BioShock Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 10
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 9.3
Review by Will Smith
Rapture. An original setting, for an original shooter (on, admittedly, a less than original machine – but that’s besides). Rapture. A brilliant setting, for a brilliant shooter, on a powerful machine. That’s Rapture. That’s Bioshock.

Bioshock is the long awaited shooter, powered by the awesome Unreal 3 technology behind titles such as Gears Of War and of course, Unreal Tournament 3. Featuring well known Havoc physics (Painkiller, Crackdown) and published by well the well known company 2K Games. Big names, for a big title. A title which deserves to have every letter of those names plastered all over it.

It may take you a while to notice, but Bioshock is full of exquisite little details – such as the musical start screen – whereby cycling menu options plays piano notes (although getting a known melody is nigh impossible as each option has 2 or 3 different notes it plays at random) which, in all honesty, adds at least 10 minutes worth of play to the game (I know, I’m sad, OK?).

Another of the little details are the runes scrawled all over the walls of Arcadia (I still don’t know if these are for anything, so don’t ask, m’kay?), to the way Big Daddies wander aimlessly around, knocking on vent holes for Little Sisters, and even the way that, if splicers don’t notice you, you may notice they have a life, a routine, they aren’t mindless, or dumb.

Exceptional graphics add to the immersion, with powerful lighting, seamless textures, walls that look realistically dingy – however – small graphical glitches can detract from this effect – such as model skins not loading in properly on the Adam slugs, or burnt corpses not retaining their textures after a game reload, and other glitches such as corpses getting stuck in a sinking floor (which, as you may notice, is a prevailing issue in a lot of games). The frame rate, however, is very smooth; I have only experienced the most negligible bit of slowdown so far, this ensures combat is fluid and you don’t get CPU lagged to death in big fights.

In terms of load times, these are unnecessarily long, for saying that other games can load larger areas in less time, however, there is no in-game loading, so you won’t get interrupted by load times other than between areas separated by bulkheads. Accessing menus/vending machines/the hack game doesn’t need any time to load either; in fact, they’re all as good as instantaneous.

The environments are very interactive, with objects such as cigarettes, alcohol, lockboxes and safes scattered about for you take and hack into. This interactivity even extends to battling enemies, as the telekinesis plasmid allows you to pick up and throw almost any loose object – including chairs, loose steel doors, wrenches, books, and even corpses (there’s no better feeling in this game than using the corpse of a Big Daddy against another one)! You can even set oil alight, and electrify water in order to impede your enemies. Sometimes though, you can’t help but feel this interactivity doesn’t extend far enough – are games still not at the point where you can’t burn plants blocking your way unless the game expressly allows? Yet I can still use fire to melt ice and free a steel bulkhead weighing half a tonne!

Looking gameplay wise again, the introduction of plasmids into what may otherwise be a slightly more regular shooter (but never by any means bog standard) serves to make things far more interesting – as new plasmids – and the slots to equip them, can be brought at gene banks in exchange for some Adam (harvested from Little Sisters). As well as Gene Tonics (passive bonuses that come in 3 kinds; Engineering, Physical and Combat). Most plasmids and gene tonics have multiple levels of upgrades, so they don’t run out of use – although the enemies don’t get a lot tougher throughout the game – its still always down to Big Daddies, Turrets, Security Bots and Splicers.

The introduction of multiple ammo types (although this has been done before) adds yet another dimension to combat, with anti-personnel rounds, AP rounds, Napalm, Liquid Nitrogen and even Electric Gel being part of your multi-ammo arsenal. Weapons are yours to keep once you’ve acquired them, and there’s no limit to the amount of weapons you can carry at one time.

The hacking minigame is also a key feature in this game; join pipes together to guide the liquid to the exit point – but be careful of the overload tiles, alarm tiles and accelerator tiles. The difficulty ranged from the easy peasy to the incredibly nasty (mostly when it comes to safes), but there are plenty of gene tonics and the occasional plasmid which may help you out. This little game does become tedious once you decide you need to hack everything to get the most for your money, or indeed, to keep splicers at bay by hacking cameras though, which is a shame, as buying out hacks is expensive (and not always available), and autohack tools are pretty rare until you get the U-invent machines.

One interesting point that needs to be mentioned here is the Big Daddies – you know all those previews which made them out to be rock-hard? With all those complicated set-ups required to kill them? Well, I have some bad news, those were exaggerations. Killing a Big Daddy is actually quite simple:

  1. Get as much ammo, first aid kits and eve hypos as you can.

  2. Find a nice place to combat the Big Daddy, making sure the Little Sister is around to harvest afterwards.

  3. UNLOAD! Whilst running him in circles – fire is particularly effective.

  4. If you die, you’ll spawn at the nearest Vita-Chamber, which, more often than not, is not a hell of a way from where you left off. And the Big Daddy won’t even be aggressive anymore. You just need to wait for the Sister to come back, unload on him again (he won’t regenerate), and then harvest the Sister.

Harvesting Sisters is the best option to take by far, you need the Adam, and there’s no real reward for saving them – the game makes a bad job of making this choice impede on your morals at all - just get harvesting!

The control system for the game is very fluent, and the introduction of plasmids doesn’t complicate things at all, as the control set-up will be totally familiar to any console FPS player. One thing that could have been done though, is having a plasmid in one hand, and a gun in the other, instead, you have to switch between them (although your character holds them in different hands anyway). Still, the switching is quick, so it shouldn’t cause problems.

Moving on to audio, the game sounds fantastic, the lunatic one sided conversations of the lone splicers send threatening chills through your already made delicate bones, the stomping of a Big Daddy can be heard rooms away thanks to his huge metal diving suit, and the whining of the Little Sisters adds a real sense of companionship between the two. The weapon sound effects are fantastic, you can feel the full force of every pistol shot just through sound (who needs vibrations?!), and the squelching of the liquid nitrogen as it covers your foes is simply divine. The voice acting is second to none as well, the characters are believable (which is an achievement for saying that most of the game you only ever hear them over a short-range radio) and each actor knows how to make his/her character really come out.

Overall, the game has a solid atmosphere, which entirely suits the vintage 50’s style décor which is in every aspect of this wonderful game. The story is compelling and just gets better and better (although the fact that every time you’re close to really getting something, Ryan goes and moves the bar can get a bit repetitive and predictable) – and even if you don’t give two monkeys about the story (which is unlikely) – you’ll always want to explore that last room, see what horrible fate you can afflict upon that one last splicer before you save up and turn off (if you dare!). The story does do a wonderful job of piecing itself together in your head though, through the medium of cassette tapes recorded by various characters, and there are almost no intervening cutscenes from the game (good or bad – your choice).

My advice: Yes, go buy this game, you’ll have a wonderful time with it, but be sure to savour it – there is no multiplayer (I know some of you find that unbelievable), but the quality of the single player is worth the sacrifice a million times over, anyway, isn’t it about time we had a decent shooter that doesn’t sell itself on multiplayer? And the replay value will be determined only by your attitude to replaying linear storylines.

Buy this if you liked…..George Orwell; 1984 – Ayn Rand; Atlas Shrugged – Aldous Huxley; Brave New World – Equilibrium – Ultraviolet – Children of Men – V for Vendetta.
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