A well crafted singleplayer tale which will leave you in awe
From a distance, 2K's latest Blockbuster, Bioshock, might just look like a pretty first-person shooter, but it's actually much more. Calling it a "pretty shooter", does the game a disservice and sounds insulting considering the level of creativity, and atmosphere Bioshock achieves. Bioshock is best described as an interactive sci-fi mystery novel. Along with being interlaced with literary references to George Orwell, as well as Ayn Rand's 1957 epic novel "Atlas Shrugged". The game is predominantly driven by it's fantastic characters, and it's well written story elements which involve questionable morality, objectivism, and anarchy.
Bioshock takes place in the 1960's; you play as a faceless hero simply referred to once, as Jack. For unexplained reasons, you are a passenger aboard a large plane flying above the Atlantic Ocean on a calm night. Suddenly the plane bursts into flames, and crashes straight into the ocean. You are presumably the sole surviver of the crash, and find yourself frantically swimming above the ocean to avoid a watery grave. Your surroundings are only the burning wreckage of your plane, and a small lighthouse in which you swim to for chances of survival. Why does this plane crash next to this lighthouse? This is but one of the many mysteries which unfold throughout the game.
As you descend down to the depths of the ocean via bathysphere, your eyes spot an incredibly beautiful site, the underwater metropolis Rapture. Constructed in the 1940's by this story's villain, the megalomaniac that is Andrew Ryan, who is an homage to "Atlas Shrugged" character, John Galt.
Andrew Ryan is a man of endless ambition for his own goals, addicted to the question of what separates a man from a slave, he is a man who believes in no God, nor government, a man who believes a man has to act for the greater good. He is someone who doesn't allow "petty morality" get in the way of scientific experimentations, and art. Rapture was molded for the purpose to be this "perfect society", a society that can live in a world without a government, or organized religion, but in a world of science, and freedom. Andrew Ryan asked us, "Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his work? No, says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor, no, says the man in the Vatican, it belongs to God, no says the man in Moscow, its belongs to everyone." Andrew Ryan rejected those answers and gave the world a new answer, and the chance to achieve perfection, he unleashed the utopia that is Rapture, which was built with the dream of science creating a better tomorrow. As the science, and experimentation began to unfold, true horror was born. The moment you descend into this macabre world of insanity, you are hit with the realization that science went to far, and triumphed over common since. Andrew Ryan's perfect utopia quickly became a monumental failure.
In hopes that genetic engineering, and excessive surgery will convert them to an idealized form of perfection, the citizens of Rapture have developed into murderous psychopaths called Splicers, who are your main foes. These Splicer's still have some acute trace of personality, but no since of humanity, nor remorse. They saunter the halls of Rapture in a never ending pursuit for ADAM, like junkies in need of a quick fix. ADAM acts as the game's currency for items, ammo, and plasmids which are your powers you fuel with EVE (the games answer to mana) Plasmids range from shooting lighting out of your hand, incinerating enemies to a crisp, freezing powers, telekineses, and even the ability to shoot bees out of your hand; which is just a small taste of the powers you will develop.
All of these abilities add to the combat's strong strategic elements. You can automatically kill enemies standing in water with a quick zap of lightning, or freeze a Splicer to give you a chance to escape or focus on other enemies. Some Splicers throw grenades, or even fireballs at you, thanks to telekineses it's easy to catch whatever is thrown at you, and throw it right back. Tonics are Bioshock's more passive abilities that are scattered throughout Rapture and are available for purchase. Passive abilities range from increased melee power, natural camouflage, and faster movement speed. This is but a small list of a substantial amount of passive skills in which can be equipped.
Considering that this is the 1960's, your weapons are not nearly as high tech as your genetically enhanced body. Your melee attack is just your average wrench, the machine gun is basically a tommy gun, and like all shooters you have a trusty pistol along side a shotgun. You pick up various degrees of different ammunition types, anti-armor, an exploding buckshot for your shotgun, missiles for your grenade launcher, and so on. The weapons function as a major part in combat, and the upgrades are actually pretty awesome, but the execution of firing the game's weapons just isn't as satisfying or as fun as a first-person shooter's should probably be. The fact that the shotgun does less than 50% damage to a Splicer at close range, just doesn't feel right. This issue coincides with the game's overall lack of enemy variety. There are five different splicers in the game that are typically distinguished by what they are carrying. That doesn't mean these foes won't roll over and die, it's gonna take all your plasmids and guns to strike down the enemies in which you encounter.
Here comes the games choice on morality, the question on how you obtain your ADAM, which is key to survival. Clutching to a large needle for ADAM extraction are the Little Sisters, who are these young little girls who wouldn't even be through elementary school yet. These aren't just your everyday cute innocent little girls, these girls are genetically modified giving an almost zombie look in appearance, and glare at you with their glowing yellow eyes. These girls are protected by the Big Daddys, Rapture's lumbering guardians. These scuba diver looking beasts are just brutal to both you, and anyone who may be brave enough to cause harm to the Little Sisters. Their footsteps make the floor beneath you tremble, yet as frightening as they are, the Big Daddys won't attack you unless you engage in a fight with them first, or if you threaten the Little Sisters. These massive monsters are without question your greatest foes. Big Daddy fights are incredibly intense the first half of the game, not to mention very challenging.
The Big Daddy encounters are the chance you are allowed to take to test your ability's, tactics and overall weapon force. You're gonna need to be at the top of your game to take down these embodiments of a small army. With intensity, and challenge aside, it's a shame these Big Daddys don't really seem to become dramatically stronger as the game progresses. It seems about 70% of the way through the game, you come to the point that your character is just so decked out and powerful, the Big Daddys are just not as threatening or scary. Now here's the question, with the Big Daddys dead, what are you going to do with the Little Sister? Kill her, or save her?
The delima of this moral choice is, will you kill this little girl to make it easier for you to survive in this madhouse; or free her from this genetic curse, transforming her back into a normal girl. If you choose to be selfish, and harvest the young girl, you receive the maximum amount of ADAM possible, letting the girl go, and transforming her back into her normal self will reward you with less ADAM, it also makes you feel all good inside when the girl thanks you with a big smile on her face. Hacking also plays it's own distinct role, which is associated through a short mini-game that enables you to reduce prices at vendor outlets, take control of flying bots, turrets, cameras, and access otherwise inaccessible doors and safes for goodies. The mini game itself is played out through laying out a series of tubes to allow a liquid to flow from one point of the screen to another, uninterrupted. Suppose you eventually find the hacking tedious (which you will) you can simply create various autohack's, and obliterate the opposing turrets with a rocket.
One of the most outstanding properties in Bioshock, is the games fantastic use of sound. Yes your guns are loud, but there is much more. As you stroll down the halls of Rapture, just stop and listen. You can hear water dripping through the cracks in the windows, the ocean slowly swallowing the city, eerie squeaks and noises, record players playing tunes from the first half of the century and just the ambiance of Rapture is marvelous. No matter where you are, the sound demonstrates the world is very much alive, and you are not alone.
The visuals too will never cease to astonish. The weapons, plasmid effects, lighting, it's all oh-so gorgeous. Then there is the game's largest bullet point on the visual side, which is the beautiful water. You'll immediately appreciate the little details, the steam from the Big Daddys as they begin to die, the expression of a Little Sister when she is saved, or even when they cry, "Mr. Bubbles! Are you ok Mr. Bubbles!?", after a Big Daddy dies. The since of awe when you glamor over the immediate site of Rapture's glory from the outside, is something that is a rare experience in gaming. The game also has pronominal 1950's art-deco style, giving the game its own unique visual flare, which will be renowned as one of many artistic strengths in this epic adventure.
Bioshock is the closest thing to art in the world of videogames. Not merely because of its fantastic effects, and art-deco style, but this is the only narrative that a movie or book could not accomplish without the same end affect. The only way this piece of fiction could have been executed is though interactive entertainment, and you will understand this once you approach the game's climax. This is a towering example of how engaging story, and multi layered characters can dramatically improve a game's quality. Bioshock is a rollercoaster that immediately grabs you, and never lets go during this exploration of horror, and madness. 2K didn't just deliver us a shooter that's fun to play, but they delivered the new benchmark in what makes a game worthwhile for your time and money. Bioshock stands as a tremendous example on the rules in which a single player game should go by, a convergence of action packed entertaining gameplay, engrossing narrative, and characters who are both superb and believable. With the combination of tremendous quality in writing, sound, and visuals, you feel as if Rapture could truly exist. With all this said and done, would you kindly delve into the depths of one of 2007's finest?
+Beautiful game, both technically, and artistically
+Terrific voice acting
+Convincing atmosphere, and environment which really sets the mood
+Won the IAA of 2007
+Like many classic games, Bioshock is something that cries to be experienced
-Lack of a death penalty
-Ending is disappointing
-Weird hitches, that you may, or may not notice. These hiccups a very rare, but still exist