoy the first person shooters. But sometimes you just want something different, you want something grand. Something that goes above and beyond the call of what a first person shooter should be. That game was System Shock 2. Everything that game did, it did to a wonderful lustrous shine. Naturally when Irrational Games announced that they were making a spiritual sequel to SS2 I was quite ecstatic. BioShock keeps its predecessor's standards of excellence in high standing, because in my ever so humble opinion this is without a doubt the best game in the entire year of 2007. Has it got its flaws? Sure, it has a few, but everything else about the game is just so wonderfully well done it makes you forget about the minor imperfections.
The story in BioShock is really quite imaginative and it is expertly and grandly well-told. You play as a guy named Jack, you're on a plane that's flying over the mid-Atlantic. After the title appears on screen the plane crashes into the ocean. No reason is given for what happened to drive the plane down. Jack swims to a nearby lighthouse, and upon entering finds a large ornate statue of a man with the banner No Kings, No Gods, Only Men. This is only the beginning, shortly Jack finds a bathysphere that takes him down into the underwater city of Rapture. Founded by a captain of industry known as Andrew Ryan, where the best and brightest of the alternate 1960 world can live free from the fear, control, and petty morality of the surface world's governments. Before arriving in Rapture you're treated to a nice little back-story movie where Andrew Ryan explains that Rapture is indeed where the great will not be constrained by the small. When the bathysphere comes to a stop a man named Atlas informs you that he is going to help you survive in Rapture, so long as you help him find his wife and child. Shortly before Jack's arrival in Rapture the city suffered a violent and bloody civil war that almost destroyed the utopia that Ryan has created. The people have become the genetically mutated beings known as Splicers, and that they fundamentally kill everyone that isn't them. Sort of stalk raving lunatics. I realize that I cannot really do the story in this game the justice it deserves. And that my partial overview of the initial ten minutes of the game may not exactly be the best. Suffice to say that the story in the game is far among some of the best ever conceived for the video game medium, and it's leaps and bounds better than the run of the mill boilerplate stuff that most other first person shooters cram down your throat. An innovative thing that the story's got going for it is the fact that you actually can impact what happens to the course of the story.
The morality based storyline is one of the imaginative things the games got going for it. Sure the game won't wildly differ if you choose to do one thing over the other, but that doesn't matter, because its so masterfully told and implemented that it quite simply won't matter.
Gameplay wise it's got the typical gunplay you might expect of a first person shooter. It controls quite well, and one thing that the gunplay in BioShock's got over, say a Halo, or a Call of Duty, is the fact that you can choose different ammunition you want to use make the Splicers dead. Granted, there's only three types of bullets for the guns, but they do make quite a difference. Say you're using your pistol with the normal type bullets, it'll do the damage you'll expect a bullet it would do to a person (doped up on Plasmids and Adam though they might be, more on those in a bit). However switch to the anti-personnel and you'll mess that sucker up ten ways from Sunday. By contrast, if you use the anti-armor bullets, you'll find yourself having to use more bullets than you would with either of the other ammunition types. Of course, while it makes sense that the pistol and machine gun get the anti-personnel and anti-armor rounds, it wouldn't make much sense if the shotgun, grenade launcher or crossbow get the same types. With the shotgun you get normal buckshot, electric shells, and what can only be described as a mini-grenade shells. The grenade gun gets normal grenades, heat seeking missiles, and mines. Of course the best weapon is the crossbow, which has the standard bolts, fire bolts, and a nifty tripwire bolt that can be used to electrocute any hapless Splicers or Big Daddies you come across. There's also a flamethrower type of weapon, with the alternates of electric gel (super tazer) and an ice beam. The weapons are quite imaginative, and I rather like them. Also how many other games let you be able to upgrade your revolver, machine gun etc into what is fundamentally a super strong more badass version of that gun?
Another thing the game does to change up the usual fare of first person shooters is the inclusion of Plasmids. Sure these can fundamentally be viewed as just magical powers, they actually are quite useful in the game. They're more than just the usual assortment of lightning, fire, and ice. For instance, there's a particular plasmid that you can get which you can use to get an enemy to be your bodyguard for a small amount of time. Which can be downright helpful when you've got bunch of Splicers or security drones breathing down your neck. A pair of very mild gripes I have about the game are the facts that A, there's not really that much of a difference in the enemies that you fight. It's either a Splicer that wants to beat you with a pipe, shoot you with a gun, shank you with a sickle, or blast you to death with fire. Sure it can be fun to take these guys apart in a slew of amusing ways, like zapping them with lightning when they're knee-deep in water, or setting them aflame, but some variety would've been nice. The other type of enemy you'll fight are the Big Daddies, these are hulking behemoths of men, they've got an absurd amount of strength, and also have quit a large amount of armor protecting themselves. The other complaint I have with is the fact that there's really sort of no penalty system for doing something immensely stupid. If you die you just spring back to life in a Vita-Chamber about ten yards back from where you died. The very last thing I have any sort of qualms with is the hacking mini-game. Sure it's simple enough to do, it's just sort of tedious and dull. All you do is run one length of pipe from one end of the screen to the other while trying to avoid the explosion, or security trap. Point is it gets real old, real quick.
The last part of the gameplay that I'll talk about (though I could probably dote on it, for hours) is the morality that comes into play after fighting a Big Daddy. You see, the Big Daddies are usual seen in the company of these little girls called Little Sisters. The Sisters carry Adam, which can be used to buy bigger and better Plasmids, or other health and Eve (what you use to sling lightning and flame) upgrades. The Big Daddies act as the protectors of the Sisters, and they will kill anyone that tries to mess with a Little Sister. So say you fight the Daddy and kill it, you are then immediately given a choice. Do you want to kill the Little Sister and harvest all the Adam she's got? Or do you simply want to save the little one and free it from its terrible life of stealing the Adam from the dead? It really is an ingenious addition to the game. I'll admit, that the first time that I killed a Big Daddy and heard the sad pitiful wails of the Little Sister it tugged at my black heart and made me feel remorse. For lack of a better phrase, it made me feel like a monster.
Graphically the game is superb. It boasts some damn amazing visuals. The fire of the crash shortly after you get to the lighthouse is amazing because you can actually watch the tail of the burning wreckage sink slowly to the blackened deep. The environments in the game are simply stunning, and it really does look like the decaying remains of a once spectacular underwater city. The water effects particularly stand out as amazing, the fire however looks sort of cheap. The character models are very good, and the Splicers really pull off the look of emaciated and ruining bodies quite well in a creepy sort of way. They do have a pretty creepy look about them. The Big Daddies and Little Sisters look good as well, the Big Daddies pull off their diving seat quite well. The ones with the drills especially look cool, the Little Sisters look nice and creepy. Seeing those little girls plunging their overly large needles into the dead around Rapture really does look quite disturbing. To me at any rate. I also love the little advertisements that are littered in the game, they just look so amusing that they deserve a mention, even if they do look like they've been transported from the Fallout series. The weapons in the game also look quite good, the normal guns (pistol, shotgun, and machine gun) look like they would, but the ones that really steal the show are the ones that look like they were cobbled together with whatever spare parts were lying around in Rapture. Also when you get the upgrades for the guns they look quite spiffy. Like the little Co2 tanks that get attached to your shotgun to give it a bigger kick, or the extended ammo belt for the revolver. Another interesting thing they did with the character was the plasmids. It really looks quite good, if you've got, say the lightning plasmid equipped. Your characters arms will glow with the electricity. Or they'll glow a dark red and look burnt if you have the fire plasmid equipped. In short, BioShock is nothing short of stunning in the graphics department.
The audio in BioShock is nothing short of amazing. From the superb and downright fantastic soundtrack, to the wonderful voice acting. The orchestral score is wonderfully atmospheric. At no point does it sound out of place. Even the fifties songs they've got for the game fit in. Also the voice acting in this game cannot possibly be any better. Every single voice in the game is downright perfect. I know this section was short, but I really can't say much for it, other than it was amazing.
Being the nerd that I am, I opted to buy the Collector's Edition of BioShock. I must say that the people at Irrational Games have certainly got the right idea, when it comes to making a Collector's Edition of anything. The set includes, the downright amazing soundtrack, a making of DVD, and the best of all, a six inch figurine of the Big Daddy. Fortunately, mine came in one piece. It was certainly worth the extra ten dollars that I shelled out for it.
Remember in my Orange Box review how I said you can't do much better than that? Well gentle reader, this is one of the only things that you can get that is better than the Orange Box. The game manages to do just about everything right with it, there's really nothing in this game that's bad. It's downright gorgeous, the audio is amazing, the gameplay is a cut above the rest, and it's got one of the best storylines in gaming to boot. If you have a 360, or a PC capable of playing this game, you owe it to yourself to play BioShock. I promise that you will not be disappointed with it.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/18/08
Game Release: BioShock (Limited Edition) (US, 08/21/07)
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