Bioshock

Publisher: Irrational Games
Year: 2007
Systems: X-Box 360, PS3, PC
Game Type: First Person Shooter

Rating:

Review:
There are games, and then there are games.  Bioshock is possibly one of the best games ever made, and yet there’s very little that’s new or different from other first person shooters.  There’s the standard array of weaponry, along with a host of special attacks in the form of Plasmids, but generally speaking, there’s nothing in Bioshock that you haven’t seen before in plenty of other shooters.

So what makes it so good?  The story, which will suck you in from the first moments of the plane crash all the way to the final confrontation.  You play as a Jack, the only survivor of a plane crash in the year 1960.  You end up in an underwater city, Rapture, created by an Ayn Rand stand-in called Andrew Ryan.  The supposed Libertarian utopia has turned into a creepy, mutant infested wasteland.  As you travel through the game, you gain powerful genetic enhancements, called Plasmids, that give you various abilities like telekinesis or pyrokinesis.  You battle through hordes of mutant splicers, robot sentries and the famous Big Daddies (shown on the cover of the game), and the game has multiple endings depending on your actions.

Along the way, the story develops in a very organic manner.  You are greeted by a man named Atlas who you only communicate with via radio.  You also pick up a number of tape recorded messages from various residents of Rapture which help fill in the story of how the city fell into such a state.  You start out basically trying to find help and end up changing the fate of the entire city.

You have plenty of choices along the way, but the most important involve the Little Sisters, young girls who accompany the Big Daddies and harvest the precious Adam (the source of Plasmid power) from dead splicers.  You can either free the Little Sisters, sacrifice them for your own power, or ignore them.  Based on how you deal with the little girls, your game will have one of three outcomes.

The game’s design and atmosphere is incredibly creepy and well made.  You are very easily sucked into the world of Rapture, as everything looks real – nothing is gleaming and perfectly clean, water leaks from rusty bolts, pipes groan and creak, and the lighting is kept to proper sources and not omnipresent glowing.  Sound in the game is very important as well.  The thundering clomp of a Big Daddy along with its groan will send shivers up your spine.  The whistling of the security bots will grate on your nerves, and the “No, No!  No! No!” of rescued Little Sisters will stick with you.

The fictional setting is also ripped from pseudo-philosopher Ayn Rand, whose “sci-fi” novels preached a very self-centered world view with little to no government.  Rapture is a good representation of what happens when such a philosophy is actually put in place.   The system worked for a few years, then fell apart as greed, jealousy and corruption set in.  The city is on the edge of collapse, and the twisted vision of its creator is falling down around his ears.  The story touches more than just the usual adrenaline-fueled gorefest of the standard FPS and actually reaches out to some pretty heavy philosophical territory.  The ultimate twist of the game will leave you wondering what it really means to be free, and if you, the player, was truly in control.  (You were, of course, because you could shut the game off any time, but philosophically, you were controlled the whole time.)

I highly recommend picking this game up – even a few years old it still looks very good and is easy enough to play on Casual setting that my wife, who hates FPS games, was able to finish it.  It can usually be found very cheaply in used bins, and there is even a copy packaged with Morrowind (not a favorite of mine, but hey, two games for the price of one).

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