Review by _Spin_Cycle_
"This timeless gem deserves to sit on every gamer's shelf."
When game developers start crafting a game, they must decide in the very early stages of development whether or not the game will be a masterpiece. As silly and obvious as it may sound, many developers don't put the effort into their game that will make it a masterpiece, and most of the time, it shows. However, when a team sets out from the very start with the intention of creating art, it is also extremely obvious to everyone who sees the finished project.
That is exactly what 2K Boston/Australia has accomplished: a masterpiece. From the moment you start up the game, you can tell that this game was molded, crafted from day one with the final goal of art in mind. The game's intense atmosphere, excellent story, superior gameplay mechanics, and unbelievable audio and visual details make it not only the best First-Person Shooter I've ever played, but also one of the top 10 games I've ever played. This is coming from somebody who dislikes the FPS genre, shunned Metroid Prime, and really doesn't care for Halo's single player. Some may say I have bad taste, but I just think I was waiting for BioShock the whole time.\
Unbelievable. BioShock is my first experience with one of the two graphically-superior consoles this generation (360 and PS3), and man it is great.
The visuals in this game set up everything; they are the base upon which 2K crafted this detailed world of Rapture. Without superior graphics, the atmosphere wouldn't exist. Luckily for us, Rapture feels very real. For the game's atmosphere, everything looks dark, dim, and aged, which is an important factor considering the game's time period. Everything looks, feels, and sounds like the 60's are actually taking place before you, despite being in this technologically-advanced city. Lighting and water effects in particular make me stare in awe. You'll want to explore every nook and cranny not only because it's fun, but because it looks good! Fantastic work here. I can't stress this enough.
There isn't a real soundtrack to the game, but having background music would actually take away from the experience. Instead of a soundtrack, you're treated to some of the best sound effects you'll ever hear in gaming. Electric shocks coming out of wires, your own footsteps, the sound of old steel creaking and bending, the sounds of whales coming from the water outside, the whir of surveillance cameras, and the sounds each of your weapons make...they all are equally impressive.
There are two exceptional things that are worth mentioning: first of all, the game never stops. Unlike some of my other favorite games like Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy, there are no cutscenes in BioShock. You get information from characters not through FMVs, but while you're actually walking and fighting through a radio transmission. This makes the game absolutely seamless while still giving you the interaction and character development which makes the story flourish. Secondly, when you're going down a hall, you'll suddenly hear screaming or yelling from some genetically-mutated splicer in the other room. This little detail grows extremely helpful when you realize that the voice will actually get louder the closer you get to the enemy. Not only is it helpful, but it's a freaking awesome detail which is often overlooked.
Also, the voice acting in this game is the best voice acting in a video game, HANDS DOWN. I haven't experienced voice acting of this quality ever before.
Inspired by the novels of Ayn Rand, BioShock puts you in control of an unnamed hero ("Jack") in the year 1960 (the game follows an alternate timeline) who has crash-landed by plane into the ocean. You are then introduced to the failed paradise of Rapture, a city which was meant to be an alternative to the politically and religiously-oppressive world at the time. Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture, wanted a place where scientists, industrialists, and artists could all feel free to express their creativity without restriction. Unfortunately, he failed miserably due to an opportunity for a black market to appear, some resource issues, and other things. Rapture's inhabitants have somehow been genetically mutated by ADAM, a valuable genetic altering substance, and have suffered permanent damage. It's up to you to get out of Rapture alive.
That's about all I can say without spoiling anything. It's a fantastic story, and it offers a of insight into a lot of the problems faced today and in the past. Also, human morals are questioned often through the game. To be able to use Ayn Rand as source material and seamlessly integrate it into an interactive experience like a video game is a huge risk, which makes it even more impressive that it was pulled off.
The gameplay itself consists of moving from point A to point B while destroying anything in your way, collecting items and necessary things to move forward in the game, and destroying Big Daddies/saving Little Sisters (I can't go into this in detail, or I'll spoil stuff for you...).
It may seem like your average FPS at first, but BioShock is anything but. You'll soon realize this as soon as you find a Plasmid, a genetic modifier which grants you special powers like shooting lightning and fire, or producing a dummy which will confuse your enemies. You switch back and forth between your guns and your Plasmids using the two trigger buttons, and the experience is refreshing and well-done. While we're discussing combat, the firearms the game offers are a ton of fun to use. You've got your shotgun, pistol, grenade launcher, crossbow, and something called a chemical thrower which lets you shoot napalm, liquid nitrogen, or electric gel. All of these weapons are realistic; they all FEEL right when you shoot them.
One thing which makes the game special is the amount of customization offered. You constantly can upgrade your Plasmids, equip different ones for different effects, and even upgrade your weapons. You can use a somewhat limited ammunition inventing system. These various mechanics offer excellent ways to customize your experience. The entire game feels great to control, and it's a blast to play.
I finished the game this afternoon, and I've already started a new file on a higher difficulty.
You have 50 achievements to unlock. After my first playthough, I only unlocked 23 of them. That should tell you a lot about how much this game offers.
FINAL WORD: 10/10
This game is a piece of art, as simple as that. Play it, as you owe it to yourself as a gamer to do so.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 06/16/08
Game Release: BioShock (US, 08/21/07)
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