The PC versus console choice isn't always clear early in the life of a console when the hardware is new and the PC hasn't had time to reassert its CPU or GPU advantage. Consoles are affordable and have graphical capabilities close to moderately powerful PCs. The new consoles also sport built-in hard disks and can have online services, which begin to chip away at the PC's longtime file download advantage. We're going to break down the differences between the Xbox 360 and PC versions of BioShock in an effort to help you decide which platform is right for you. The game is very similar on both platforms, so your decision will hinge on control interface preferences, what kind of PC components you have, and your willingness to upgrade.
Let's start with a quick summary of the good and the bad about each version.
BioShock for the Xbox 360
- + Standardized console hardware guarantees performance levels
- + Earn a boatload of achievement points
- + More likely to have a living room speaker system for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound
- - Retails for $10 more than the PC version
- - Users have experienced bugs that cause random hitching and other issues.
BioShock for the PC
- + More affordable retail price
- + Supports both gamepad and mouse/keyboard controls
- + Supports DirectX 10 and looks better than the Xbox 360 version on higher-end PCs
- - Not all PCs meet the minimum system requirements.
- - Requires Windows Vista and a DirectX 10 graphics card to looks its best
- - Users have reported sound issues, graphical anomalies, and crashing.
The PC version offers better graphics and better performance if you've got a newer, more powerful machine. But the Xbox 360 version offers a base level of performance that's a better choice if you're unwilling to upgrade your PC, especially if you already have the console hooked up to a home theater system and an HDTV.
Let's Talk System Requirements
BioShock loses much of its graphical splendor if you run it on a system that only meets the minimum system requirements. You'll have to drop the resolution to 800x600 and live with medium-to-low quality settings to make the game playable. Pay particular attention to the DirectX 9.0c requirement. Radeon X800 series owners are out of luck. You'll have to have a video card that supports Shader Model 3.0, which means at the very minimum, you need a GeForce 6 series card or ATI's X1300 series of cards to even run the game. The online community is currently working on increasing compatibility for older Shader Model 2.0 video cards.
Minimum System Requirements
- - Windows XP
- - 1GB System RAM
- - 2.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor
- - 8GB free hard disk space
- - DirectX 9.0c-compatible 128MB video card (Nvidia 6600/ ATI X1300 or better)
- - Internet required for activation
Recommended System Requirements
- - Windows XP or Windows Vista
- - Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent
- - 2GB System RAM
- - 8GB free hard disk space
- - DirectX 9.0c or DirectX 10 compatible video card with 512MB of RAM
- - Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi series sound card
- - Internet required for activation
The Xbox 360 version of BioShock doesn't have requirements aside from an Xbox 360 and a TV. But you'll want an HDTV and surround sound to get the most out of the game. Unfortunately, BioShock's current widescreen implementation for both the PC and 360 raised the ire of more than a few users. Unlike movies and just about every other game on the market, the widescreen aspect ratio on BioShock actually reduces how much you see because the game zooms in then crops off parts of the screen. 2KGames is working on a patch, but it hasn't been released as of this writing. The community has hacked together a temporary fix for the PC, but Xbox 360 users will have to wait for an official patch.
The PC version had a few installation issues at launch. Early buyers found that they could only install the game twice before it ceased to work. The PC launch was also marred by flaky game authentication servers, which meant that users who’d purchased the game couldn’t even activate it. Fortunately, 2KGames sorted through the authentication server problems quickly and increased the amount of installations to five on five separate machines. These problems have passed, but potential buyers should be aware of the potential points of failure. Some users have also experienced a myriad of sound issues that range from audio stuttering to only being able to hear the music, others hear nothing at all. 2KGames is likely working on a patch at the moment to address these, and other, issues.
The Xbox 360 version of BioShock has its fair share of issues that a few users seem to have experienced. Some have had the game crash, others experienced random hitching. We did find some information on the 2KGames forums that might help with the hitching though.
"This seems to be a problem with the hard drive caching system on in the XBox 360 system software, and we are working with Microsoft to identify a solution for this issue. We have confirmed that the hitching goes away if you clear the hard drive cache.
To clear the hard drive cache, you must hold down both the RB and LB gamepad buttons while the game is starting. This must be done IMMEDIATELY after the console is rebooted (or the game is launched from the dashboard) and the buttons must only be released AFTER the red 2K Games logo appears."
You'll be able to play the game at graphical quality settings that rival and surpass the Xbox 360's if your PC meets or exceeds the game's recommended system requirements. BioShock takes advantage of DirectX 10 and looks better in Windows Vista. If your computer lands somewhere in between the minimum and recommended system requirements, check out our BioShock Hardware Performance Guide to get an indication on how your computer will handle the game.
Mouse over the default PC BioShock screenshot to see the Xbox 360 BioShock comparison image.
PC High Quality vs. Xbox 360
PC Medium Quality vs. Xbox 360
PC Low Quality vs. Xbox 360
Saving and Loading
As is common with PC games, you can press a single key to quickload and quicksave at any point in the PC version of BioShock. Hit the function key to save right before taking on a Big Daddy or redo battles to save on ammo. The game also automatically autosaves at checkpoints within the game. The Xbox 360 version lacks quicksave and quickload buttons, but you can still manually save anywhere in the game through the menu system.
The single-button save and load features aren't too important because the game has almost no consequences for death. In fact, you could easily use death as a tactic. When you die, everything remains as you left it, including damage to enemies. Your character will simply blink back into existence at the nearest Vita chamber with the same equipment and ammo load that you had the moment you died. You could feasibly play the game with nothing but the wrench in combat; it just might take a lot longer because some enemies do run around and heal themselves.
The Xbox 360 offers the gamepad control interface for BioShock. On the PC, you have the option of playing with either the Xbox 360 gamepad or the traditional keyboard and mouse combo. The mouse-and-keyboard setup is more precise for experienced PC players, but you will miss out on force feedback. 2KGames tweaked weapon switching to give gamepad users an easier time because the game actually pauses while you scroll through your weapon selection.
The PC version of BioShock supports EAX Advanced HD 4.0 and 5.0 for surround-sound support, while the Xbox 360 version supports Dolby Digital 5.1. You're covered on both platforms, but most users have surround-sound setups hooked up to their TVs, not their PCs. A pair of headphones still sounds great on the PC and a regular stereo setup isn't too shabby either.
While the two versions of the games have many similarities, we hope this guide has given you a better understanding of the differences and advantages that each of them bring. You'll have to ask yourself whether you'd rather play with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard. Then you need to decide on how pretty you want the game to look, how smoothly you want it to run, and how much mental energy you're willing to put into making hardware decisions. The console is the easy hardware solution, while the PC offers the most flexibility and most upside in terms of graphics. The PC also gives players easy access to third-party modifications, while Xbox 360 owners will have to wait for official file updates to come through Xbox Live. If you're addicted to the achievement system on the Xbox 360, BioShock offers up scads of easy-to-earn points. Regardless of the version you choose, BioShock is a great experience waiting to happen.