Plasmids are essentially superhuman abilities in a bottle. Used and abused by the denizens of BioShock's undersea city of Rapture, plasmids are contained within syringes and were the ultimate product of a booming genetic modification industry based on an incredibly adaptive stem-cell compound extracted from a species of deep-ocean sea slug. However, the production and use of plasmids crossed several moral and ethical boundaries, which meant nothing to the citizens of Rapture, who emigrated to the city precisely to avoid rules and guidelines which would have prevented the plasmid industry from thriving in the first place. Plasmids essentially re-wrote the user's genetic code, modifying their DNA to allow them to use phenomenal new abilities like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, aerokinesis, the remote control of machines, enhanced strength, and much more.
Plasmids are created by making use of ADAM, a compound composed of adaptive stem-cells found within a certain species of sea-slug discovered by Rapture's citizens. Initial creation of the plasmid industry was so incredibly successful that it let to severe shortages of ADAM, and a diabolical plan was enacted to significantly improve yields of the compound: Young girls, no more than 12 years old, had sea-slugs embedded within their digestive tracts. These Little Sisters had effectively become ADAM factories, and produced massive quantities of the compound for use in the then booming plasmid industry.
There are many variations of plasmids in BioShock. There are over 70 throughout the entire game, including upgrades, which increase the effectiveness of many of the base plasmids. Some of the most widely used plasmids are:
Gives the player the power of pyrokinesis. The player's hand becomes charred and blackened, and fire springs from the fingertips. Players can cause small explosions on targets, essentially setting enemies on fire or causing flammable materials to ignite. As the player upgrades this plasmid, the damage incurred over time is increased and the effect on the player's hand is more pronounced.
Gives the player the power of cryokinesis. The player's hand becomes covered in a sheen of ice. Players can project ice shards which freeze enemies solid on contact, but doesn't kill them. As the player upgrades the plasmid, spikes of ice will pierce the player's hand, and enemies will remain frozen for longer periods, giving the player more time to smash them to pieces before they thaw.
Gives the player the ability to project powerful bolts of lightning from their hand. The veins within the player's hand glow blue, and arcs of electricity flow across the palm and fingertips. The bolt can stun enemies briefly at first, and kill them outright after the plasmid has been upgraded. Additionally, the player can use the plasmid to instantly kill any number of enemies standing in water.
Gives the player the ability to move objects with their mind. Similar in use to the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2, the player can pick up objects and throw them with considerable force, as well as catch thrown grenades and toss them back towards the enemy. Telekinesis does not alter the player's appearance.
One of the most unique abilities in the game, Insect Swarm turns the player's hand and arm into a hive of deadly, deadly bees, which the player can then "fire" at various enemies to both distract and damage them. As the player upgrades this ability, the bees will cause more damage and the player's arm will change more and more into a disfigured, crusted hive, forming more holes in the skin and causing more bees to crawl along the limb.
The Cyclone Trap plasmid creates a swirling trap of wind at the targeting reticule's location. Depending on the strength of the ability, the Splicer caught in the trap will be vaulted suddenly into the air. The more powerful the trap, the higher they'll be tossed, and the most powerful version of this ability will send attackers 40 feet into the air, usually killing them instantly when they return to earth.
Enrage causes a hostile or neutral NPC to instantly become hostile to any other NPCs around them, including the player. Thus this ability is useful to toss into a group of enemies and stand back and watch as they kill each other, leaving the player with only a few opponents to deal with, or perhaps a single weakened Big Daddy after the effects wear off. Like other status-effect plasmids, when this ability is selected the player's hand becomes slimey and grows several blisters, surrounding an orifice on the palm which expells a ball of pheremones that the player then throws.
Hypnotize Big Daddy
Instantly forces any Big Daddy to be your body gaurd. The length of time in which the Big Daddy will protect you depends on the level of the plasmid.
The Security Bullseye plasmid marks any NPC, hostile or not, as a security threat to any security cameras, security bots, or turrets. This enables the player to indirectly attack enemies while maintaining relative safety.
This creates a fake persona of yourself to distract enemies. The Target Dummy is an area effect ability, causing all enemies within a certain radius of the dummy to attack it instead of the player, which can be a very useful distraction for getting out of difficult situations.
A new plasmid made available through a patch for the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Bioshock, Sonic Boom acts very much like Telekinesis in that it gives the player the ability to create a powerful gust of wind, effectively knocking away enemies and incoming projectiles with relative ease.