Every Gamer Should Experience Bioshock

2007 September 28
by CajoleJuice

I’m going to make the assumption that the vast majority of people who ever see this review have not played System Shock 2. I haven’t played it, so I can’t talk about how Bioshock compares to it’s spiritual successor anyhow. The other game that likes to pop its head into discussions about this genre of RPG-FPS hybrid is Deus Ex, a game that I once started to play but never got far in. One of the criticisms that has been launched against Bioshock from avid PC gamers is that its role-playing elements are toned down greatly compared to these two turn-of-the-millenium games. Console gamers, or people who just haven’t had the pleasure of playing those two games, will be more than satisfied with the amount of cool abilities and possiblities the game offers.

And there has definitely been a multitude of those types of gamers who have already experienced this landmark game of the year. It sold over 400,000 in its first couple of weeks on sale. Ever since that mind-blowing E3 2006 teaser trailer, the hype only continued to grow on the internet. Then the incredible demo garnered even more believers, with the glowing reviews sealing the deal. I’m elated to see a worthy “new” IP sell so damn well, but I shouldn’t be surprised, as 360 owners eat up games like no other group of gamers ever before. But the simple fact is that EVERY gamer should experience Bioshock. This is not Halo 3 — where there are games that can sufficiently take its place and, in my personal opinion, surpass it (Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2, I’m looking at you). There has never been a game like this on a console before. In case you’ve never seen the trailer, here it is:

The gameplay mainly consists of typical FPS gunplay with a wide variety of weapons and ammunition, but the main difference from traditional FPSs would be in the inclusion of “plasmids” which allow the player to have what are for all intents and purposes “superpowers”, for example, the ability to shoot fireballs or a swarm of bees out of your left hand. There’s also many other powers that aren’t “plasmids” for your left hand, but still change your abilities. This pretty much sums up the RPG segment of the game. It’s not too fleshed out, but it was more than cool enough for an RPG-hater like myself.

The main reason I say Bioshock is irreplaceable and is required playing is due to its story. I don’t know whether it’s more a condemnation of Hollywood or praise of Bioshock, but between the phenomenal voice acting, the original setting and atmosphere, and the increasingly disturbing and shocking plotline, the game is more compelling than just about every movie I’ve seen this year. After crash-landing in the ocean, you immediately take control of your character and swim to a lighthouse seemingly in the middle of nowhere. What you stumble upon is a massive underwater city called Rapture that is based loosely upon the philosophy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It’s basically the notion of pure individualism. The result in Rapture, predictably, was total disaster. You find yourself in a city overrun by mutants, with the unlikely pair of “Little Sisters” and “Big Daddies” harvesting the remains of the failed social experiment. What follows is a terrifying roller-coaster ride of a game.

I completed the game a few days ago and I still find myself thinking about snippets of the game. I haven’t played a game so filled with memorable moments and quotes since Half-Life 2. But while HL2 primarily wowed with its varied environments and scenarios, supplemented by its revolutionary physics engine, the storytelling is what takes precedence in Bioshock. Similar to the way Metroid Prime reveals its scant plot through scanning, Bioshock’s story is advanced mostly though audio diaries scattered throughout Rapture. Of course, there are a number of encounters with very memorable characters throughout the game. Many of these diaries and encounters contain classic quotes that are the very essence of Bioshock. One could just say a few words and any other fellow Bioshock player would immediately recognize what game he was talking about. That’s something that only happens with movies. Honestly, I’m tempted to play through the game again at this very moment. I need the achievement points anyhow.

It’s funny — while I played it wasn’t always the most enjoyable experience, I’ll admit that. The combat can get a bit repetitive, the difficulty isn’t quite up to snuff (especially with the Vita-Chamber method of respawning), and the pipe hacking mini-game, while cool, truly ruins the atmosphere of the game since everything stops around you once you enter it. Yet, all these qualms fall by the wayside when you look back at the full experience — except for the final battle, that was just total shit. Unfortunately, the entire second half of the game is not what it could have been; this is a criticism that has been brought up many a time already. But I’ll go on the record to state that almost anything would feel anti-climatic after what happens about halfway through the game. Maybe the game should’ve ended right there, but I feel like some people would’ve then complained about the length. Luckily, there was still plenty of cool stuff to be had.

Up to this point, I haven’t even mentioned the incredible graphics. While Halo 3 looks like a slightly upgraded, more expansive HD version of Halo 2, Bioshock’s world is meticulously crafted in the post-WWII art-deco style and looks as amazing as any virtual world ever created. The lighting in the game is also downright astounding. The only gripe would be the plastic-y look of just about every character in the game, something PC gamers know all about. BUMP MAPPING!

And like any story-driven single-player game, there’s not too much replay value, unless you want to get all the achievements like I hope to do. Due to this, I can understand if you feel the multiplayer of Halo 3 makes it more worthy of your $60. This should not stop you from playing Bioshock. Borrow it, rent it, play it on your friend’s 360. Do whatever you must do to experience this well-crafted, horrific story that takes place under the sea. It’s by no means perfect, but you won’t be disappointed.

Unless you’re like Brian, my Asian co-worker, and you’re afraid of scary demos.

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