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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Shooter / RPG

 

Publisher

2K Games

 

Developer

2K Boston

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

August 2007

 

 

- Brilliant graphics and sound

- The most compelling plot in recent memory (and in FPS history)

- Tons of clever customization elements

 

 

- Maybe slightly too easy.  Perhaps 2K can provide a downloadable tweak that deactivates the Vita-chamber for the truly hardcore out there

 

 

Review: The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles (360)

Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (360)

Review: Rainbow Six Vegas (360)

 

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BioShock

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

For the most part, games are not to be taken seriously.  Certainly most First-Person Shooters are brainless exercises that focus purely on twitch game play and excessive violence.  Strangely, it is this same shallow genre that has produced some of the most interesting and, dare I say, intelligent games of the past decade.  BioShock, like the Half-life series before it, is smarter and more involving than most shooters.  In fact, BioShock arrives on the scene as the smartest, most thought-provoking game in recent memory.  Oh yeah, and it's a wonderful, visceral play experience.

 

bioshock          bioshock

 

The basic concept of BioShock, and Iím going to attempt to be spoiler free in this review, is a very interesting one.  BioShock is set in the collapsing world of Rapture, a city under the sea built by a patriarch that wanted to see how far mankind could evolve if isolated from nefarious influences.  What are these nefarious influences?  Religion, government, and societyís moral norms.  It is no wonder that this is the first game in recent memory that I hear my fellow college professors talking about in the hallways.  That is simply a mind-bending setting for an FPS.

 

The details of the world are as fascinating as its origin.  Sometime during the cityís development, scientists discovered a way to add certain ďpowersĒ to 

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individuals through a kind of spontaneous mutation.  This means the city (at this point it has seen better days) is populated by mutant addicts with over-the-top physical and mental abilities.  Luckily, the player gets to pump up his or her character with the same powers and enhancements.         

 

None of the powers (called "plasmids") players can pick up in

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BioShock are overwhelmingly original.  Most have direct pre-cursors in the weapons of other first person shooters (the difference here being that the player doesnít have to have a weapon to do some damage).  The telekinesis plasmid, for instance, is very similar to the gravity gun from Half-life 2.  Other plasmids give the user the ability to burn, freeze, shock, or manipulate the emotions of creatures they encounter.  Since there are a limited amount of slots for the upgrades, players will be forced to choose how to power their character up.  In the end, this means that the actual game play will vary quite a bit from person to person and from play-through to play-through.

 

The story of BioShock is excellent and very, very intriguing.  Though it becomes easier as the game goes on to guess what plot twist is coming next, the implications and sub-texts remain entirely compelling.  Players get most of the story not through cut-scenes (though there are a number on in-engine cut-scenes throughout) but instead through recordings that they pick up along the way (like the DOOM 3 diaries).  Anyone playing the game without listening to the recordings (and I keep running into players that are doing just that) is missing half the game.  Again Iím trying to avoid spoilers, but Iíll just say that my desire to see the first boss die a painful death was greatly increased by hearing the recordings and knowing what a tremendous monster he was.

 

bioshock          bioshock

 

BioShock is, at times, pretty standard FPS stuff.  Some of the encounters can be really tough, especially combats with the Big Daddies where every Splicer in the level jumps into the battle (more on the Big Daddies later).  This difficulty never becomes frustrating because death isnít all that permanent in Rapture.  Anytime the character dies, he will pop back up in the closest revealed Vita-chamber.  This is basically a painless re-spawn and Iíve heard complaints from local gamers that they make the game too easy.  I donít agree, mainly because I though it kept some of the tougher levels from getting too frustrating and allowed me to experiment with some non-optimal strategies while exploring the game for review.

 

And about those Big Daddies...  Clearly the most compelling element of the BioShock plotline is the Big Daddy, Little Sister interaction.  The Little Sisters charged with wandering around Rapture mining for ADAM (the power source for the mutations of Rapture and a kind of currency is this strange new world) are as creepy as they can be.  The huge, armored Big Daddies are the coolest bodyguards ever seen in a game.  The main storyline has two endings based on how the player deals with the Little Sisters.  Both are worth seeing (Hint:  this can be done without playing through the entire game twice).  With the endings in mind, it is possible to have some pretty interesting discussions about what the ultimate message of the game is.  Very few videogames spark an interest in discussion of themes, sub-texts and motifs, so there is a place BioShock really separates itself from the pack.

 

BioShock has more cool elements than any ten other FPSs combined.  I could go on and on about the hacking mini-games (love them, want to see more of them in later games), the "U Invent" kiosks, and the multiple ways to take out enemies to clear levels.  My brother was playing the game along side me on a separate 360 and it really seems like we played two different games.  I would say there is more variation in two play-throughs of BioShock than there is between most FPSs and their sequels.

 

So, what is my final take?  Unless something truly revolutionary comes down the pike (Iím looking at you Halo 3), BioShock is sure to be my game of the year.  Other than possibly lamenting the Vita-chambers influence on the gameís core difficulty, I have no complaints about this modern masterpiece.

 

- Danny Webb

(September 17, 2007)

 

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