Member Review: BioShock Review

My name is Andrew Ryan and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers. I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture.”

BioShock is one of the greatest games ever created, and that’s without multiplayer. To those of you, who think BioShock is just another first-person shooter, guess again. This is a horror, action-RPG, first-person shooter and an amazing cinematic experience. I urge everyone to go out and buy this game as soon as possible. With a sequel in development, and a sequel to the sequel already hinted at, you won’t want to miss this series.

Plot: BioShock has one of the best, if not the best, story in video game history. There are quite a few jaw-dropping twists and turns, some that rival The Sixth Sense. I have to say that the writers at 2K Boston/2K Australia are geniuses, and have made a masterpiece that will go down in gaming history.

You start off in 1960, when your plane crashes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Your character, Jack, has to swim to the nearest land which happens to be an eerie lighthouse. Once inside you see the statue of Andrew Ryan, and take a bathysphere down to the dystopian city of Rapture. When the bathysphere lands you see a man being confronted by someone with hooked hands, a splicer. Jack watches the splicer brutally murder the man, and eventually leave. Jack finds a radio inside the bathysphere, and meets a man named, Atlas. Atlas is your survival guide to Rapture. Through Atlas, old audio diaries, and ghost-like “flashbacks” the story of Rapture and why you are there unfolds in front of you.

The underwater city of Rapture was the brainchild of Andrew Ryan. In the 1940s, he created Rapture in his hate of authority. The only rule that was strictly enforced was there could be absolutely no contact with the outside world. Ryan wanted Rapture to be an Eden “where the artist would not fear the censor, the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, [and] where the great would not be constrained by the small!” The only rule that was strictly enforced in Rapture was absolutely no contact with the outside world. For a long time the city flourished, but the discovery of ADAM and trouble with smugglers lead to the downfall of Andrew Ryan’s secret utopia.

ADAM, discovered by Dr. Bridgette Tennenbaum, is stem cells extracted from a special type of sea slug. These stem cells allowed the inhabitants of Rapture to make genetic modifications to them. Scientists created “plasmids”, which granted humans strange abilities and are “refilled” using a substance called EVE. For example, the incinerate plasmid allows you to shoot fire from your fingertips.  Citizens could “buy” plasmids with ADAM. The constant need for ADAM made people lose control, and become splicers. Furthermore, scientists created the “Little Sisters”, who were made to wander Rapture, harvesting all available ADAM. To protect the Little Sisters, the “Big Daddies” were made. The Little Sisters were young girls injected with a sea slug, whereas the Big Daddies were genetically reworked and well-armed humans in large, protective diving suits. At this point, Rapture was like a leaky pipe. You can cover the leaks with small patches, but eventually the whole thing is going to burst.  

Former mobster, Frank Fontaine, smuggled goods into Rapture, breaking the only rule of the underwater city. Fontaine wanted to become wealthy and have dominance in Rapture, but Ryan wanted the opposite. Both had many followers, and they became arch-enemies. Fontaine who controlled all of Dr. Tennenbaum’s discoveries became rich and was gaining too much power. Andrew Ryan could not have Fontaine get anymore stronger so he had him assassinated.

With the death of Frank Fontaine a new rival for Andrew Ryan appeared. The new rival was Atlas, Jack’s radio companion. Atlas and his ADAM-hungry followers attacked Andrew Ryan and his high-class followers on New Years Eve. A war broke out between the two groups and the city began to crumble. Ryan’s methods became corrupt and he lost many of his followers. Most of Rapture’s remaining population was splicers, but some normal humans have been able to hide within the city. At around this time Jack arrives at Rapture.

Sound: BioShock has some of the best audio you’ll ever hear. From voice acting to music there are absolutely no flaws. Its ominous tones add suspense, and the audio diaries are very well done. I would actually say it’s perfect.

Armin Shimerman and Karl Hanover do an amazing job voicing Andrew Ryan and Atlas. None of the characters are flat, each having they’re own personality. Even the splicers have different views! One will be singing Jesus Loves Me while another screams that he’s “Lonely, just lonely!” In addition, the audio diaries sound very realistic. They sound exactly like they’re supposed to, old and washed-out, and at the same time they’re filling you in on the background of Rapture. 

As for the music, nothing sounds out of place. If you are at a creepy section, creepy music comes on. It’s all matched perfectly for the situation. I was walking through an old barber shop because I heard faint music, and when I further investigated I saw an old record player. When I walked closer I recognized the tune as Beyond the Sea. It sounded so eerie, but it was very intriguing. Another catchy tune you’ll hear later in the game is That Doggie in the Window, and there are many more. After you’re done playing, you’ll start singing these songs out of the blue. Have fun getting them out of your head!

Finally, there are the sound effects. It must be near impossible to find a sound effect for everything in a game, but I think 2K Boston/2K Australia did it. When Jack walks you hear the pitter-patter of his feet. Most importantly, the sounds of gunshots and wrenches to the forehead are all there, and they sound fantastic. Throw in some glass shattering, water rushing, cassettes playing, fire burning, and drunk hiccoughing and you’ve got a game!

Graphics: Many critics say that BioShock has the best art style, and I wholeheartedly agree. The entire city of Rapture is depicted brilliantly, through its gorgeous art style. I now know what to expect if I ever visit an underwater, dystopian city.

If you play the first level, and are not stunned already, you might need to get an eye checkup. BioShock shows off its graphical power as soon as you hit the surface from the plane crash. The water effects are so outstanding, that they actually make some of the other elements look bad. The fire in the game looks like it could have been done last generation, but the water really pushes it to the limit.

The environments in Rapture are truly stunning. There is a variety of different sections, and each is portrayed with beautiful graphics. At one point you’ll be walking through the blood-stained walls of the Medical Pavilion, and later you’ll be in a lush, green forest. Meanwhile, old-timey advertisements adorn and flashy vending machines adorn the walls, keeping that 1940s vibe going. Only Andrew Ryan could create so much diversity in a submerged metropolis.

Lastly, the character models and animations are wonderful. The splicers look like you’d expect, deformed. They will creep up behind you, and once you turn around it looks like death is staring you in the face. Even better, are the Big Daddies and Little Sisters. They look realism from such an unbelievable character is chilling, so much that you might want to put on a diaper during Jack’s first Big Daddy encounter.

Gameplay: In my opinion, the gameplay is where BioShock shines brightest. You can choose how you want to take down your enemies. The RPG aspect makes it feel more in depth than a simple shooter. There are so many things packed into the gameplay, but most of it works magically.

I’ll start of with my only gripe about the gameplay, and that’s the part where you have to hack machines. You can hack vending machines, security bots, and safes. It’s all very gimmicky, but it’s not even a fun gimmick. You could skip this feature entirely, but then you miss out on lower vending machine prices, friendly security bots, and finding free goodies. The hack “mini-game” is similar to the game Pipe Dream for the NES. You have to switch pipes around very quickly while avoiding obstacles. A green fluid moves through the pipes and it has to end up going through a specified pipe. Though it does come in handy I’d rather not see this feature in the upcoming sequels.

There is nothing worse than bringing home a hyped game to find that its controls are broken. Luckily, the control system is runs smoothly, and there is a small learning curve. I’m glad all the plasmids are located on one button rather than spreading them all throughout the controller, or worse, making you open up the start menu. There’s never a point where you don’t feel in control of Jack.

The AI of the splicers and Big Daddies is some of the best around. The splicers will react as soon as Jack becomes visible. They proceed to lunge or shoot at you, but if they see a shotgun or ball of flames in your hand they will try to run. The same goes for the Big Daddies when attacked, but they definitely won’t run, no matter what you throw at them. You can tell how good the AI is by comparing it to the real world. For instance, you are unprotected except for a lead pipe. You see a man with a Thompson submachine gun approaching, so your first instinct is to run. Now let’s say you are in a tank and a man with a revolver approaches. Obviously, you’re going to run him down with ease. It’s intriguing to watch the different reactions you get from various people in Rapture.

Most importantly, the combat won me over just like that. You’re given so many options on how to take down the security bots, splicers, Big Daddies, and more. Will you run and gun with the various firearms, use plasmids the whole way, or try a mix of the two? The choice is yours! I would compare it to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. You try one thing, and if it doesn’t work out, you try something else. That’s just the beginning, though; there are lots of customization options, which give BioShock an RPG feel.

One of the main focuses of the game is upgrading. You’ll be finding or buying plasmids and tonics to upgrade Jack according to the way you play. Tonics are like plasmids, in that they give you special abilities, but their abilities are a little different. The categories for tonics are physical, engineering, and combat. I, for one, used a variety of plasmids and a wrench. Therefore, my more valued tonics were combat type. My favorite tonics included wrench jockey, which deals more wrench damage, and static discharge, which shocks enemies when touched. Eventually, Jack acquires a camera which will grant new tonics when a certain type of enemy is researched. It sounds complex, but it all works quite nicely.

For your firearms a different type of upgrade is given. Occasionally, you will stumble upon a “Power to the People” machine. These machines allow you to make one upgrade on one of your weapons. Whether you increase your gun’s ammo capacity or how much damage is given, it really doesn’t matter. In addition, at a U-Invent machine you can create different types of ammo from otherwise useless items you’ve picked up. All these customization options make the game feel hand-crafted for you.

Conclusion: BioShock isn’t perfect, but for a single-player only game, it’s pretty close. There is a lot packed into this game, and I’m sorry if anyone is a Wii only gamer. Being the 360 “fanboy” that I am, you’d think I’d be upset to see such a great exclusive become multiplatform game, but I’m actually glad. Disallowing PS3 owners from playing BioShock would be like putting them through the Chinese water torture. It’s just not right. I feel special to have been graced by this game’s presence. It definitely deserved the many game of the year awards it won in 2007.

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