Game Review: Bioshock

Bioshock by 2K Games

Warning: Spoilers!

Despite being an avid gamer who owns several consoles, I’ve kept to film and TV reviews so far, but here’s my first game review with a classic from 2007 that me and my flatmate have been playing recently.

This is a game that longs to be adapted for TV or cinema. It’s setting, characters and story are that good. However because of the dark storyline, dubious morality and 18-violence most networks/studios are too cowardly to attempt a proper recreation. The setting? An underwater city called Rapture, a fallen utopia that has gone to hell in 1959. The player character Jack is a silent protagonist, but the supporting characters are so richly crafted they hold the story up by themselves. The main villain is Andrew Ryan, the creator and (now) tyrannical ruler of rapture who suspects Jack of being a spy sent by the KGB or CIA to discover the secrets of Rapture. The man is very much a story of good intentions gone bad after a civil war in rapture against the rebel Atlas, who guides the player character through most of the game. As you progress through the city, you learn more about it’s history – Ryan’s descent into tyranny after a confrontation with a criminal kingpin/smuggler named Frank Fontaine – and the discovery of ADAM, a substance that allows the people of rapture to rewrite their own DNA to throw fire, ice and electricity from their hands but which was so addictive that it ultimately drove most of the inhabitants insane. As well as various other ‘plasmids’ the player can make use of, the guns are pretty varied too – while you start out with basics like pistols, rifles and shotguns, later weapons like the crossbow, RPG launcher and chemical thrower are incredibly fun to use.

The game also has a moral dimension (a feature expanded in the sequels) which is always a sign of a good role-playing game (Fallout, Mass Effect, etc.). Specifically, it’s the ‘little sisters’, modified young orphaned girls who wander around rapture collecting ADAM, something the player character desperately needs. They are guarded by the armour-suited and incredibly tough ‘big daddies’ (one of whom you play as in the sequel) who can be a real challenge to kill. But once you’ve dealt with the brutes you face a dilemma. Cure the ‘little sister’ saving the girl and receiving a small amount of ADAM (although you receive rewards for every 3 you save) or harvest all the ADAM from her (this makes the game easier – but the little sister dies in the process). On easy you can be the ‘good guy’ and save them all without too much trouble – but on harder difficulties you might struggle to be the hero and have to kill a few just to progress through the game,

The game isn’t all good – the hacking minigame gets both tiresome and difficult after a while, and if you fail to research the various enemies you counter or upgrade your weapons the game will become very challenging towards the end. The story also starts to fall off in the final third of the game – the last two levels aren’t that interesting or innovative compared to what’s come before. This is the result of a massive (but brilliant) plot-twist at the game’s halfway point when you confront Ryan, which leads to both an abrupt switch in villains and a new guide for the player. Unfortunately the replacements aren’t quite as charismatic as Ryan or Atlas, and the story suffers after it becomes clear the new villain simply isn’t as good.

I’ve played this game both on PS3 and PC and on both it’s one of the most difficult games i can remember attempting. First time gamers will die. A lot. Even on easy difficulty. Even experienced gamers will have a few tough times on medium and hard difficulty is a real pain if you aren’t prepared for it. This makes it very ironic that the game has the easiest ending boss-battle I’ve ever played (perhaps the reason why it’s sequels avoided such climaxes altogether). But if you want a challenging FPS – pick this over a COD game. Every time. It’s smarter, harder and less repetitive. It’s a single player only game – but that’s a good thing, single player only games almost always have better campaigns than games trying to juggle multiplayer and campaigns (again COD’s repeated failing in recent years).

Overall a decent FPS (first person shooter) with one of the greatest storylines and settings you’ll ever find in a videogame. It’s sequels are both worth a look as well…

Rating: 4 out of 5

On gaming reviews, I’m likely to cover the Bioshock sequels, the mass effect trilogy, Fallout and Skyrim at some point. If you have any suggestions (PS3/4 Games only please – i haven’t played many xbox or wii games) please comment.

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