There is not much that I can say about BioShock that has not already been said by other, more experienced critics. However, I feel that I represent the gaming plebs out there, and these are my honest, unpaid thoughts.
BioShock is a horror FPS (first person shooter) that takes place in the underwater metropolis known as Rapture. Construction of Rapture began in the mid 1940’s, and was intended to be a city that would be untouched by modern bureaucracy. Andrew Ryan (city founder) states that Rapture is:
“A city where the artist would not fear the censor,
Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality,
Where the great would not be constrained by the small.”
One of the first things that makes BioShock so interesting is that it doesn’t take place in the distant future or distant past- and I feel that this is something that makes it very accessible. The year is 1960, and the game starts out with your character on a plane, which promptly crash lands somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. After making your way to the water’s surface, you see a lighthouse ahead of you and make your way towards it. You quickly descend into Rapture, and are treated to one of the most amazing game openings while getting a brief introduction to the city.
Opening cinematic and first few minutes of game play. Watch this to get a better idea of what I’m talking about!
Atmosphere – I stated earlier that BioShock is a horror FPS, but I don’t feel that “horror” is an accurate description, as I was never truly “scared” while playing. The atmosphere is wonderfully creepy, but not really scary for jaded people such as myself. The city is littered with corpses, and the last remaining citizens are a deranged bunch known as Splicers. Throughout most of the game you usually hear them before you seem them, so the chances of getting jumped are pretty small (there are a few exceptions to this rule). However, this does not making it any less nerve-wracking for the easily startled. Loving attention to detail fills the city, which is very Art Deco. Even areas that are badly decaying are wonderfully detailed, and you can almost imagine what they would have looked like in their glorious heyday.
Music is another big part of the Rapture atmosphere. I was not expecting to hear any music that I knew, as it can be expensive to license music, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear an assortment of music I knew, all dating from the 1930s – 1950’s (Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, etc.). What makes it even more impressive is that it fits in so well with the feel of Rapture.
Weapons, Plasmids & Tonics – Weapons you pick up are standard for an FPS: pistol, machine gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, crossbow, etc. The twist on doing damage in Rapture, though, is through Plasmids. Scientific progress has made it so that you are now able to modify your genetic code, giving you powerful “built in” weapons called Plasmids. These are “harnessed” in your left hand, and include Electro Bolt (below- stuns/shocks and opens broken electronic locks), Incinerate (sets enemies on fire, melts ice), Telekinesis (moves and hurls objects), Insect Swarm, etc. Tonics are also “built ins”, but are passive in nature- they can up your health, make hacking easier, quiet your foot steps, etc.
Game Play – At first it can be a bit disorienting trying to toggle between weapons and plasmids. However, if you’re already used to FPS games, it will probably be no big deal. Playing the game on Easy was much TOO easy, even for someone like me, and I bumped up the difficulty level quite soon into the game. Again, if you’re new to this kind of thing, by all means keep it on Easy for awhile while you get used to how everything works- you’ll enjoy the game more if you’re not forcing yourself to do something that’s too hard.
Your original goal is to find Atlas, the man that vows to keep you alive. However, after an unfortunate incident, all of this changes. Along the way to Atlas, there are several different sub quests/missions that can range from finding new plasmids, killing specific people, and photographing corpses- which brings me to my next point.
Early in the game you meet a character that wants you to find his camera. You get to keep the camera in the end, and it’s use is for research. The camera will take the place of your weapon when equipped, so try not to kill things with your camera, because it doesn’t work so well. Anyway. Whenever you come across an enemy, you can take a picture. The more pictures you take, the better, as once your research on them gets higher you gain cool things like extra damage and useful plasmids and tonics that will ONLY come from research. You won’t get as many research points off of photographing corpses, as I found out to my dismay…but sometimes I would have multiple Splicers and a Big Daddy on me at once, and survival seemed more important than research.
Penalty for Dying – Well, quite simply, there isn’t one unless you count wasting ammo and Health/EVE hypos without getting the kill. If you die, you merely pop out of the last Vita Chamber you passed with half of your health and EVE. Some might say that this is dumb, but for others, it’s not so bad. Just play the game and enjoy it for what it is.
Overall Impressions – Ok, maybe I’m lame, but I loved this game, trivial little issues aside. I can’t wait to play BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite when it eventually comes out. My only real complaint was that the game was just too short- 15 hours, maybe. I probably played it for closer to 20 just because I enjoyed exploring every corner and just plain looking at things. I also liked that we are given the choice to save or harvest the little sisters who wander around. I figured I would harvest them first, then play again and save them all. After a few harvests, I started to feel bad about it, since they don’t live through the process. By the end of the game I was totally disgusted with myself and rather upset with the ending’s harsh words about my character.
2 thumbs up, 5 stars, and worth picking up, as it’s an older game now and under $20.00.