BioShock: First Impressions

Worth the Wait

Playstation 3 | Irrational Games | August 21, 2007

First Impressions are crafted after spending a few hours with a game, but not completing it. There is no review score provided as it wouldn’t be appropriate before seeing everything the game is offering. No spoilers occur,  please do the same in the comments.

Bioshock-little-sisterI missed the BioShock bandwagon during the original release. My stance, wrongfully so, was that I don’t play first person shooters (FPS). When the ‘true’ successor, BioShock: Infinite, was released I wasn’t as biased and picked up a copy, thanks to friend recommendations. Infinite was solidly good (dynamic characters, fleshed out set pieces but a convoluted narrative, mismanaged combat with an awkward travel system); I don’t understand what all the fuss was about. The PS3 version of Infinite includes a download of the original BioShock. I decided to dive into Rapture (intentional pun). Now I know why everyone was excited and how wrong 2007-Chris was. Stupid jerk.

BioShock is a seven year old game and doesn’t look it. The stylistic set piece of a dystopian 1950’s future is as gorgeous as it is gruesome. Players explore Rapture, an Atlas Shrugged inspired city where only the wealthy and privileged live—free from government influence. The palette is a perfect combination of slick 50’s shine that’s tarnished with a dark-and-gritty noir atmosphere. Each room explored contains background information on the world’s crumble and side stories that provide a complete picture. These extra elements occur in voice recordings scattered throughout, which can be played without pausing the action, or details within the environment. There isn’t blood splatter on the wall to make the area ‘creepy’ there are streaks on the floor as someone was dragged away to provide character.

Each enemy, from the lowliest of peons, is a satisfying adversary with a personality unique which comes out in their attire, movement and attacks. When entering an area, opponents will taunt with detailed death threats or scream incomprehensible battle cries. This is effective when using surround sound. Foes voices travel from one ear to the next as they attempt to outflank your position. Enemies have a variety shapes, sizes and styles. Within those differing types there is no gender discrimination; females are as crazy and capable as their male counterparts. Even when running through an area with the same enemy class appearing multiple times there is little, if any, character model duplication.

Combat options available to dispatch your would-be assassins are as macabre and magnificent as the surroundings. As players Bioschock Splicerexplore the dreary districts they are rewarded with a combination of plasmids (magical spells) and a devastating arsenal. All of which is required to stay alive. The weapons are balanced and work as anticipated, the revolver is more accurate than a tommy gun and shotguns are most effective at close range. The plasmids imbue the protagonist with the ability to electrify foes, burn victims or levitate items. Adversaries react to attacks used. When you set someone on fire they will run into water and extinguish the flames. Plasmids are beneficial in environmental puzzles and to kill waves of enemies, making selecting the appropriate load out different for each section.

All aspects of this game are polished to integrate the personality of Rapture’s perfect 50’s society. When picking up a new plasmid, players are treated to a corny old-timey video reel of what the power includes. The storefronts are vending machines and act as secondary characters by mocking those who walk away or thanking purchasers. The clown store contains a creepy laugh that belongs in Stephen King’s It. Even the loading screens contain hints about Rapture and flush out the story making them almost enjoyable. They are still loading screens.

Bioshock PlasmidThe only downside encountered is a lack of motivation or back story on the protagonist’s part. At about seven hours in, there isn’t much known about who he is or why he is working so diligently in this battle. The surrounding allies and rivals contain tangible motivations which drive them in this conflict, making them feel like true personalities with a stake in who wins. The absence of details leave a lingering question as to the why the main character is involved in the first place.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time with BioShock and upset I didn’t play it sooner. What I would criticize about Infinite doesn’t exist in Irrational’s first entry. BioShock contains an integrated approach, not seen by many developers, as the loading screens, weapons, HUD, characters and all aspect reinforce the message of what Rapture was meant to be, and what it actually is. The game’s subject matter and environments might be unsightly but this game is a true attraction and testament to the generation.


Likelihood to Complete: 100%

Likelihood to Platinum: 25%

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