Incredible setting & original in almost everything it does. A technical showcase and possibly the best FPS this gen

User Rating: 9.5 | BioShock PC
In Brief

The Good:
-Incredibly original and creative
-Great setting
-Plasmids add exciting possibilities to combat
-Voice acting and use of dialogue always impresses
-Rarely takes you out of control of the game or combat
-Amazing graphics and solidly built
-Theatrical and comedic despite being a game with mature (and at times) dark content
-Story is quite lengthy

The Bad:
-No online or co-op modes
-Having to re-clear rooms you have just emptied of enemies can get tiresome
-Hacking machines is amusing at first but quickly starts to feel like a chore
-Some FPS issues at times

The HD gaming platforms have become incredibly expensive to develop for and as a consequence there seems to be publishers and developers going into administration and closing their doors for good almost weekly. As a consequence games take less risks and are aimed at the mass market and end up as watered down games already on sale and mixed together in attempt to get as many customers as possible to buy it regardless of the fact they end up as shallow experiences that the buyer will forget upon completing it and put it in their collection never to be played again.

The menu screen needs a special mention. Before I begin (and before I forget), I'm not one to usually sing their praises or how good they look but the attention to detail and creativity that is a contest in this title is also present here. The nightscape with a building shining light through the low clouds as well as the full moon and you can vaguely hear some 'old' music in the background as you navigate the menu that plays a different piano key. Has anybody else who's played this before reading this review ever tried to make their own tune with this or is it just me? Anyway to the opening.

It sounds like I'm reverting to the old stereotype of computer gamers sat in their darkened bedrooms that the industry has now shaken off but; turn off the lights to fully enjoy the visual porn that is to follow.

'They told me, 'Son, you're special. You were born to do great things' You know what? They where right'. Nothing could fit this title more perfectly than the games opening lines as the main character sits in a smoke filled air cabin before an unexplained event that causes the plane to crash.

It is 1960 and the aeroplane crashes into the middle of the Atlantic ocean. As you make your way to the surface away from sinking wreckage you discover that you are the only survivor. This is a truly epic opening to a game and makes my top three ever seen very easily.
When you first gain control of the game you have to swim through a fantastically designed ocean under the midnight sky past burning wreckage that reflects upon the water surface beautifully .
You arrive at a sort of light house building (a structure in the middle of the ocean?), and in the freezing mid night sky we walk through the door to investigate.
The door locks behind us and we are left in a pitch black room, as we advance the lighting follows us to illuminate our path and eventually come along a sort of submarine called a Bathysphere. The door to the vehicle closes and locks behind us and we begin to descend in the depths then we are treated to a short video from a projector on a board that covers the only window (sort of a tourist video).
When the video stops the screen rises and you are introduced to Rapture, a city vast city on the bed of the ocean whilst over hearing a radio communication seemingly from some residents of the area.
The Bathysphere gives us a good quick tour of the city until we head past the words 'All good things of this Earth flow into the city' and dock at the port.

The city is in a state of anarchy. Carnage and chaos has took a sledge hammer to Rapture.
It has been destroyed by an uprising and the panic that took hold from the other citizens trying to escape and is ensnared in darkness and littered with garbage, rubble, bodies, blood, fire, graffiti written in blood on the propaganda and advertisement poster filled walls and is starting to leak and has busted water pipes that is causing the city to slowly flood and fall apart.
There is a the very rare occasion when you get to enter an area where the madness hasn't been able to spread and you get a real idea of how great of a place it would have been to live before it all kicked off.

What are the odds of you being the only survivor of the plane crash and stumbling across this place shortly after it ascended into mayhem?

The story here isn't told in a traditional sense. It is a game that takes very great pride or always keeping you in complete control of the character and on only one handful of times it takes control off you but still keeps the first person perspective to keep you immersed in the experience.
The story is told by investigating and witnessing. Collecting audio logs and place all the pieces together and getting your mission objectives and having your conversations via a portable radio.
It is all very similar to how Doom 3 told it's story and is the only real influence you can see in this title from other games.

My only gripe is the ending to the game. For a game with so much attention to detail the ending does feel rather rushed yet here I stand honestly saying that I don't care after the experience of the rest of the game. Now I would consider myself in the highest league for being hard to impressed with stories and feel someone has spat in my face with under-developed endings, where that doesn't mean a lot to you me giving my seal of approval for dismissing the closing it does say a lot to me personally.

It only takes 10 minutes of playing before you realise just how truly unique the city and the design is here. It's not just the concept of having a city beneath the ocean waves, it is the architecture and way the creator has tried to model it to his ideal vision of the perfect world and the mild imperfection of human life.

Andrew Ryan, the man behind the concept and the building of Rapture wanted to escape the governments of the world and get away from capitalism and communism and entitle every man to get full rewards for their labour and hard work. Not allowing the city to grow a government and law Ryan favoured commerce despite human morals almost playing no part in their society (scientists being able to experiment without having to answer to heads of state or people for one of them).
Some of it sounds good and commendable but the story gives an accurate portrayal of how power corrupts and as a consequence his creation borders on ruin.
'Building Rapture at the bottom of sea was not impossible, it was impossible to build it anywhere else'.

The folk of Rapture who have survived are now called 'Splicers', a term which stemmed to describe the population who opted to use the plasmids or tonics that were developed their.
They have all become warped and twisted as a side effect and now the mangled bodied 'people' wander the halls bent on destruction and death.
I know this is a quickly becoming a cliché describing game enemies but they all do look different through the course of the entire game.
My absolute favourite things about these ornamental mask wearing enemies is their dialogue. It is gloriously amusing and some of the stuff they come up with is random and can often get taken to work where you and your friends who have played it come up with them in times of geekiness.

This game has so much life and atmosphere to it, the title couldn't get you to feel apart of the game world more if it put a gun to your head. The scares, the old music playing in the background does nothing but add to the experience.
The morale choices only add to it further. The genetically enhanced Little Sisters of Rapture are the source of ADAM. Infant children wielding a compound that is the source of all the plasmids and what everyone is after. You can choose to harvest one of these zombies which kills them but gives you more ADAM in which to purchase more plasmids and tonics or rescue them from their state for less. It's not necessarily the fact you can lead them to salvation from saving them or destroying them it's the fact you can ignore them all together.
The Big Daddies and Rosie's also come under morale choice too, not all of them body guard the helpless Little Sisters and wonder Rapture looking for them. Antique in appearance they don't attack you and only push you out the way if you get to close. Fight them or not, it's to your discretion.

As I have stated numerous times the game is very original yet the studio has gone to a lot of trouble of making this game a technical show piece too.

The graphics here are absolutely incredible. Not only beautiful, they are very unique and inspired.
Not favouring a grey and brown palette in an attempt to create as 'real' as graphics as possible the development team opted to go for rich colours and more of an abstract art style that manages to stay clear of being called cartooney or comical in appearance.
The textures are among the best I've seen this gen. It's not so much the detail on them but it's them being slightly 3D (the brush strokes on paintings being the most memorable) and the way light and water reflects off them.

My absolute favourite use of graphics in this title is when you look out of the windows at the landscape of the city. Seeing the brightly neon light coloured city skyscrapers growing out from the ocean bed getting distorted by the waving lines of the sea that distorts all the straight lines behind all the fish and oxygen bubbles is a sight to behold and never gets tiresome.

So much work has gone into the visuals I will never be able to do them justice. It's not just the textures it's the way they are used in the environment and how well they are complimented by the creative use of light that can add so much more atmosphere to the scene.
Whether it be the flickering lights, shadows of enemies being projected against a surface making them look bugger and more intimidating and the sparks being emitted by a broken machine to inject a bit of tenseness to a scene or the light beaming through the windows and through clouds of mist to inject mystery.
The water is the biggest star of the show. The best use of water ever seen in a game. It is as far ahead of everything else as Ico and Onimusha 2 (remember seeing the pre rendered waves on the shore?) where on the PlayStation 2. Walking under a leak and seeing the water distort your vision as it showers over your face and the way it propagates on the floor and subtlety magnifies the surface below it.
Not just stopping at the visual it also manages to be strong physically when you see a stream of water run down flights of stairs.

The combat does feel slightly clunky but is a breath of fresh air to the First-Person-Shooter genre.
You can use a variety of weapons which have different ammo types you can select in real time and when you customise them their appearance changes and then there's the plasmids. Use one or the other or combine the pair to be more effective, the game story has man's ability to choose and lets you pick how you want to play even with a primitive form of stealth based action. 'A man chooses, a slave obeys'.

The plasmids are an exciting addition that are both exhilarating and refreshing. A man made substance that alters your genetic code to use superhuman like abilities that you are able to wield like electricity and fire from your finger tips. Each power brings a new look to your hands, the best being the ice shards that burst through the surface of your hands or the hornets that crawl out of newly formed spores in your skin look amazing and continue too look better as you buy the next level and the design grows more fierce and consumes more of your hand.
The plasmids have an effect on the environment too. Watch enemies stood in water fry as you fire an electrical current into it or set the classic exploding barrels and oil puddles on fire and using lightning to open electrically locked doors.

Not all of the plasmids are offensive but can be used to shield yourself, cause distractions and force foes and machines to assist you. There is a range of tonics in this game that assist you too, not used in combat but more of a character enhancement tool.

If you get yourself in a bit too deep and get swamped by enemies that leads your death, the Vita Chambers throw you straight back into the action.

Hacking has a central role in the game play whilst you are traversing the huge environment scouring through containers looking for items. Automated gun turrets, surveillance cameras, security bots with their helicopter style propellers on their heads and vending machines to get items and ammo at reduced rates. You can elect to just destroy them or you can hack them and use them to your advantage.
To hack you need to temporarily disable the advice then you have a sort or circuit board fused with plumbing and you must connect the pipes at the start to finish (using your ice plasmid helps to slow the process) in time before the circuit blows & injures you or sets off the alarm sending the security drones after you. It is very fun at first but it soon gets boring. It is time consuming and too frequent.

You may have noticed a few quotations at the end of paragraphs in this review, if not would you kindly go back and read from the start please?
The reason for them is that apart from the incredible dialogue that remains as a constant in this game there is a lot of great lines that stay long in the memory. They don't just fit with modern morale inadequacies but challenge you to think of the world and society from a slightly different philosophical view.

Closing then BioShock is a incredible, refreshing experience that is aimed at adults with its mature themes but is also a comedic and theatrical experience that will stay fondly in the memory for a very long time to come.

Rest in piece my forever loyal and loving companion, Buster.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the years of joy you have brought into my life.
You will be forever missed and remembered, always.

Sleep tight, sweet prince.

25th August 2009