Bioshock User Review
In the summer of 1960, a passenger plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. The wreckage was never found, and its existence was denied. Over time, it was forgotten, until the arrival of Bioshock. This is the tale of the lone survivor of that plane journey, a man named Jack. He was flung free from the wreckage and ended up in the water, with a wall of flame around. The plane sunk beneath the waves, leaving a nearby lighthouse as the only visible landmark rising from the sea. He sought refuge, and found Rapture.
Rapture was a Utopia. A city, built at the bottom of the sea, which housed the greatest minds of the period. It did not take long for massive scientific breakthroughs to occur, and the products Adam and Eve were created. These allowed the manipulation of the subjects DNA, and granted them god-like abilities. Unfortunately, the constant modifications resulted in mental instability, and many of the denizens of Rapture are now Splicers. Subhuman creatures whose only goal in life is to assuage the craving for Adam. These will be your main enemies throughout the game.
Jack is quickly located by a man by the name of Atlas, who guides him through Rapture, seeking to return him to the surface. The story is incredibly well-written, although I felt that the pacing could have used some work. You are constantly sent on arbitrary tasks that are only in the way to prolong the life of the game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Rapture is such a brilliantly designed place, and its inhabitants are so interesting, that you scarcely want to leave. Also, the game features one of the best twists that I have ever been witness to. The best thing about the world is that everything is explained, and this results in a huge amount of depth. You are left wanting to find out more about Rapture, the characters, and the background. It is utterly engaging.
Starting off in the weakest section of the entire production, the graphics are simply not as good as they should be. The characters are detailed enough, but the textures are really lacking. This is made up for somewhat by the beautiful art style, which certainly helps the aesthetic. Unfortunately, you are rarely given a chance to see how much it shines, because of the incredibly dark and dank surroundings. It is an area of contradictions, but one that is certainly not terrible, as it all amounts to give off one of the most mysterious and engrossing atmospheres to be found in a video game. We must also remember that Bioshock also has horror elements, and the environment is designed to reflect that, so the lack of detail really is forgivable. One great thing about the environments is that they are large, sprawling and filled with helpful items, which encourages exploration.
One major gripe that I had was the animations within the game. In many cases, it felt as though frames had been removed, resulting in jerky movements. It is slightly disconcerting, but once you become used to it, you no longer really notice it. Another problem that I came across was a small amount of texture loading. Again, this is disappointing, but not enough to take you out of the experience. Towards the end of the game, I began to find frame rate problems at times of high action. The most effecting of these was when there were two Big Daddies, two Splicers and a Little Sister on screen at the same time involved in a battle, while most of the others were relatively minor compared to some other games.
Contrasting with this mixed effort is the phenomenal job that 2K Boston did on the sound. This section of the game is amazing, with silence and minimalism being key. There is rarely any background music, and when it is present, it serves to heighten the tension that you feel in the scenario. If there is music, there is usually a gramophone nearby, which can be destroyed to restore silence. What lurks in the silence is what truly draws you into the game. You will hear Jack’s footsteps, and grunts when he jumps. You will hear the deranged speech of Splicers. The fizzing of electricity, or the dripping of water. Most unnerving is the gentle cattle-like lowing of the Big Daddies in the distance. When all of these sounds combine, it brings the horror experience to the fore.
The voices of the main characters seem generic, and this is the only real drawback to the sound. They don’t have the element of uniqueness to set them apart. The Splicers are a different matter. With dozens, if not hundreds of lines of dialogue that are spat at you as they swarm about in an endless quest to kill you, you get quite the insight into their degenerated minds. Finally, the weapons and the Plasmids each feature their own sounds, and all of them fit for what you would expect. It really is one of the best aural experiences to be found, and when combined with the exceptional art style and mind-bending story, provides a very memorable time.
At its core, Bioshock is a First Person Shooter, and so it adopts the control scheme for that genre. The analogue sticks control movement, R2 fires your currently equipped weapon, R1 brings up the radial menu to select your weapon, and Square reloads. Most of the available weapons have three separate ammunition types, and you select these with the D-Pad. The only exception to this is the Right button, which brings up a hint when held down. Triangle is used to jump, and Circle uses a first aid kit, provided you have one equipped. The inclusion of this is necessary, as there is no regenerating health system, as is so prevalent. What is different about this game is the Plasmids. These are basically magical powers which you can use to tear your opponents down. They are set up like the weapons, only on the opposite shoulder of the controller. These use Eve, which is recharged using Hypos which can be purchased at vending machines, or found laying about Rapture. You cannot have both Plasmids and weapons equipped at the same time, which allows for a bit of strategy in choosing when to switch between the two without getting caught with your pants down.
It works well enough, but I found that all of the controls felt slightly loose and unresponsive when I began playing, but perhaps this is just a case of transitioning to a new control scheme. I also found that the analogue stick didn’t seem to want to select the correct weapon when in the weapon wheel quite frequently, and this led to time being wasted in some of the more difficult battles, which infrequently led to a cheap death.
The inclusion of Plasmids offers a level of strategy rarely seen in FPS games, and are an applaudable hook. This is because they are able to be combined with the weapons in order to create traps for enemies. Whether this means moving a tripwire as the enemy approaches, fighting them back into a puddle of water then electrifying it, or setting an enemy on fire, then firing a heat-seeking missile at them, it gives a sense of control to the player, and also a sense of reward at finding out yet another tricky combination. Not only this, but both weapons and Plasmids can be upgraded, making them stronger, or giving them more long lasting effects. This is a refreshing change from most other titles, which simply gives you a set of guns and an enormous amount of adversaries in what amounts to little more than a virtual shooting gallery.
These are the active abilities that you have, but there are also passive ones. Coming in the form of Gene Tonics, these can be used to increase your defensive or offensive statistics, or improve your ability to hack machinery. This latter mention is absolutely essential when it comes to the stronger enemies, as you are able to take control of the security systems of Rapture. This is in the form of cameras, which spot enemies, or turrets and security bots, which are both offensive. You can also hack into vending machines to gain access to more items and cheaper prices. However, there is a downside to this. The hacking minigame is not dissimilar to a computer game I remember playing in my youth called ‘Pipe Dreams’. I found it annoying then, and I do so now. Some people will have no complaints about this, but I did. I found that the inputs I made on the controller were not always represented on screen, and I believe this is the result of lag, and I was simply not happy about it. It doesn’t often affect your performance, but it is still vexing.
One thing I enjoyed was that the enemies level as you play the game. They start off incredibly easy to kill, but by the end of the game, some of the Splicers are as difficult as the first Big Daddies. Speaking of the Big Daddies, they are there to guard the Little Sisters, who you have to capture in order to gain Adam. Adam is used to purchase Plasmids and Gene Tonics, and so is essential. Unfortunately, these guardians are no pushovers, and will kill you… regularly. But, it is very rewarding when you manage to take one down.
Finally, most of the environments of the game are very large and sprawling, and this encourages exploration. Not because you can explore but because of what you will find for doing so. Whether this is items to be used to create weaponry, or extra ammunition, money, or audio logs (detailing the history of Rapture), it really is worthwhile searching out the nitty-gritty. One other thing is that it is impossible to die in Bioshock. This because of Vita-Chambers, which resurrect you if you do fall. This serves the purpose of making the game easier and more accessible, and is a worthwhile addition. You do have the option of turning them off, but if you do so, prepare to save often.
I played the game on Hard with the Chambers turned off, and was determined to search every nook and cranny of Rapture in order to get the most out of the world. Playing the game in this manner, I finished it in a little over sixteen hours. I imagine that many people will elect to play on Normal, and doing so, you will probably be able to complete the game in twelve hours or less. So, it is longer than your average linear game, and you don’t really feel cheapened at any point. Of course, there are four separate difficulty levels, in case you want to test yourself, as well as the trophies. All of this is reason enough to come back, but the biggest drawcard is simply Bioshock. From top to bottom it is a fantastic game, and worthy of the Game of the Year title that was bestowed upon it.
Worth mentioning is that I found one instance of the game freezing. After waiting several minutes, I was forced to turn off the system. Thankfully I had recently saved, and didn’t lose too much progress. The only real blemish on an otherwise very enjoyable play through.
So yes, Bioshock is a great game. Visually, it is lacking, but that is the only portion. The increasing difficulty may be off-putting to some. If you do choose to take the plunge, be sure to look past the shortcomings, for these are only minor when compared to the brilliance that 2K Boston has managed to pull off. And to think… this praise is going towards a game that was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive… Who’da thunk it, eh?
Thankyou for your time and I hope that you found my words to be both informative and helpful. Until next time PSXE, Peace and Law be with you.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.