Bioshock Review – Would you kindly?
I’m inside an underwater city at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. In one hand I hold a grenade launcher, while the other hand is a genetically mutated mess – sometimes on fire, sometimes as cold as ice. Above me floats midair some sort of miniature helicopter, equipped with a machine gun, ready to respond to any threat. Oh – did I mention it’s 1960?
That feeling of surprise and awe is what Bioshock by 2K Boston/2K Australia is all about. It’s something that has been missing in many games of late and something welcomed warmly by anyone to enter the city of Rapture – ambience. Whether it is walking into an eerily quiet bar with “If I Didn’t Care” by The Ink Spots filling the room or standing at a wall of glass, looking out across the aquatic urban landscape, Bioshock will send shivers through you like no other game that has come before it.
You begin as part of a seemingly “accidental” plane crash and in your struggle to survive alone in the Atlantic, find yourself at the base of a lighthouse sitting in the middle of the ocean. Inside you find what is known as a “bathysphere”, which becomes your gateway to Rapture. If you hear a “WOW!” or an “Oooh, Ahhh” slip out of your mouth don’t be alarmed, as your first trip to the bottom of the Atlantic is nothing but awe inspiring.
All at once, 2K have literally thrown you in the deep end. Suddenly you’re confronted with water effects like you’ve never seen before as you approach the vast underwater metropolis, flashing neon signs and dimly lit buildings all looking realistically distorted by the surrounding sea water. Crackling over the loudspeaker the city’s founder – Andrew Ryan’s voice pours over you inside the bathysphere, setting the scene for the events to come.
Without spoiling the many twists and turns that make up this in depth single player only experience, you’ll have many ways to dispatch your enemies at your disposal. Starting off with the crude monkey wrench, you’ll also find the usual pistol, shotgun and machine gun, as well as the more “destructive weapons” that are so crucial in protecting yourself from the many different types of “Splicers” that are found all over Rapture. Finally, you will come across what are called Big Daddies. These large creatures look like walking diving gear, heavily armoured and there to protect the Little Sisters….
And these Little Sisters are crucial if you want to survive in Rapture. Little Sisters contain what is called ADAM, which you need to purchase new plasmids and tonics. And EVE is what powers these plasmids once you have them equipped. Finally you have money, which you use to buy pretty much anything from a range of vending machines – ammo, first aid etc. As well as the various security systems found around the city, these vending machines can be hacked, gaining you further items to purchase at a lower price.
The hacking mini game has different levels of difficulty and at times can be very difficult to complete the first time. If it’s just too hard, there are hacking tools to make your life easier by completing the mini-game for you. If you fail, there are different penalties, either the activation of the alarm or you suffer damage. If you lose too much health, find yourself a first aid kit (9 of which you can carry at any one time). Run out of health? You’ll find yourself “regenerated” at one of the many Vita Chambers scattered around the city with no penalty whatsoever.
Found nearly anywhere in your exploration are Audio Diary’s, documenting the various experiences of the population of Rapture leading up to it’s demise. Find them! Each one adding another piece to the puzzle, you find yourself stopping in a dark corner just to focus on what the author has to say. And whether it’s the voice acting, the sound effects or the soundtrack by Garry Schyman, the audio is just amazing. Walking into a large hall you can hear a pipe dripping to your left, a Big Daddy moaning to your right and a Splicer in the distance crying, all completely authentic sounds that pull you further in the game.
And with this quality sound, comes flawless visuals. Just step into a wall of water or look closely at a puddle on the floor, the water effects are second to none. Graphically, your surroundings are all art deco inspired and very 1950’s. Lighting is done very well and metallic surfaces actually look metallic. I would recommend using the in game brightness adjustment to get the most out of your display. All in all, Bioshock is visually stunning.
There really isn’t anything negative I can point out about Bioshock. If there was 1 flaw, it would be that the bar has now been set very high for other games to reach and for me that means comparing everything I own to Bioshock. But as you can see, in the big picture this is a game that many others will aspire to be. The achievements are well placed, will take a few play throughs to earn and the 3 difficulty settings do the game justice. This is definitely not a renter, this is a game that you will come back to again and again.
© 2007-8 Lee Edgerton