Review by nintendosega

"A haunting experience brought to life by incredible visuals and fun, deep gameplay"

Bioshock is one of those rare games where as you're playing it, everything just feels right. Everything you're doing feels like it's fun, the game never feels like a chore, and almost every single aspect of gameplay and story seems to have been executed brilliantly. Like No More Heroes on the Wii before it, Bioshock reminds me why I began playing video games in the first place.

Story: The cutscenes in Bioshock are kept to a minimum. Throughout most of the game, the plot's advanced through voice-acted tape recorders, which are found throughout the city. It's somewhat similar to scanning in the Metroid Prime series, but much more focused on a central plot and it's voice acted, so you hear everything as you walk and shoot. Despite my initial skepticism, it worked perfectly. The game begins as the main character's plane crashes in the ocean and he ends up in Rapture, an underwater city containing many elements of the 1930's. This city's a fantastic place, yet...there's almost nobody around. The walls are leaking, dead bodies lie everywhere, and there are huge zombie-like creatures and robot-like beings known as Big Daddies that attack you. You have guns and ammunition that you can collect or purchase at ammunition vending machines, (my weapon of choice was the wrench, which makes Condemned's melee combat feel broken in comparison) and also plasmids, which give you powers, that you can collect and inject into your bloodstream. Armed with these weapons, you seek to find out what happened to this city and try to save it from its greedy creators who have destroyed this once-promising place. Sadistic genetic engineering went on, as did other such experiments, and soon the city became a dictatorship and rebel groups attempted to gain back control only to fail miserably....this is all conveyed to us in a combination of the voiced tape recorders and conversations with survivors (the few,) scattered across this underwater world. It's an incredible storyline, at times actually pretty scary, and it conveys the power-hungry nature of humanity. It's a very fast-paced storyline and doesn't stop for many detours. There's a couple nice twists and turns in there too, which keeps things exciting. At times though I did wish there was slightly less interaction with "survivors" as I think the game's a lot more atmospheric and intense when you're one of the only ones still alive. The game also drops the ball with the ending (there are a couple you can get, depending on whether or not you help or hurt the Little Sisters, more on that later,) which, no matter which one you get, goes by way too quickly and feels extremely unsatisfying. Not helping is the fact that it very abruptly cuts back to the title screen after the brief ending cutscene (not even any credits shown.) Just...unsatisfying. Still, the story told here's both haunting and memorable and is the primary driving force behind this great game.

Graphics and Audio: At this point Bioshock's probably the most amazing-looking game I've ever seen. When exploring these nearly photorealistic environments there are almost no graphical blemishes to speak of. Amazing lighting effects, great water, fire, and lightning effects, very high textures, and a nearly rock-solid framerate all combine to provide the gamer with a nearly flawless setting that's both very eerie and yet also conveys a sense of optimism; this underwater city was built to be an incredible place, where humanity would advance and live in harmony. But the vision we see in the game of this city's both very sad and very scary. This is all pulled off so well with some incredible art direction that both seems futuristic and retro at the same time. I've never played a video game with this type of atmosphere before. It's also actually scary at times, containing some very disturbing imagery and some jump scares, too. The audio's the star of the show as well, always being in the forefront: Great sound effects, sparse but very good music, and almost perfect voice acting. It's a perfect-looking (and sounding) game. The framerate dropped on me only once...otherwise it's perfectly smooth. The AI's also very impressive at times, and there's a lot of it too. (I have to point out, though, that the game did lock up on me once, so save frequently.)

Gameplay: I'm not necessarily a fan of FPS games but after having thoroughly enjoyed Metroid Prime 3, I decided to give Bioshock a try, since at first glance the two games seem to have a lot in common. Both take place in nearly deserted worlds, both feature incredible art direction, and both have shooting as a strong gameplay element but they're not shooters in the sense that a game like Halo is a shooter. Bioshock actually turned out to be very different than what I was expecting. It reminded me more of Blue Stinger on the Dreamcast, except...actually being good. Both games feature characters whose planes crashed in a man-made city in an exotic location, and both games feature its inhabitants as dead and genetically mutated enemies running around. Bioshock features plenty of guns and ammunition, but equally effective, I thought, was the wrench, which I used for most of the regular enemies in the game. What's so great about this game is that you're able to do that. You're given very strong customization over your character, and can grow and level him up any way that you choose. You gain many powers over the course of the game but have limited slots and choosing which ones to use and when is one of Bioshock's strengths. (You can switch them out for new ones at Gene Banks, found throughout the area.) To level up, you must destroy Big Daddies (huge robotic enemies that roam the areas protecting Little Sisters, innocent young girls who were genetically altered to become monsters who harvest dead bodies,) and then you can either kill the Little Sisters, (which will give you slightly more Adam, which is used at vending machines to level up whatever stats you choose) or rescue them, which will give you more cash but slightly less Adam. What you ultimately choose to do will determine the game's ending but also change the gameplay throughout slightly as well. One really cool thing you can do in Bioshock is hack. Not only can you hack safes, locks, and vending machines, but you can also hack robotic enemies and security cameras to have them help you instead. Hacking's both fun and (if not leveled up properly) challenging. It's yet another perfect and creative aspect to Bioshock's gameplay. The game controls very well, and the map given to you is actually pretty helpful, and the game does give you very good guidance. Maybe...too good. On the Normal difficulty and with the default settings, the game's definitely on the easy side. An arrow appears to guide you to your next locations MANY times, and even near the end of the game little hints will display on screen reminding you to search objects for loot or to reload your weapon....ugh. Also, when you die, you are warped back to the last checkpoint, with your progress not lost. (so, if you're killed by an enemy that you were in the process of defeating, then simply head back to it and its health will be exactly where you left it,) which definitely makes the game a very fun, if not exactly challenging, experience. (You can also save whenever you want.) Even the final boss didn't put up much of a fight. Fans of the FPS genre will definitely want to increase the difficulty setting immediately to get the most out of the game. Another flaw comes in the way of the security cameras, which are often frustratingly hidden. If triggered they send very annoying flying robots after you, which also breaks the atmosphere of the game just a bit. Once you get the hang of hacking/destroying them the game gets much better. Everything melds together to create easily the most fun FPS game I've ever played. The amount of depth offered in all the customization's nearly unparalleled in the genre, and the atmosphere and enemies and ways of playing the game all just make a nearly perfect experience that (unfortunately) is over just a bit too quickly and easily.

Overall: Bioshock's a true "next gen" game. Even on my standard definition TV the visuals look incredible and the atmosphere and art direction are perfect. The game's so haunting and so beautiful and also so unbelievably fun to play that I highly recommend it to all Xbox 360 owners. It's a bit short and easy and the gameplay, while very fun, is also at times lacking in variety, and the ending's downright unsatisfying. The almost complete lack of boss battles, too, and somewhat linear environments overall and very few intense action scenes mean that while Bioshock ends up maybe not being as satisfying an experience as the 3rd Metroid Prime game, it's still a very worthwhile game and definitely going to be remembered as one of the highlights of this console generation.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/26/08

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

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