BioShock's creepy yet compelling atmosphere and its innovative gameplay make this game a must buy

By twenty0ne, Posted 25 Aug 2009

A utopia under the sea, free of tyrants, governments, or gods. What could go wrong? Plenty. In 2K's BioShock, you'll find yourself thrust into the undersea city of Rapture, where it's obvious that something's gone horribly wrong. Armed with little more than a wrench, you'll start your journey through this masterpiece of a video game with one goal in mind: find out what happened in the city of Rapture. BioShock will last 15-20 hours, and every minute is a treat; this game is not your average first-person shooter. Between the amazing city of Rapture, great sound, and above average graphics, this hybrid first-person shooter/role-playing game is one heck of an atmospheric adventure that deserves every accolade it has received, not to mention your hard earned money.

BioShock Review

BioShock's only game-mode, the single-player campaign, starts off strong, and will leave you hooked until you find out what actually happened to the now crumbling city of Rapture. The game doesn't waste any time getting into the action: it's 1960, and the protagonist, a mysterious character named Jack, is flying somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. All of a sudden, the plane crashes, and you're thrust into the pitch-black nighttime water, wreckage from the plane burning around you. As you swim away from the flames, a large lighthouse-like structure looms ominously in the distance. Seeking salvation, you have no choice but to enter, whereupon the door closes. You're greeted with classic music, and directed to enter a submarine-like shuttle called a Bathysphere. As it goes down many fathoms into the ocean, you get your first glimpse at the city that is Rapture. It's hard to even describe the spectacle of seeing the art-deco inspired buildings and the sheer size of Rapture for the first time... it's that awe-inspiring. However, the gawking doesn't last long, because as soon as you reach the city, the feral roamers of Rapture, called splicers, are looking for blood, meaning they're coming for you. As you flee, you'll see the inside of Rapture is no longer a utopia, but a trashed, decrepit labyrinth under the sea that begs to be explored.

The first "level" of BioShock serves as an interactive tutorial, where you're introduced to the game's innovative combat system. The left trigger lets you use something called a plasmid, which is a genetic modifier injected into the body that lets you do anything from shooting lightning out of your hand, to using telekinesis or freezing your enemies. Coupled with the power of plasmids, you'll also be able to wield a standard weapon with the right trigger. BioShock calls not for run and gun gameplay, but takes more of a strategic approach. When used in tandem, the right and left triggers create a type of gameplay previously unseen in a first person shooter. You can use plasmids and weapons in combination with each other to quickly take down enemies or complete objectives. For example, if you have the wrench equipped as well as the Winter Blast plasmid, you can freeze an enemy, then break him or her into tiny ice pieces with a swing of the wrench. Plasmids and weapons can also be strategically utilized in combination with the in-game environments, creating a wealth of combat options that keeps gameplay from getting stale; you can light an enemy on fire with the Incinerate plasmid, and as soon as he or she jumps into the nearest pool of water to extinguish the flames, you can use the Electro Bolt plasmid to electrocute the water and finish him or her off. It's situations like this that set BioShock apart from other first-person shooters -- the gameplay rewards you for strategizing, instead of simply running ahead with guns blazing.

Plasmids are certainly useful, but they do take some work to collect. In order to purchase plasmids, you need to collect ADAM, which is found in splicer corpses littered around the city. The catch? You don't have the tools to collect ADAM from the splicers -- only the "Little Sister" does. This is where BioShock's iconic "Big Daddy" comes into play: in order to get to the Little Sisters, you need to first get past the Big Daddy. This is no walk in the park, as Big Daddies are fortified with heavy armor, devastating melee attacks, and sometimes, the powerful rivet gun. Once you've managed to eliminate a Big Daddy, you face a moral choice: to save or "harvest" the ADAM containing Little Sister. "Harvesting" the Little Sister is just as bad as it sounds; you can kill her for all her ADAM, but you'll pay a price. You'll be known as a killer to certain characters around Rapture, and will be treated as such -- you essentially miss out on certain benefits in exchange for more ADAM. On the contrary, you can take the virtuous route by saving the sister and securing much less ADAM, however, you will get extra incentives for showing your mercy. Be warned -- your actions will directly effect the ending of the game, so choose wisely. It is entirely possible to go the whole game without fighting a Big Daddy, but by doing so, you're missing out on the chance to upgrade your character, making these tough "boss-fights" entirely worth it.

BioShock Review

Now that you've acquired some ADAM to spend, you'll see why BioShock is often related to as a role-playing game. Besides plasmids, there's over 50 other tonics you can buy (or find) to improve your character. Unlike plasmids, tonics possess a more indirect effect on gameplay, often adding subtle offensive or defensive bonuses to your character. For example, the Electric Flesh tonic sends a burst of static shock around your character whenever you get touched by an enemy. Other tonics range from perks such as the ability to find more ammo on corpses, to freezing your enemy when he or she is hit with the wrench. It's apparent that character customization plays a big role in BioShock, further separating it from other first-person shooters on the market.

Though you'll have plasmids and tonics, you'll also have a decent sized arsenal of conventional weapons to wreak havoc down in Rapture, including mainstays such as the shotgun, pistol, tommy gun, and grenade launcher. Like plasmids and tonics, each weapon can be upgraded in categories such as ammo capacity, damage, kickback, etc. To do this, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for "Power to the People" upgrade stations scattered around Rapture, forcing you to explore every nook and cranny. Not only can you upgrade weapons, but you can select different ammo types depending on the combat situation presented. Ammo can be looted from corpses or bought from machines, but it can also be built by using various pieces of unused junk such as kerosine, screws, and empty shells, making scavenging a worthwhile endeavor.

BioShock's gameplay is definitely a cut above the rest, and so are its graphics and sound. Although you'll encounter some occasional texture pop-in, BioShock's graphics are very good. Using the Unreal Engine 3, 2K has created some amazingly detailed environments that contribute to the intricate atmosphere of Rapture. In a city under the sea, it's important that water looks good, and BioShock nailed it. From leaks in Rapture's crumbling walls to water gushing under closed doors, you'll see that the water looks extremely clear and realistic. If you run under the water, your vision will blur, simulating water running over your head and in front of your eyes. If not just for its beauty, this shows 2K's keen attention to detail in regard to the in-game environments, making Rapture a sort of an artistic masterpiece. You'll certainly feel like you're in another time and place, which is fitting, because Rapture was built in the late 1940's.

Sound, like the graphics, is very well done. Retro music adds to the atmosphere, and you'll hear splicers chattering, Big Daddies lumbering, and Little Sister's whispering. Like the water, these little details add up to create a complex and immersive setting that will not easily be topped this generation.

BioShock Review

Other than texture pop-in, BioShock does have some other annoyances that keep it from being a perfect game. The first, and perhaps biggest fault, is that the game can be too easy due to the Vita Chamber system. When you're killed, the game sends you to the closest Vita Chamber to be revived. The problem with this feature is that when you're revived, you don't load a previous save or checkpoint; everything you did before dying has not been undone, meaning you can chip away at a tough enemies health, die, and repeat with no ill effects, somewhat ruining the overall flow and difficulty level of the game. The other big downfall to BioShock is its ending -- I won't spoil it for you, but chances are that you'll be disappointed with how things wrap up. Let's just say that this good of a game deserves a much better ending.

From the moment you set foot in Rapture, you'll be wowed by BioShock's creepy yet compelling atmosphere and its innovative gameplay. Though the ending doesn't do the game justice, BioShock's 15-20 hour campaign is one hell of a ride, and thus should not be overlooked by any gamer.

Tim Kroninger, NoobFeed

comments powered by Disqus
  • I need to play it because I've heard great things about this game. Great review!

    Posted Aug 25, 2009
  • Yah, it's an awesome game.

    Posted Aug 26, 2009
  • avatar RON

    I haven't played this game but considering other reviews I wonder whether it deserves a 5 or not. Great review btw.

    Posted Aug 26, 2009
  • I've played it, but not enough to review it. Hopefully I get the chance to finish it in the future. Great review :D

    Posted Aug 26, 2009
  • Great game.  I love the water effects in the game.

    Posted Aug 26, 2009
  • I liked this game from its very first moments :) Nice review :)

    Posted Aug 29, 2009
  • I had just the opposite idea about this game :o Great review indeed.

    Posted Sep 01, 2009
  • I thought the demo was the best demo ever, love it just when you go down to the botom of the ocean then you see the amazing city, just brilliant.

    Posted Sep 24, 2009


General Information



Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Developer(s): Irrational Games
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2007-08-21

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