The name Bioshock brings up some really heated debates among gamers. It was arguably last year's biggest and best game as it swept internet videogame forums and websites left and right, submerging gamers into one of the most dense atmosphere's a videogame has ever seen. And it's no surprise that the end result was so popular, seeing as how the developers of Bioshock were also the same group of folk that gave us the System Shock games. Years ago, Bioshock was originally announced to be in development for all next generation consoles, which meant that both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were getting the game. The game would later be announced as an X360 exclusive, but rumors of a PlayStation 3 version never died.
Considering that development was well underway for the PS3 version before the exclusivity, it made little sense for 2K Games to just cancel the project and we kept reaffirming our readers that the game is well underway. Tidbits and rumors from magazines would emerge saying the same, despite 2K denying it. We eventually got wind that a PS3 announcement is imminent, and that turned out to be true. Fast forward past the deluge of insanity that ensued after the X360 lost perhaps its biggest exclusive and we're here. Having had the final copy of the game for weeks now, I've played enough to tell you that the hype is well worth it. Admittedly, I never purchased an Xbox 360 simply due to fears of its build quality, so I never played Bioshock prior to this.
So after spending hours with the game, I've come away extremely impressed, habitually blurting out "brilliant" during every one of my sessions with the game. What separates Bioshock from other first person games is one of many things. For starters, there is no reliance on firepower as a means of killing and progressing through the game. That is not to say that there are no weapons in the game, there are quite a number of them, it's just that shooting to kill isn't the only way to get things done in the game.
In addition to handguns, shotguns, and the sort, there are also objects you can pick up and use during melee confrontations. You'll often see various objects on the floor that you have the option of picking up and carrying around as a melee weapon. You can see the object as much as you want, so don't worry about it breaking like some other first-person games with melee combat. And to add to that, a third combat mechanic grants you the ability to use Plasmids, a powerful 'psionic' force that lets the player expel shots of electricity, fire, telekinetically grab/throw objects and more.
The cool thing about Plasmids is how intuitive using them feels. For example, you can shoot a charge of electricity onto a pool or just a puddle of water, and it'll electrocute any nearby enemies. You can take that one step further by setting an enemy on fire near a pool of water. If you do so, what usually happens is the enemy will try to use the water to put the flames out. In that instance, here's where you switch your Plasmid selection and charge the water with electricity to electrocute the enemy. It's a cool little trick I've heard and read about, and it's even cooler to pull it off. So yes, the attention to detail in Bioshock is that spectacular.
Another facet of this game that makes it so brilliant is its atmosphere, as I'm sure you may have heard before. No other first-person game takes you to a world that is so...unique. In other first-person games, you're either in the modern-day world or some sort of brooding environment possessed by the supernatural and your objective is to shoot mindlessly. Bioshock changes that, as it boasts an atmosphere that is so rich and enticing that it engages unlike any other first-person game. Instead of running and gunning, you'll stop and look around to appreciate the demolished beauty of this underworld. But you'll also stop and listen to any unusual activity, because practicing caution is something you'll want to do when you're walking through Rapture.
Visually, while the game engine is about 18 months old and there are better looking PS3 games out there, Bioshock is still a superb looking port marred by nothing more than just a few nit-picky issues. It's worth noting that I didn't find Bioshock to be a visual tour de force last year, so pardon me if I don't come off as excited about its technical prowess. With the visuals, the one thing everyone is dying to know is just how well the game stacks up to the X360 version. Well, there are trade-offs. For the PlayStation 3 version, the game no longer has any screen-tearing when the enhanced framerate option is enabled - this is in contrast to the X360 version. Furthermore, with the enhanced framerate on, the engine renders 60 frames per second more consistently than the X360 version did, which would often drop below 50fps. As far as what was sacrificed, the PS3's Bioshock has marginally lower texture quality. The differences in texture detail between both games are really small, and considering the trade-offs and that this is also a port, Bioshock for the PS3 is still every bit as impressive as the X360 version.
If you're on the fence about this port, well jump down with your wallet in hand. Bioshock for the PlayStation 3 is a superb experience that you must not miss out on. No other first-person game has an atmosphere like this and with such fantastic attention to detail. Don't worry about the visuals, they're hardly different than the Xbox 360 game, and it's also nice to have the option for a faster framerate without screen tearing. Bioshock is set to hit next week, get those pre-order slips ready.
10/13/2008 Arnold Katayev