Ah, hello there. Take a seat anywhere. Welcome to what I hope will be an ongoing videogame review column. Old games, new games, if I play it and have the time to write about them, expect a review. Please let me know of any grammatical and spelling errors, and feel free to give criticism. First up is Bioshock (PC/360/PS3)
Let’s get one fact out of the way first: I have only now just stepped into the latest generation of video gaming. I have had a Wii since launch, but I have missed out on many of the AAA titles that have come out on PS3 and Xbox. With my purchase of a PS3, I have been trying to rectify that. To that end I recently picked up Bioshock, considered to be one of the best games of the past few years. But has the hype overtaken what may be just an average shooter?
For those who haven’t heard of the game, Bioshock is a 1st Person shooter from 2K Boston/Australia (now Irrational Games) that came out in August 2007. Players take control of Jack, who takes refuge in the underwater metropolis of Rapture after his plane crashes over the Atlantic Ocean. In Rapture, you encounter Andrew Ryan, the capitalistic, totalitarian ruler, and Atlas, a freedom fighter trying to save his family, as well as other denizens of a deteriorating society.
Right off the bat let me say that Bioshock is a gorgeous game. Rapture is beautifully designed and is full of personality. It is clear that the developers put a lot of heart and soul into creating this world. From the eco-wonderland of Arcadia to the cold fishing wharfs of Neptune’s Bounty, each section of Rapture has a unique personality and art deco style. My personal favorite was Fort Frolic, the entertainment district, filled with run down record stores, casinos, and the lunatic artist Sander Cohen. The environments are well rendered with no noticeable bugs, and the water and fire effects are top notch. I would take detours just to examine the details of the crumbling city, and imagine what it must have looked like before its denizens went crazy.
Once you get into the action of Bioshock, you will find a multitude of combat options at your fingertips. There is a variety of conventional weapons, all upgradable and with multiple ammo types. But the real draw here are the Plasmids. Plasmids alter your DNA to give you, for a lack of a better term, super powers. There is a plasmid for shooting lightning, sending swarms of bees after your foes, and creating decoys to manipulate enemies. To get these Plasmids, you need ADAM, which can be obtained through the Little Sisters that wander the corridors of Rapture. However, the Little Sisters are protected by Big Daddies, lumbering monstrosities in retro diving suits that will protect the little girls at all costs. These enemies are ridiculously difficult…the first few times you fight them. As soon as you get the grenade launcher, the Big Daddies soon become mere annoyances. This leads me to one of my complaints about the game: the difficulty. The Big Daddies never actually feel like a real threat because if you die, you are instantly revived at a “vita-chamber” while the enemies keep their damage. So you never really need to strategize to defeat an enemy, you can just keep trying until they die. While many of the common enemies are very easy to kill at the start, about three-quarters of the way though the game, they somehow become a lot stronger and tougher. While I would not have wanted the game to stay at the same difficulty the entire time, it would have been nice if the curve was not as steep.
While you start off with very little in the way of ammo and weapons, halfway through the game I found myself maxed out on everything, and it was very easy to keep it that way. As much as the game tried to encourage me to use the Plasmids, I found myself using the conventional weapons just because I had so much ammo. The actual shooting felt very loose, and it was hard to figure out the range of the weapons, and the guns seemed overly large and not to scale with the enemy’s models.
One of Bioshock’s biggest assets is its story. Full of allusions to Ayn Rand’s work, it brings up questions of the nature of man, the effects of the free market, and many other deep, philosophical themes that I don’t have the time or space to write about. Much of the background details are given through audio logs that are scattered throughout the bowels of Rapture. These logs are very interesting and a great way to tell the story, but I wish that the volume on them was a little louder as it can sometimes be drowned out by gunfire or even some of the louder ambient noises. The game features a morality system where you can either save the Little Sisters after defeating the Big Daddies, or you can harvest them to receive more ADAM. I never felt like my choices had any effect on the game world, and it was disappointing to see a game with such big ideas to have only one choice determine whether you are “good” or “evil.” Your choices do factor into the ending, but I found some problems with that as well. I harvested exactly 1 Little Sister over the course of the game, and yet I was given the “evil” ending. Not only did this not make sense with my play style, the ending cut-scene did not really make sense in the context of the game.
Bioshock is an ambitious game, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights that it thinks it’s hitting. Problems with the shooting mechanics and the ending keep it from becoming an amazing game. However, there is so much creativity on hand in the game designs and story that some of the smaller problems can be written off. Overall, I give Bioshock a solid B.