2007 was a great year for gaming, a year that saw the release of Halo 3, Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Assassin’s Creed. One game however sticks out, not necessarily for its commercial success compared to the others, Halo 3 won that battle, but for its critical acclaim and sheer brilliance, Bioshock.
Although dubbed a first-person shooter, Bioshock’s RPG elements and amazing story-telling put it a cut above the rest. The focus here was never to see how many bad guys you could blow up but to learn and follow the intricate story as it turns from survival game into something of a noir movie mystery.
Set in 1960, you play Jack, the lone survivor of a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean. Conveniently, despite being in the middle of the ocean, a nearby lighthouse offers Jack salvation.
Entering the lighthouse sets Jack on a path to the ocean depths and to an underground city known as Rapture. Once in Rapture Jack is contacted by Atlas, a native to the city who helps him navigate the city through hordes of genetically mutated locals. Thrown into this underwater world with genetic superpowers and early 20th century weapons Jack must solve the mysteries of Rapture’s demise if he has any hope of escape.
That synopsis barely does the game justice, it’s an immersive, well told story and without giving out any spoilers, does have a few twists and turns along the way.
The story unfolds through a series of ghostly genetic memories, radio transmissions, audio diaries, and in-engine cut scenes. It’s all done with a compelling cast, many as dead voices on tape, all wrapped and warped by the philosophy of Rapture and its grand architect, Andrew Ryan.
As previously mentioned, this game is classed as a first-person shooter and yes you can go on a full-scale rampage with little or no thought but the emphasis is never really focused on that side of the game-play.
Despite that, BioShock features a wide variety of weapons and various types of ammo for each. You’ll start off with your trusty wrench, great for melee attack as you swing your way through the early stages of the game. As you progress you’ll acquire new weapons such as a shotgun, machine gun, pistol and everyone’s favourite, the grenade launcher.
Each of these weapons has three types of ammo available for it with its own special uses, such as the pistol’s armor piercing and anti-personal bullets. You can only carry a limited amount of ammo of each type, so use it wisely.
Weapon upgrades are available are you progress through the game, though they are limited and in many cases hidden well throughout Rapture. These allow you to improve your weapons by increasing the ammo capacity, rate of fire, or damage dealt. The game offers a number of ways to collect new ammo, one of the more thought provoking being U-Invent stations. These can be used to combine components that you’ve collected to craft special sorts of ammo, such as anti-personal bullets. These types of ammo are often much harder to find than traditional ammo, so U-Invent stations will prove very useful as the enemies become stronger.
The weapons of Bioshock are useful and you can make it through the game with just these but it’s the genetic superpowers which give this game the edge. Known as plasmids, these range from shooting bolts of electricity out of your hand to spawning holographic targets to trap the bad guys.
Along with plasmids you’ll also find various gene tonics, including physical tonics, engineering tonics, and combat tonics on your journey. These tonics are used to upgrade your character, improving your ability to hack or improving your performance with melee weapons. Though the large array of plasmids and tonics make Jack a formidable opponent, the game does limit how many of each you can access and activate at any given time throughout the game, here’s where the thought for customization is essential. Gene banks are sparsely placed around Rapture and it at these stations alone that modifications can be made to plasmids and tonics, planning ahead is essential.
With the combination of weapons and plasmids, this game offers each player the ability to customize their own experience, forcing you to use strategy over full-scale combat.
Graphically this game is superb, even by today’s standards. The mixture of science-fiction, art deco and noir creates something truly unique. The city of Rapture is beautifully rendered and as you progress through the game you are treated to a host of amazingly detailed settings, from a movie theatre to hydroponics forest.
Even the world beyond the playable environment is stunning, as you find yourself drawn to a window to see a giant squid swimming by in the distance and hundreds of fish swimming in view, adding an eerie realism to the story and making you truly believe that this environment is under the sea (No Disney crabs required).
With the gameplay and graphics working so well together to produce the right kind of atmosphere it’s no surprise that the soundtrack is well beyond par. The game a mixture of licensed music from the 1940s and 1950s as well as an original score which ultimately make the game even creepier.
Somehow hearing a record player softly play “How much is that doggie in the window?” from a distant corridor set the adrenalin rushing as you learn there are no safe havens in Rapture. The composer of the original score, Garry Schyman, sums it up best, “eerie, frightening and at times beautiful”.
Rarely does a game of BioShock’s caliber come along. Gorgeous graphics, an eerily realistic atmosphere, an immersive story and deep, well thought out gameplay. This game has it all.