You’ve probably noticed that over the past week or so I haven’t been able to shut up about Bioshock. Well I thought that I should give you a definitive score for the game and collate some of my gushing into one post.
First off, graphically, Bioshock is beautiful. Not simply in terms of technical stuff like texture resolutions and polygons per model, its a next-gen title using the Unreal Engine 3 so of course its going to make you gasp with the level of detail on the screen. The real beauty comes from the attention to detail and overall design of the scenery. The city of rapture is an Art-Deco nightmare, crafted with care and poignant in its depiction of a utopia gone bad. Everything from the carpets to the panelling on the walls has had a great deal of though put into it. It looks like a dilapidated 1930’s underwater city should, the clean lines of the architecture juxtaposed flawlessly with the smears of blood, dismembered corpses and general squalor.
The audio is painstakingly done also, with some of the best voice acting I’ve heard in a video game in a very long time. The echoing voices of the splicers, the childish giggling of the Little Sisters and the howling of their Big Daddy protectors lend a great deal of atmosphere and tension to the whole experience. The music which is available as a free download is masterfully composed and again brings together the broken and degenerated state of Rapture as you experience it and a plaintive melancholy for what might have been.
The story is one which has been told before, but as far as I know not in a video game (I stand to be corrected) and never in such a way as to bring home the folly of man’s ambition and hubris. To get the most out of the game it is highly advisable to listen to all the tapes which you pick up along the way (A tribute to System Shock’s diaries), ignore them and you’ll miss out on vital plot points and stunning revelations. Its worth knowing that there are many references to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged throughout the game, the most notable of which are Andrew Ryan (an anagram), the builder and overlord of Rapture, and Atlas, the man who helps you via a short wave radio picked up near the very start of the game. I will reveal nothing more, play the game and figure the rest out for yourself.
The denizens of Rapture have been mentioned many times before in various posts of mine, what I haven’t really made much of is that Rapture is as close to a living biosphere as you can get. The various peoples you encounter will react not only to you but to each other. Splicers, in a variety of guises, will avoid Big Daddies and their childlike charges unless they are driven to attacking you, in which case if you can put the BD between them and you they may end up shooting him and bringing his wrath down upon them (doing him some damage in the process and making him easier to eliminate later). Little Sisters will seek out the recently dead to harvest the genetic currency of rapture from their still cooling corpses. Turrets and security bots can be hacked and made to fight your enemies for you, as can the various vending machines for cheaper prices and greater selections of goods.
The degree of modification and customization available in the game is also quite astounding. Vending machines are available for everything from the basics like health packs and ammunition, to more complex items like customised ammunition and weapon modifications. Your character’s abilities are dependant on the pivotal resource of the game, known as ADAM, which is harvested from the Little Sisters, who collect it in the manner described above. Using ADAM you can buy Plasmids, genetic modifications which act on your body in a variety of ways Either by adding a new form of attack to your arsenal or thickening your skin so you take less damage. You can also increase the number of slots available for Plasmids, or their passive equivalents the Tonics, increasing your abilities even further. There are also crafting stations which allow you to create items from parts which you find lying around. All these elements add something of the RPG genre to a game which is undeniably a first person shooter, but in such a way as to retain the integrity of both.
All in all Bioshock is a masterpiece of a game and deserves all the plaudits and praise it has been recieving. The cynics among you may say “Aww its all hype, as usual,” and dismiss the game as just another FPS. You would be wrong, Bioshock is an important game, maybe the most important game of this decade. By itself it proves that gaming has grown up and can deal with dark and disturbing subjects in a mature and adult way, it takes you on a journey into the darkest places of humanity’s being and show you what we may end up doing to ourselves. In my opinion, Bioshock does more to further the cause of games as a valid art form than any other game I’ve ever played, and I’ve played alot. Unfortunately for you PS3 and Wii fanboys out there it will never be available on either of those consoles, and to get the most out of it a PC will have to be pretty powerful. If there was ever a game to buy an Xbox 360 for this is it. It is already a piece of gaming history and to miss out on this seminal game will be something you regret.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360.