Despite technical glitches, Bioshock is a great achievement in combining the best of two different genres.
Kazona wrote this review on .
With Bioshock players are given a great story that's told without ever breaking up the action, thanks to the use of radio transmissions, and audio diaries you'll find throughout the game. What's great is that you don't have to dive into a menu to find those diaries and play them. As soon as you find one, you can play it with a press of a button, allowing you to continue on with your objective while listening to the voices of the people that once inhabited the underwater city of Rapture.
That city, by the way, really fits with the idea of what an underwater city should look like during the era of the 1950's. One noticeable thing is how everything looks old-fashioned compared to recent times, yet still comes across as technologically advanced. Another interesting element is that it all really looks lived in, and it's not hard to imagine people living their lives, going about their daily things as they would in any other city. Each area you visit has its own distinct look while still fitting with the theme of the entire city. For instance, one moment you'll find yourself in beautiful man-made gardens, and the next you'll enter an area that has a cold, industrial feel to it, and yet you'll always feel like those different areas belong together in the city.
Of course being an underwater city on the brink of collapse, with leaks everywhere, is going to have plenty of water in it. In fact, the first thing you'll come into contact with, is water, as your plane crashes into the ocean at the start of the game, and you have to swim to a lighthouse that serves as the entrance to Rapture. And the first thing that stands out is how great the water looks. But, if you pay a bit closer attention, you'll notice the odd white foamy patches when you walk through it, instead of the proper ripple effect you'd expect. Ice as well looks great at first sight, but when melting it using your fire power, it just looks odd, especially when it's pieces of ice hanging from the ceiling, as it just seems to change texture, and then shrink. These may seem like minor details, but for a game with such a heavy focus on water, it's a bit of a disappointment that more effort wasn't put into it.
Something else that may very well stand out as soon as you get over how the water looks, is that there is something missing, namely sound. On the system on which the game was played, sound disappeared completely when selecting 5.1 surround in conjunction with EAX. As soon as EAX was turned off, sound worked just fine, but this fix may not work for everyone, depending on their hardware configuration, which means some people who buy the game will not be able to enjoy the full atmosphere the game offers through its otherwise outstanding use of sound and music. Because when the sound works, it really does add perfectly to the already great visuals of the game. There's nothing like hearing the groans of a Big Daddy in the distance, as his heavy footsteps echo right down to your core, or the sound of metal and glass straining against the relentless pressure of the ocean outside. Even the musical score adds to the whole ambiance, with the right music playing at just the right times, further setting the mood without ever overly dominating.
Attentive readers will probably have noticed the mention of a fire power, which is called incinerate. You gain this, and other powers through the use of plasmids which you'll find along your way. Other powers include things like telekinesis, which allows you to pick up objects and bodies, an electro bolt, which temporarily stuns your enemies, the ability to freeze your enemies using ice, and plenty more. Best of all, they flawlessly combine with your regular weapons, of which you'll find plenty in the game. You'll get access to vast array of weapons, ranging from a pistol to a grenade launcher. Each weapon is also able to carry different types of ammo, and can be upgraded at the therefore intended upgrade machines. Keep in mind however, that there are only a limited number of upgrade spots in the game, and each one only allows for one upgrade before being disabled.
So yes, there are definitely a lot of powers to choose from, as well as plenty of weapons. But while there are plenty of very useful powers and weapons, some of them aren't really as effective as you might expect. Some of the weapons can even be downright cumbersome to use due to the overly long reloading times, or the long time it takes to switch from one type of ammunition to another. This might add a level of strategy to how you play the game, but that really only works when you know what you'll be facing beforehand, and not in the middle of a heated battle where you'll be busy enough trying to survive, let alone have time to waste on long reloads or switching of ammo.
But the plasmids don't just grant you offensive powers. There are also plenty which will improve your physical condition, grant you better hacking skills, allow you to make better use of your evo, which is the fuel behind your offensive powers, and more. And unlike many other games, you won't just automatically receive these extras linearly throughout the game. A lot of these extras can only be acquired if you spend some time exploring the city, or by purchasing them at various locations using a material called ADAM, that you'll have to get from posessed little girls called little sisters.
So unlike most first person shooters where you'll just unlock some bonus content like artwork if you explore, Bioshock actually gives the player something useful for exploring all the areas in the game. But you won't just find new plasmids, ammo, or other goodies. By exploring, you'll also find the various audio diaries mentioned earlier. While you're never obligated to find or listen to them, they do help clear up certain questions you might start wondering about along the way. Of course the more you explore, the more enemies you'll run into. Oddly enough, though, there's only two real types of enemies in the game, and those are the splicers and the big daddies. But that certainly doesn't mean there's no variety of enemies to face. The splicers, for instance, are basically humans who've been making far too much use of ADAM, and ended up going insane, and turning inhuman. While they all have the same general look of humans gone insane, after a little while you'll start to notice the differences between each type of splicer. Spider splicers, for instance, have large, sword-like looking hands, and are capable of crawling on ceilings. Houdini splicers are capable of shooting fireballs, and teleporting. There's several other types of enemies, each with their own attacks and distinct look. And while it might be a bit difficult to tell them apart just by looking at them, the differences certainly won't be mistakeable when you're fighting them.
The big daddy only comes in two variations, but that's really more than enough for you to have your hands full on. You see, the big daddy is the toughest foe you'll encounter throughout the game. Whereas you might not break a sweat dealing with 4 splicers at a time, one big daddy is tough enough, fast enough, and strong enough to not only make you break a sweat, but very possibly kill you the first few times you fight one. And while they'll leave you alone if you don't attack them, fighting them is kind off unavoidable because they're the protectors of the little sisters, and you won't be able to get to one without first dealing with the big daddy that protects her first. Once you have dealt with them, however, you're faced with two choices: you can either harvest the little sister, which will give you the most ADAM, or you can free them, which will give you half the ADAM, but will return the girl to normal. And even though the choice might sound simple, you'll be introduced to a character along the way who promises to make it worth your while if you free the little sisters instead of harvesting them, and your choice may very well impact the story as well, so you're definitely given some food for thought. But splicers and big daddies aren't the only dangers you'll face. Along your not-so-pleasant hike through Rapture, you'll encounter plenty of turrets that either shoot bullets or rockets at you, and security cameras that send security bots after you if you're spotted by one. Luckily, though, you can actually use these objects to your own advantage. One way to achieve this, is by hacking these cameras, security bots, or turrets. When you hack something, your screen switches to a little puzzle which you'll have to complete in order to perform the hack successfully. Failing the hack either causes an alarm to go off, or the machine short circuiting, resulting in a damaging shock. The benefits of a successful hack, however, make it worth attempting them because hacked machines will attack your enemies, making some of the fights easier to handle. Another, faster way, is to simply tag your enemies with one of your plasmids, causing any security measure to temporarily forget about you, and instead focus on them. But being temporary, the attention will be back on you as soon as the power wears off, or all enemies are killed. And if you just can't be bothered with either of those choices, you can just destroy the machines and be done with it. So despite the lack of usefulness of some of the weapons, Bioshock really does offer multiple ways for players to tackle dangerous situations.
Although dangerous is probably not the right term to use, since there isn't any real danger, no matter how difficult the fight. That's because in Bioshock there is no real death penalty that you'll have to concern yourself with. If you do happen to die, you're simply resurrected at the nearest vita-chamber, with all your inventory and most of your health intact. What's more, everything else is left the way it was before you died as well, including the number of remaining enemies, and the damage you've done to them. So while taking on an enemy like the big daddy might result in death, there's nothing to really worry about, since you can just go back, and wear him down further. And if you happen to die again, just rinse and repeat until he's dead.
While not having to worry about dying may seem cool at first, it's counter-productive in encouraging people to save often, which despite the lack of a death penalty, isn't a good thing. That's because Bioshock has a habit of crashing either at random, or during the loading of a new level, the latter of which happens more frequently than the first. So if you've just spent an hour getting past one level, only to crash at the loading of the next, it'll mean you get to do that whole hour all over again, including any exploring you've done to possibly find useful extras. And if it wasn't for the intriguing story that just compels you forward, this annoyance would likely cause players to easily lose interest in the game.
But thankfully, the story is just that great to keep you coming back even despite that possible frustration. In fact, everything about the game is so compelling that even with these, and other technical glitches, people will still thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. There's just so much to do, so many ways to deal with situations, and such a great story to follow that despite any technical glitches, this still is a great achievement in combining the best of two worlds.