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Developer:
2K Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: August 21, 2007

by Jason Ferguson




Rarely does a game of BioShock’s caliber come along. Gorgeous graphics, an eerily realistic atmosphere, deep gameplay… this game has it all! From the moment you fire up your Xbox 360, BioShock will take you on an unforgettable, edge-of-your-seat adventure!


It all starts out in the 1960s with a mysterious plane crash somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic. Unfortunately for you, you happened to be aboard that plane and will find yourself the sole survivor among the burning wreckage sinking into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. BioShock starts off pretty quickly and will immediately grab the attention of even the most brain-fried gamer. The first few minutes of the game are so breathtakingly realistic that I probably wouldn’t have realized it was gameplay if it weren’t for the fact that I’d already played the demo. As you swim your way to the water’s surface, you’ll find yourself surrounded by flames and debris from the crash. In the distance, you see an oddly placed lighthouse. Eager to save yourself from the crash site, you ignore your gut instinct and make your way towards it.


You’ll soon enter the lighthouse and will be lead deep down within it to an object called a bathysphere. Curious, and left with no other option, you hop into the bathysphere only to find yourself transported away! As your bathysphere travels deep below the water’s surface, a voice introduces you to the under-water utopia of Rapture. Rapture was designed to be a place where the strong would not be oppressed by the weak, where scientists wouldn’t be held back by insignificant things like morals… however, as soon as you stumble upon Rapture, you’ll realize that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong!


As your bathysphere emerges from the water, you’ll witness a murder from a disfigured creature called a Splicer, which you later find out is a genetically-modified human. As the Splicer disappears into the darkness, you discover a radio and are guided through Rapture by the voice of a mysterious man named Atlas.


From there your adventure has begun! Atlas will radio you throughout the game, giving you hints and tips on where to go as well as relaying the story and informing you about Rapture. In the meantime, you'll also find recordings that unlock even more of the story and explain further details of the events in Rapture. The game’s story is interesting enough to keep you wondering, but it’s a bit slow paced because it's relayed in such small bits and pieces. Also, some aspects of the story are actually fairly predictable and will probably be foreseen early in your adventure. Overall, the story probably won’t ever be your main focus, but it'll be enough to keep you entertained. The real highlight of BioShock is the game’s atmosphere. BioShock provides a truly eerie gaming experience unrivaled by most games. Long dark corridors, blood-spattered walls, and faint but disturbing noises will keep you on your toes at all times. BioShock is an amazing game that you’ll have a hard time putting down, but at the same time, you’ll find yourself hesitant to continue forward, afraid of what might happen next!


You’ll find yourself free to waste time, wander around, and explore to your heart's content to seek out hidden areas, weapons, and items. The world of BioShock is pretty open, meaning the game won’t force you to progress until you’re good and ready to do so. And if you’re brave enough to leave the beaten path, there’s more out there to see! With that said, the actual storyline is pretty linear and doesn’t offer a whole lot of choices or alternate routes to follow. One of the hyped features of BioShock was that no two players would have quite the same experience, but in reality most gamers are actually going to have a pretty similar experience. Sure, how you play the game might be different from how another gamer plays it, but the end results are going to be more or less the same. Each player will fight the same enemies, experience the same story, and follow the same linear path through the game. Regardless, while the game might not be unique from gamer to gamer, it’s still an adventure that’s worth experiencing!


As I mentioned earlier, BioShock is pretty open, meaning there’s plenty to see and explore. To keep you on track, the game features a handy arrow that points you in the direction of your goal. Of course, if you want to explore for yourself, you can shut it off. However, this is a very useful feature, considering BioShock is fairly open and it could otherwise be difficult to navigate through Rapture. Despite a fairly large and open world, there are unfortunately plenty of boring “fetch” quests that will have you running back and forth.


Another highlight of BioShock is the gameplay that features the fast-paced action of a shooter combined with the depth and customization of an RPG.


First off, BioShock features a wide variety of weapons and various types of ammo for each. You’ll start off with your trusty wrench that you’ll beat enemies down with, but as you progress you’ll acquire new weapons such as a shotgun, machine gun, pistol, and many more! Each of these weapons has three types of ammo available for it with its own special uses, such as the pistol’s armor piercing and anti-personal bullets. You can only carry a limited amount of ammo of each type, so use it wisely. When you run out, though, you can always pick up ammo off of corpses or purchase more from vending machines that you’ll find scattered throughout the game. So even though you’ll want to conserve and remember where you left that extra ammo, you’ll never have to worry too much and should never have to back down from a battle!


If your weapons aren’t quite doing the trick, you’ll be glad to hear that you can upgrade your weapons at a “Power to the People” station. These stations allow you to improve your weapons by increasing the ammo capacity, rate of fire, or damage dealt by it. Each of these stations can only be used once, so think long and hard before you waste it. U-Invent stations are another useful station and are used to combine components that you’ve collected to craft special sorts of ammo, such as the previously mentioned anti-personal bullets. These types of ammo are often much harder to find than traditional ammo, so U-Invent stations will prove a great way to add a little extra punch to your arsenal!


Your weapons are fun, but plasmids are more fun. Essentially, plasmids are injections that genetically modify your DNA and grant you superhuman abilities. These injections will give you a variety of powers, including the ability to cause foes to erupt in flames and the ability to shoot electricity from your fingertips. EVE is the key to these powers, which serves the same basic purpose as ‘Mana Points’ in traditional RPGs. Whenever you use one of your abilities, some of your EVE is drained. You’ll be able to refill your EVE using EVE hypos that you’ll pick up throughout the game or purchase from vending machines. During your adventure you’ll discover all sorts of fun plasmids that’ll allow you to do all sorts of devilishly fun things to your enemies. When your plasmids are no longer doing the trick, you’ll find that you can purchase higher-level versions of the same plasmids to dish out a little extra pain, such as Electro Bolt 2.


Plasmids might be the flashiest part of your arsenal, but throughout the game you’ll also find various gene tonics, including physical tonics, engineering tonics, and combat tonics. These tonics are used to upgrade your character, improving your ability to hack or improving your performance with melee weapons. While these abilities might not stand out as much as your plasmids, they’ll certainly prove useful on many occasions.


You have a limited number of slots for your plasmids and gene tonics, which means you can only equip a few at a time. In both cases you need to be smart about which ones you choose to equip since you only have access to those that you’ve equipped. You can pick up extra tonics and plasmids, but they’ll be waiting for you at a gene bank and can’t be used until you purchase extra slots to place them in, or un-equip one of your other tonics/plasmids to make room.


Gene banks serve as a place to reconfigure plasmids and gene tonics, and view which abilities you’ve unlocked. Any tonics or plasmids that you don’t have equipped will be stored there until you decide to equip them. While visiting a gene bank, you can un-equip plasmids and tonics or equip any of the tonics and plasmids that you’ve stored.


Gatherer gardens are where can find new plasmids and tonics, acquire new slots for additional plasmids and tonics, increase your max EVE, or increase your health. Not all of these gardens will allow for you to make purchases, though. Early in the game you’ll encounter Gatherer gardens that give you access to a new plasmid, but don’t allow you to purchase any additional upgrades. You won’t be able to start purchasing upgrades until you’ve got some ADAM.


ADAM is the lifeblood of Rapture and is used to integrate gene tonics and plasmids into your own genetic makeup to grant you awesome powers. Survival in Rapture will require you to seek out and master these abilities. Unfortunately, ADAM is tough to come by.


Upgrades from Gardens are purchased using ADAM, which is carried by Little Sisters… the creepy little girls that you see on the cover. These Little Sisters roam the halls of Rapture recycling ADAM from the countless corpses lying around. Little Sisters carry large syringes that they use to drain the body of blood, which they then drink to recycle ADAM. Um, ew…


Unfortunately, these little punks are always watched closely by their protector, a Big Daddy. A Big Daddy might not sound too scary, but they’re the giant beasts that you’ll also see on the cover of the game. These bad boys definitely pack a punch, and facing off against them will be pretty intimidating at first. But, once you’ve managed to take a few of them down, I’m sure you’ll swell with confidence!


You’ll find yourself faced with a moral dilemma when it comes to the Little Sisters. These gals carry ADAM, which you need in order to buy upgrades. If you kill the Little Sisters, you can get the most ADAM from them. If you save them, you’ll get significantly less ADAM. Of course, there are other less immediately apparent rewards presented for saving the Little Sisters, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll have to test that out for yourself! So do you slay the Little Sisters for your own personal gain, or are you kind enough to help those in need? The choice is up to you!


Normally, I’m all for killing the innocent in a videogame, but even I wasn’t able to bring myself to kill the Little Sisters. After all, they’re just little kids, right? Ah well, maybe next time. At first glance, I really enjoyed this feature of the game because it allowed me to make a decision that would have a great impact on the gameplay. Is it worth forsaking my morals in order to acquire great power? Unfortunately, in the long run, you’ll notice that your choice doesn’t actually matter that much aside from which of the two endings you receive. The fact that there are two different endings shows that your actions do have some impact on the greater game, but still not as much as RPG fans are going to want. In the end, most gamers will probably have a blast with BioShock, but unless you’re totally addicted, there’s not a lot of replay value. Of course, it's also a suprisingly lengthy adventure for games of the sort.


I’ve mentioned vending machines several times throughout the review, so I’m sure that by now you get the idea that they’re pretty important. Vending machines allow you to purchase items such as ammunition, EVE hypos, and health packs. These machines are absolutely invaluable because they’ll serve as an easy method for picking up those extra items that you crave. Because of the fact that you can only carry a limited amount of everything (9 health packs, 9 EVE hypos, etc.), knowing where the nearest vending machine is so that you can stock up will be a great asset. Aside from health packs and EVE hypos, you’ll also be able to gain instant health or EVE from consumable items, such as wine, candy bars, and cigarettes. You’ll also encounter healing stations that will restore HP in exchange for cash, and Vita-Chambers where you’re automatically restored when you die. These features make BioShock a very user-friendly experience, but also make it a bit on the easy side.


Another important part of the gameplay is hacking, which has numerous purposes. My personal favorite use for hacking is to hack into enemy security cameras and turrets to turn them on your enemies. It’s always nice to have someone else on your side, right? You can also hack vending machines to give you a significant discount and access to new items. There’s a little mini-game that goes along with hacking. It’s not exactly “fun,” but it’s not horribly frustrating or time-consuming either, so hacking is neither a party nor a chore. However, if you don’t want to do it, then you don’t have to, but it’s a great bonus for those who take a little bit of extra time!


A final area of the gameplay that I’d like to address is the camera. This adds additional depth to character building and gives gamers a little something extra to do during their adventure. You use the camera to take pictures of your enemies, which allows you to learn about their weaknesses and gain bonus skills against them, such as extra damage. You receive bonuses for good pictures, such as action shots or those with more than one enemy in it. Once you've gained enough points from picture-taking, you may move up in research level, increasing your damage bonus and even earning new gene tonics! When you run into a baddy in a dimly lit hallway, your first instinct probably won’t be to whip out your camera and take a picture of it. Although, if you get the chance to take a few pictures, it’ll definitely be worth your while.


BioShock allows gamers to use a lot of strategy during combat, combining weapons and abilities to deal lethal blows, and using the environment to their advantage. For example, you can cast Electro Bolt on enemies in water to deal a lot of extra damage, stun a foe using Electro Bolt and then beat him down with your wrench while they’re vulnerable, cast Incinerate on an oil spill to erupt an entire room in flames, fry electronic security systems in order to give you time to hack into it, use telekinesis to pick up nearby objects and hurl them at your enemies, or hack into a turret and lure your enemies into a barrage of gunfire! The possibilities are virtually endless, and you’ll likely have a lot of fun toying with your abilities, the environment, and your various weapons to find cool combinations and strategies.


BioShock is a game that’s good at grabbing your emotions, whether it be fear of the eerie atmosphere or sympathy for the Little Sisters. Either way, you’ll likely find yourself totally immersed in this game, which is partially due to the game’s awesome visuals and sound. Bluntly, BioShock is a gorgeous game that shows us what next-generation games should look like. While venturing through Rapture, you’ll see amazing graphics, highly-detailed characters, incredible water and lighting effects, and environments so realistic that you’ll feel like you’re right there! The music in BioShock is also top notch. Of course, don’t expect to hear any tunes that you’ll be tapping your foot to or humming along with. Instead, the music here is more subtle and adds a lot to the creepy feel of the game. Something about the sound of old 1960s record player music has always sounded a bit freaky to me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then play BioShock and I’m sure you’ll agree! You’ll also hear some really high-quality voice acting in BioShock, even though much of it is done through a radio.


Without a doubt, BioShock is a shoe-in for hordes of Game of the Year nominations. It’s certainly among my favorite titles of the year, and I highly recommend it to all gamers, whether you’ve got an Xbox 360 or a gaming PC. If you haven’t played it yet, then I suggest you at least go out and give the demo a try.


Final Grade: 93%




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