Reviewed: September 13, 2007
Released: August 21, 2007
BioShock is a great game and is a definite contender for Game of the Year for many reasons. 2K Games and Irrational have come up with a winner in so many ways from the simple but involving story line, to the awesome graphics and fantastic AI. There are so many different components that have been worked on and blended so well that this will be an example for how to create a game for years to come.
BioShock is not just a great first person shooter or action or adventure game because it draws on so many different genres and components of great games that it is the atypical genre. BioShock is a culmination of what has been going on for a few years now with the combining of genres and creating new and unique ones to suite each game.
So here we are at the start of the review for the PC version of this game and to let you in on a little background of how the PC game compares to the Xbox 360 version. I have played both and they are almost exactly the same except in graphics and audio performance where the better images and sound go to the Xbox 360 with its high definition capabilities.
BioShock is the great adventure that pits your character against the elements of a culture that has grown up separately from our world. Years ago a man named Andrew Ryan decided to create a utopian society where there would be no outside influence, enter Rapture.
The 1940ís style of buildings and even the tone of the game is taken from here and given a great stir of genre combining and atmospheric ambiance to give the game a unique and different style all itís own. Once arriving in Rapture after your plane mysteriously crashes you are forced through a serious of hoops to help out someone inside Rapture trying to escape himself.
The entire scenery scheme has a very 1940ís feel and you can tell many of the influences here such as Jules Verne and even some Orson Wells style movie making come into play at times. The main antagonist is not your typical villain but just a misunderstood person who is really trying his best to look out for those around him.
Or maybe not, but you will find out shortly when playing that BioShock is very linear but in no way feels linear most of the time. You progress through levels of the underground city and have goals and obstacles but the goals are so logical and understandable that you rarely lost in where to go or what to do next.
You will have the help of a mostly unseen narrator that is trying to escape Rapture himself and also trying to help his family get out. You will be given missions to open areas to get further along as well as figure out how to sneak into the final office areas of Andrew Ryan to deal with his madness once and for all but it is not a simple matter of blowing your way through waves of adversaries.
There are also diaries left behind by those that had their everyday living in Rapture and many of them tell useful information about the area or your current objective. Often they will give a very interesting if not helpful glimpse into the daily life of Rapture. This search for diaries combines with a search for anything useful that much of your stay in Rapture is more of an adventure to find and utilize everything lying around.
You can not only find weapons and other directly useable objects but you can combine things at invention machines like a few batteries, a rubber hose and this and that to create a rocket. This inventing and searching for anything useful creates a great break from the constant onslaught of bad guys that many games are rife with.
Puzzles abound not only in the handling of main objectives but in many aspects of the game such as being able to crack into machines that dispense ammunition, healing or even the security system. Both machine hacking and opening safes involve a puzzle but with the hacking youíre given a pipe puzzle like a game from the seventies. You have a grid with pieces of pipe that you must arrange to get the power or whatever to flow from one end to the other. They add in blocks and useful parts to make the puzzle more or less hard for the difficulty of the hack your trying to accomplish.
The linear levels will not feel linear at all when you are circling your enemies and able to get behind them as well as them being able to sneak up on you. Often in areas you will b able to use your environment against the enemy like being able to electrocute them with your plasmid powers while they stand in water. The plasmids are a way to give your character almost godlike powers through the use of gene altering drugs. Once further into the game you will get powers like electrocute, fire, a swarm of bees and many others that are both familiar and unique.
Other weapons more of an earthly and familiar type are the wrench that you start with and further along the pistol, shotgun machine gun and rocket launcher. Ammunition is lying all over the place and on bodies but you will still need to purchase or steal from the numerous vending machines. They have included so many different elements that the game is such a great and unique style that combines the best elements of so many different games.
The AI is fantastic and very well handled with things like your enemies diving into water when ignited or rushing around to get behind you when youíre engaged with one enemy. You may have seen almost everything in BioShock in a previous game or even movie but they have combined all the elements into a great story and extremely fun game.
And by the way, the main problem with this utopian society and why some are desperately trying to get out, most everyone is going mad and killing everyone else. The Splicers are the main threat over the entire city with their heavy use of the plasmids destroying their bodies and minds.
From the water condensing on the thick panes of glass holding that ocean back to the simple fire effects everything looks fantastic. The graphics and effects are almost the same with both versions of BioShock but the high definition graphics of an HDTV and the Xbox 360 make that version slightly better than the PC, but not by much.
An example that is a fantastic thing to have in a game and one that I have not seen done nearly as well happens often while traveling through Rapture. Water sheets down from some upper rend in the structure of Rapture and rains down in a nice sheet from a solid ledge. You can walk through the sheet of water and while in it see not quite so clearly but almost exactly like it would in real life.
This type of effect and graphical element is carried through the whole game and these types of elements that are almost lifelike are seen often in BioShock. The game is full of all kinds of electrical, gaseous and fire elements that are realistic and great. The game has this almost tangible feel of impending doom and dread just from the layout and textures but the lighting and general effects add to this.
The use of lighting and shadows is fantastic especially in a couple of scenes were things are happening that you see by the shadows but another is the scenes of spot lighted fighting. You get to fight from the pool of light with one area under direct and bright light and everything else in total darkness. The bad things are in that darkness so you figure out where you should stand and fight from.
The entire weapons effects catalog for electrical, fire, bullets and everything else also look very realistic and great. Even getting hit looks fantastic if not so good for your character and health. The Big Daddies have this special way of treating you to a shoulder ram when youíre trying to kill them that literally knocks the world around on you that looks so realistic.
The audio in BioShock is fantastic from the wonderful background theme music to the ever-present water sounds throughout the game. BioShock has created a wonderful and believable world and spent so much time and effort that it was well worth the wait.
The voice acting is fantastic and very well scripted with very believable stories for the actors that gave a great effort for their parts. During the game you will have the diaries with portions of the story told through them as well as the occasional narrations of the founder while you try to get to your next section of Rapture.
Weapons noises and the sounds of the wounded and dying are great with the occasional banter between your character and others being a very believable and realistic part of the game. All the audio was another part of the game that was well done and helped to create a wonderful whole video game.
To complete the game and just get to the end as quickly as you can and actually survive will take well over ten hours but you will be depriving yourself of the wonder of Rapture. BioShock begs to be savored and searching for all those diaries and tackling all those machines is as much a part of the game as the weapons and shooting.
BioShock can be played from two main perspectives with the Little Sister characters and how you treat them for a different ending given for each tactic. During the gameplay if you help the Little Sisters by saving them you are the good guy but if you take their ADAM or the measure of your power for your plasmid weapons you will kill them. If you save all the Little Sisters you will get one ending and if you kill any of them there is a different tale told for your deeds.
During BioShock the usual saves are available from any point of the game but another unique addition to the games style is when you do die youíll spawn at the nearest Vita-Chambers strewn throughout the levels. Instead of having to restart from saved points you can jump from the chamber and back into the fray from the exact point of your death and continue the fight. This allows a nice and forgiving way to get past some of the harder areas of the game due to having the same amount of damage given to your foes at that point, unless they make it to a health station first.
Replaying BioShock is a treat rather than a repeat of the same game due to how much difference you have in the very large variety of weapons and plasmids. The AI has been worked out very well and is such a good opponent that replaying the game on a higher difficulty is not the same as just replaying the game with more enemies.
Whether you purchase the PC version or the Xbox 360 game you will be in for a treat for all the senses. BioShock is on the same par as those great classic films that have won awards for years and this one will for the video game industry. The combination of a great story and fantastic gameplay with wonderful scenery has been so well created into an all around well crafted game that it would be a shame to miss out on playing it.
I have read a lot about some negative aspects of the game like a missing multiplayer section or the linear and short campaign but I really donít see any of this to be true at all.
BioShock is a great and wondrous adventure told through an imaginative story combining several genres to add appeal and flavor for a truly fun game.