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 atmospheres 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 both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. 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 still on its way. 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 the game thoroughly 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 many hours with the game, I've come away extremely impressed, habitually blurting out "brilliant" during every one of my sessions with it. 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 immerses 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.
An important aspect of Bioshock are the bits of technology scattered around, be it a vending machine or a bot. These objects can be hacked into, allowing you to utilize them for your own good. For example, hacking a damaged security bot will reprogram it to help you during your quest; the bot will hover around you and fend off nearby threats by shooting at them at will. Another example are the vending machines, which, when hacked, will display more items for purchase, as well as significantly reduced prices. The hacking mechanics will require you to link a set of pipes together, allowing the flow of water to successfully go from one end to another without interruption. While simple, there are twists to the mechanic such as only having two pipes at your disposal at any time, and picking up another pipe angle will require you to explore the board. The other twist is that the water is flowing, so you don't have all the time in the world; you have to think fast, otherwise if the water spills, the hack ends and you endure damage. If you've ever played the game PipeDream, it's very much the same concept.
My gripe with Bioshock is that, while yes, it's a superb single-player game, its offering ends just about there. There are no multiplayer modes to speak of, so if you're looking for a game where you can play through the story and then keep playing it online, Bioshock isn't that game. What you can do to extend the experience is one of two thigs: wait for the Challenge Rooms to be made available, or play the game on the all new Survivor Difficulty mode. Playing the game in Survivor greatly changes the difficulty by diminishing the amount of money and ammo you pick up, thus the difficulty's description of "every bullet counts."
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 in some places. The differences in texture detail between both games is 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.
The audio boasts an immense sense of the game's atmosphere, as Bioshock's Rapture comes to life with a haunting aural presentation. I highly urge the game to be played with a proper audio setup, but if you can't spoil yourself with a proper audio setup, then at the very least pick up a pair of high-end headphones that are capable of replicating surround sound to give you the effect of being right there in the environment. Voice acting is also superb, but surprisingly, the game isn't that heavy on it, which is unusual for such a great story -- but that is just a testament to how well done Bioshock is.
Bioshock is one of the most superbly haunting and unique gaming experiences you will play for a long time. If you've wodered what the hype was all about, then wonder no more. Now that Bioshock is available for the PS3 and not just the X360, there is no reason why you shouldn't own a copy today. With an amazing story, diverse gameplay, brilliant atmosphere, solid visuals, and incredible audio, Bioshock is one of the most complete adventures out there. All that we ask to see from the sequel is a multiplayer mode. If you're on the fence about this port, well jump down with your wallet in hand. Bioshock for the PlayStation 3 is a terrific 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.
10/18/2008 Arnold Katayev