Summary: It's here. Grab your Adams and your Little Sisters and Big Daddies and have one wild party.
The credit to how good BioShock is has to be put on Ken Levine, the creative director for the dev studio. Levine' main talent is knowing that gameplay design and graphics have to be great but that storyline, characters and originality also have to come into play. So many games are released that are well made but are basically just updates to previous games we have played before. BioShock is unlike any game ever released from a major publisher. It's a first person shooter, but it melds in elements of role playing and adventure games so well that people who don't care for those genres won't realize it. They will just know that BioShock is an entertaining game to play from start to finish.
The storyline for BioShock is full of twists so we won't go into many details here. Basically you start the game as an unknown male who is on a plane over the Atlantic Ocean in 1960. The game quickly gets you into the thick of things by crashing that plane. Your character finds himself in the middle of the ocean...except that he sees a massive tall structure nearby that shouldn't be there. The entrance of the structure is sculpted in an odd art-deco designed interior with a bathysphere waiting at the bottom. Entering the sphere, we get the intro to the underwater city of Rapture. Created by the game's central character Andrew Ryan, he tells you via a taped message that he has created this city as a place where scientists can create their greatest work unfettered by the pressures of the outside world.
However, once you enter into the city of Rapture it appears that Ryan didn't count on the pressures inside the city to be a problem. The levels are trashed, blood is everywhere and it's clear that something has gone horribly wrong. Of course your task is to get the heck out of there. But that's not easy as Ryan and two other Rapture citizens, Atlas and Tannenbaum, communicate to you via radio intercoms to ask you to join either of their opposing sides. BioShock is all about you dealing with these different choices as you fight your way to get out of this massive bottle city. As we said, there are lots of plot twists and red herrings in this story, so what you think you are involved in at first may not be the one you deal with at the end.
Fortunately, BioShock gives the player a ton of options to not just arm your character with weapons and powered but with lots of other abilities as well. You don't get a ton of weapons in the game (pistol, shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher, crossbow, napalm launcher, etc), but the weapons have different ammunition types and can be upgraded as you progress. The result is a wide variety of different ways to bring Splicers down to size. You can pick up different weapons and ammo via dead enemies, through searching inside various cabinets in the game or buy them through the game's vending machines (and yes you find money around the game as well. The game also has what are called U-Invent machines that allow you to take what look like useless things from corpses (screws, rubber hoses, etc) and make new ammo for weapons including some that can't be made anywhere else.
The plasmids are the other way that BioShock gives the player a number of different options. These special abilities are unlocked via collecting Adam from Little Sisters and then opening up slots to use them at various genetic vending machines in the game (and yes, we know that sounds funny; BioShock has a ton of humor in it that is understated but still there). The plasmids themselves are found all over Rapture and are powered by injections of Eve, a chemical that you also find all over the city. Offensive plasmids range from typical electric and fire attacks to firing a swarm of insects or telekinesis. However there are four other plasmid tracks that offer special abilities to improve your health, aid in hacking attacks (more on that later), improve melee power and more. While there is a lot to keep track of, BioShock does it with a minimum of fuss. The game's user interface (handled in the same 1940's style of illustration as the game's setting) makes keeping track of all of your various plasmids a snap.
BioShock uses Epic's Unreal Engine 3 but as we have seen using an advanced graphics engine is no good if you don't have the artists to really use it to its full potential. The team at 2K Boston/Australia are no slouches in the art department; BioShock looks like no other game ever made. The art-deco and 1940's style of illustration are used to great effect in the game and you never get the feeling that you are going through the same corridor over and over again like most first person shooters do with their art and level design. The richness of the artwork will make you look around a lot to catch details that you might miss on first glance, but there is a fair bit to see including the trademark satirical humor.
There are some flaws in BioShock. The game's hacking portion (where you switch around tubes to "hack" into things like vending machines, safes and other devices) got a little tiresome to use after a bit and we discovered that the benefits were mostly minimal. A couple of the game's various missions got a little tedious as we had to collect items to create devices or achieve goals. The game also has a camera that lets you take pictures of enemies that supposedly improve your attacks once they are shot. However we found that taking pictures in the midst of a firefight was too much hassle. We think you will quickly forget about taking pictures as much as we did.
These small flaws are just that: small. BioShock grabbed us immediately upon playing it and we didn't want to stop until we were finished...and then we wanted to start playing again to find out if a different set of moral choices created different results. There's isn't any multiplayer in BioShock but there is still some replay value to be had in the game.
Excellent melding of FPS and RPG
Some quests are tedious
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