Okay, every big gaming site has pretty much said what needs to be said- Bioshock rocks, and it rocks big time. But I still have to give my own word on this game, but I didn’t want to just gush on it the way I usually do. So I’ll just write this review like so…
TOP TEN FAVES IN BIOSHOCK
The City of Rapture– perhaps the singular most impressive and memorable thing in this massive game is the setting. An opulent mess of sunken art deco buildings mixed with retro pulp-action sci-fi, it’s certainly unique and refreshing in the crowded genre of shooters where often the stage or battleground is a generic warehouse, nameless desert town or generic sci-fi deathmaze. In Bioshock, Rapture is as much a character as the beings that populate it, at once horrifying and enthralling you. The details in almost every room, every hallway, every building and zone is mind-boggling. In my first hour or so, all I would do was break every lampshade, pan, garbage can, bottle and book in my path. Walls even chip, metal dents. Perhaps the most lovingly crafted sandbox you’ve ever yet seen in a game of this sort, or any genre for that matter.
The Story– when Ken Levine, creative director of Bioshock, said that you should refrain from going to any forums since it is incredibly easy to spoil the enjoyment of the game’s narrative for you, he was telling the truth (really, THREE words can spoil it). While not truly unique- it’s been done- certainly the complex plot of Bioshock is a compelling watch, and it is something that is masterfully presented through both sight and sound- through audio diaries you find throughout the levels and by continual radio communications to you by the various power players in Rapture who try to help or hinder your progress.
The few pivotal (and pretty awesome) cut scenes are all in-game, often interactive, and always from your point of view, immersing you in the experience rather than just sitting you down and laying it on you from spoon to mouth. And of course, this film would make a KICK-ASS movie.
The WATER– FREAKY amazing. In a setting like Rapture, believability all rests on how realistic the water looks… and it looks freakin’ real. Give those water programmers a raise, 2K.
Accessible, DIY Gameplay– I have to say… I am not good at FPS games. In fact, I suck. I find most of these shooters inaccessible since you need to learn things like strafing, or that jumping like a kangaroo is a viable tactic in combat. Bioshock’s challenge level is perfect, allowing me to shoot and use my Plasmid powers naturally and easily. There’s frenetic gameplay but you can approach threats from various directions; there truly is a hard way, an easy way a stupid way and a smart way to do things in Bioshock, as well as a CRAZY way. It’s all up to you, and that ROCKS.
The Splicers– your enemies for most of the game. These crazed, genetically-mutated citizens of Rapture are both pitiful and fearsome. The thought that these people once had lives makes you feel bad when you smoke ’em… but still, that shouldn’t stop you from putting two in the head before you get gutted with a longshoreman’s hook. Their devious A.I. makes them formidable enemies for the most part, and no better targets to use your weapons and Plasmids on.
Sounds and Music– Bioshock’s sounds are perfection. From the voice acting of every character- from cannon fodder splicers to the main cast of interesting characters you encounter, ally or cross swords with, it’s all excellent. The music is a mix of wondrous scores and chilling suspense music to perfectly-chosen period songs or specific musical pieces that perfectly highlight a memorable scene. This game just BEGS for a great surround-sound system.
The Big Daddies– walking, optional (but arguably necessary) boss battles, these mysterious brutes are both menacing and gentle, sympathetic but bad-ass. The first time you see one, the Daddy makes an impression. The first time you fight one, you’ll have conniptions. Yeah, once you kill several it’s not as hard anymore but there’s a special satisfaction to setting up a staged ambush for these walking tanks, and seeing it all come together like clockwork.
The Weapons– from the awesome Tommy Gun (I just love working the gangster typewriter) to the makeshift grenade launcher made from coffee cans, the design work that went into these armaments is awesome. Once you augment the guns with various upgrades, they look even cooler. There’s a nice weight to the guns, something that works well in making the gameplay so accessible.
The Moral Dilemma– not only do you have to contend with surviving against crazed splicers and manipulative power brokers in Rapture, you have to make that big choice when encountering the creepy Little Sisters. Do you sacrifice this child’s life in order to save your own, or do you do the right thing and soldier on as long as you know you’re saving an innocent? What kind of man are you? Yeah, it’s just a game, and we all probably will do the one or the other eventually to see the alternate ending(s). But it’s still food for thought and it’s quite maturely done in this game for such a touchy subject.
Telekinesis– The most fun Plasmid power in the game. There’s nothing cooler than holding up an enemy corpse as a shield against enemy attack. Or killing an enemy with a flying hat.
TOP TEN PEEVES IN BIOSHOCK
Lack of enemy variety– Except for the Big Daddies, I think there are like, six or seven character models of male Splicers and about five or so female Splicers. These are divided into five different Splicer classes, from the acrobatic Spider Splicers to the gun-toting Leadheads. Even the few bosses of the game are just enhanced Splicers. They’re interesting foes and full of character, and the programmers do all they can swapping palettes, weapons and powers… but it’s inevitable some may wish there were other enemies to face.
I wish you can do a melee attack with every weapon and not just the wrench…
Researching– it’s kinda fun to have the camera sub-game in Bioshock, where snapping cool pics of your enemies gives you bonuses against them; kinda like Fatal Frame. But it often boils down to you standing and taking hits while you snap away like a crazed paparazzi. Kinda weird.
I wish the menu consisted of more than just Pep Bars and Potato Chips.
It’s a little thing but… Why don’t I have any LEGS?!?
Immortality– you can’t really die in Bioshock; you just re-spawn in one of the many Vita-thingies scattered all around the city. It may be a way of keeping the game from becoming frustrating or too hard, but to me, it’s too much. The ability to save anywhere, anytime should be enough of a back-up. The respawning kinda kills a bit of the thrill.
Harvesting the Little Sisters will without a doubt make me feel bad…
Hacking– at first it’s cool, even fun. Later, when it gets hard… it’s more frustrating than facing an army of Splicers or a Big Daddy armed with just your wrench. Autohacks are your friend…
Having to kill someone named ‘Mr. Bubbles’…
And last but not least… It has to frickin’ END. Bring on Bioshock 2!!!