BioShock Xbox 360
Including more exhilaration and atmosphere in the first twenty minutes than most titles could offer over their entirety, BioShock stands tall as the true evolution of the FPS genre. Words do not do the game justice – my fumbled ramblings certainly will not anyway. In truth, only by playing BioShock can you truly appreciate what it is about, how masterfully it is all put together, and how skilfully every single molecule of gameplay is paced. Truth be told, the game itself may be the epitome of linearity, and may contain some unimaginative objective-based gameplay, but it is what’s contained within, offering you an exciting trip through a truly alive, beautifully realised world, that will have you in raptures.
Starting off with a bang, with the surface of the sea ablaze following a plane crash, the game grips you right from the very beginning. From that very moment you are propelled into an adventure devoid of any cut-scenes, letting you experiencing everything from the first person viewpoint of the game’s protagonist as you direct him down to the depths of a decaying utopia, the city known as Rapture. On your way down you experience the game’s very first set piece, which introduces you to your main enemy – Splicers – and also sets an awesome precedent to what will follow. From that point onwards you are left to explore the sub-aquatic wilderness, and truly soak up the dystopian feel of the new world that awaits you in the depths of the ocean. Onwards and downwards, you meet up with a differing collection Splicers, each with different sets of abilities. Then, after a few chance meetings it is noticeable that these guys are basically the title’s cannon fodder, albeit a very entertaining one, to keep the areas interesting as you battle your way through the game.
However, the game is not just about fighting it is more about experiencing the city around you, and what a city it is. Not only is Rapture an excellent creation of the squalor and desolation of a crumbling living world, a world with a highly distinctive art deco-styled interior, it is also a world you never feel you will get lost in, as everything seems well placed. And even though the game is set in an extreme environment, with corruption waiting around ever corner, along with vending machines that dish out weaponry to a catchy tune or cool phrase, nothing about the game seems neither overdone nor convoluted in any way. In fact, everything about it feels well paced with each area having its own unique aspects and memorable moments littered throughout. There are times when you just want to stop and enjoy what is happening around you, whether it is a poignant rendition of the classic song “Beyond The Sea” coming from a nearby jukebox, a well voiced part of the story, or your first meeting against BioShock’s ultimate foe, the Big Daddy’s – who are the absolute tip of the surly collection of enemies on show.
However, in an interesting move for a game billed as a shooter, if you don’t touch them they won’t touch you. In fact, you can just walk around the Big Daddy, checking it out, and seeing how he reacts to his accompanying ADAM carrying Little Sister, who seems almost oblivious to the devastated metropolis that surrounds her. Of course, to fully enjoy the game you will have to go toe to toe with these beasts, who put up an almighty fight before they are finally taken down. However, after a heart pumping fight, when you finally come out the victor, you don’t have long revel in your success as the game quickly hits you with the moral choice of rescuing or harvesting a Little Sister to get her ADAM – the key to upgrading your character. This is yet another masterstroke for the game as it shows it can jump from one extreme to another but still keep the mythology of the story at the forefront of the minds of those that are playing.
It is this ADAM that is part of the key to BioShock’s appeal as the different ways you can use it gives you a selection of various choices in the way to approach all that you see, with every enemy, and every room offering its own little puzzle to decipher as you hope to come out of the battle with as much health as possible. Aiding you in this is the game’s collection of weapons, with both a collection of normal armaments (left triggers) and a selection of Plasmid powers (right triggers) available. The main firearms are more or less your typical FPS fare, with genre mainstays such as pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers and machine guns, along with different ammo options making an appearance. However, when you combine these weapons with your Plasmid powers and in turn with parts of the environment then the combat really begins to feel special.
For example, when you get your first Plasmid, which is an electro bolt, the game teaches you that it can be used it to stun opponents before thwacking them with a wrench. However, further down the line you are given the opportunity to use your electro blot when an enemy is wallowing in a pool of water, and as a result your attack inflicts much more damage. Then, as the game develops, you can use your ADAM to gain more abilities, which offer more inventive ways to hurt an enemy such as throwing objects with telekinesis, starting a blinding blaze by lighting up an oily patch of ground with a fireball, using your freeze ability and then a shotgun to decimate a healthbar, or simple turning enemies against each other. In truth, the amount of different ways to approach objectives is truly astonishing, and with over 70 different Plasmid and Tonic powers available, and a multitude of different ways to customize your character, everyone should find their own way to overcome each task the game sets.
Also, on top of that is the option to hack objects such as gun turrets and security cameras to target enemies, along with safes and locked doors, to find hidden items via a Pipe Mania inspired mini-game. You can use a camera to study the enemies, and as a result inflict more damage the next time you meet up with them, and also invent your own items with a U-Invent machine. Furthermore, even more skills can be developed as you go about doing these tasks, which once again alters the game depending on how you play. Finally, one particularly interesting facet of the game is how death is handled. In fact, in this area the game pretty much shares a familiar system to the developer’s previous title, and BioShock’s precursor, System Shock. Death is not final, and if you come to an unfortunate end it results in you respawning in one of many re-gen chambers placed throughout the world. Now, when this may seem like a weird move, as many gamers will undoubtedly be used to the checkpoint system seen it numerous other FPS titles, it fits BioShock well. And perhaps the best by-product of this decision is that you never feel detached from the game’s overarching story by seeing a loading screen emblazoned on the screen in the middle of an engaging battle, which is oh so important in a game such as this.
Of course, with no multiplayer options available you probably won’t be playing the game come Christmas. In fact you might not be playing it this time next month. So, as a result, in terms of value for money I guess BioShock could be questioned. However, the game does not need that type of mode as it just would not fit, it is not needed and the game shines without it. All in all, for the memorable moments it brings, with its engaging single player narrative, and for the truly unforgettable nature of the game in general it is certainly worth the price of admission. There is just so much to like about BioShock, so much to take in and experience, and so many ways to approach each task that you could quite happily play through the game twice – if not more. Sure, you have the visceral one minute trills of Gears of War and the stunning set pieces of the Halo series, and you can play a thousand sci-fi shooters, then live though World War II countless times but there is truly only one Rapture. Yes, I know all the other games mentioned ooze quality of their own, and all of the above are impressive in their own way, but can they boast a feeling of sheer immersion that comes form every second of play? I don’t think so.
Of all the questions BioShock asks of you, the decision of whether to buy it or not results in only one answer. A resounding yes! It is not a game that tries to shock with new exciting gameplay twists, nor does it confuse with new fangled control methods. It just takes everything most gamers have grown to love over the years, wraps them up in a beautifully realised world, and refines them to near perfection. With great gameplay, fantastic sound, and quality narrative it is an almost perfect realisation of what a quality title should be in the current gaming climate. But most importantly it is a fervent effort to raise people’s expectation of what a quality game is expected to provide. It’s just that good!
Now, would you kindly go out and buy it! It will go down as one of the greatest games of this generation.