Seeing Rapture for the first time was something special, the feeling that resonated from that experience has become the standard for what games I hold dear. Just short of ten years on from the initial release of the original Bioshock and the allure of the aquatic city remastered for the modern machines has me both excited and terrified in equal measure. The franchise which helped define a generation has returned in Bioshock: The Collection.
Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: Out Now
Remastered for the new generation of games consoles, Bioshock is joined by both of its successors, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, and all of the released downloadable content in one grandiose package. But is this just an excuse to make a quick buck from a critically acclaimed IP or is this a celebration of one of the rare gems in recent gaming history? Honestly, it’s a bit of both depending on how you look at it across the three games.
With nearly a decade under its belt, it’s no surprise that Irrational Games’ original is the big draw, the heart and soul of the collection, receiving the large majority of the remaster wizardry. As you take your first steps into Rapture it’s clear that those rose tinted glasses are no longer needed, this is the game you remember, as good as you remember, but looking better than ever. The visuals are impressive, the higher resolution doing nothing but good things, recreating the creepy atmosphere of your enclosed environment. While we all look back and remember our favourite games with a modern polish, believing them to be as aesthetically pleasing as anything today can produce, it’s clear that Bioshock’s new look has made a massive difference. The improved textures, the extra detail wherever you look, I swear I’ve found new hidden areas just purely because of the increased visual experience.
But while the environment may looking stunning and the mood is set perfectly, these things mean nothing if the gameplay doesn’t live up to expectations. Thankfully, the remaster does not disappoint.
With a story that is still as thrilling now as it was in 2007, it’s very easy to become immersed in Bioshock’s narrative once more, as you’re thrust into a world where danger lurks around every corner and the residents aren’t exactly compos mentis. That fear is still there, that chilling feeling you get as you explore every nook and cranny only to discover there’s an axe-wielding lunatic having a conversation with his shadow right behind you. The original Bioshock was always better at invoking that fear over its successors, and honestly, playing through the game again, the remaster has actually improved on that.
It’s this mixture of great storytelling and the new stunning visuals that will compel you to explore, it really feels like Bioshock has finally hit its true potential. Collectibles are littered throughout with the original audio diaries making a return along with a director’s documentary on the making of the game hidden inside Rapture.
Bioshock, of course, had its flaws when it came to gameplay. The Boss battles being the biggest annoyance, purely because they added very little to the experience. Another area that caused issues was the controls, they always felt a bit clunky, less responsive and intuitive than you’d have expected at the time, especially given this was the same year as Halo 3’s release. While the basic control layout hasn’t seen much in the way of improvement, the movement feels a lot smoother and switching between weapons and plasmids is a fluid experience.
Bioshock has always been the jewel of the franchise, the original and best, and the collection recognises this well, giving the classic game the fresh lick of paint and tweaks it needed to impress a modern audience, but this collection isn’t just about the one game, we’ve got the entire franchise to explore.
I never really understood why Bioshock 2 received some of the negative attention it did, yes it didn’t live up to it’s predecessor, but when the bar is set so high how can anything. While the story and gameplay didn’t quite match the hype heading into the release, the sequel made some significant improvements on the template set by Bioshock. The aforementioned controller issues were resolved and a freshly designed user interface led to a much less frustrating experience to veterans of the franchise. The game felt more stable, had improved visuals and much more challenging boss-related fights. For the most part, Bioshock 2 did a lot to improve on the original, but something was missing.
Setting out into Rapture 2.0 for the first time in years, it hit me fairly quickly what this game was lacking, the fear, the atmosphere, the story that had you gripped from start to finish, it just wasn’t as compelling. Don’t get me wrong, Bioshock 2 is still a fantastic game, but as with the original releases, once you’ve seen Rapture and experienced the original, it’s sequel just seems like a rehash.
That said, Bioshock 2 does have a few tricks up its sleeve, and like the series opener, this game has seen some visual improvements. Yes, this sequel had a better starting point, but it is clear to see that this remaster has not had quite as much work put into it. The original game genuinely looks like a lot of passion went into the project, the same cannot be said here.
But does Bioshock 2 really need the hard work? It’s a few years younger than Bioshock and at the time, the advancements in tech were noticeable. With an array of brand new environments, new areas of Rapture open to explore, there is still an essence of ‘WOW’ about this remastered game. The fresher visuals mixed with a better resolution and framerate mean that you’re most definitely getting an enhanced experience here as well and there is still plenty to keep you occupied outside of the main story. Would I buy this game as a solo remaster, probably not, it doesn’t offer enough extras to justify a purchase over my old 360 version of the game. That said, as part of the collection it has purpose with Bioshock always leaving you wanting more.
Bioshock 2’s superb DLC has also been given the remaster treatment and is included as part of the collection. Minerva’s Den was a fan favourite when originally released, telling a fascinating tale of Brigid Tenenbaum’s mission to cure the ADAM sickness of Rapture with the help of a device called, “The Thinker”. This add-on was probably the real highlight of Bioshock 2’s inclusion in the package as a whole, the fond memories I have of playing through the short story were recreated brilliantly here. This definitely goes a long way to making up for the lack of multiplayer.
First introduced in Bioshock 2, the franchise’s multiplayer was fairly standard in its mechanics themed around the conflict on Rapture. Though it was a significant part of the original release, it’s not missed in the collection and its absence takes away a distraction from the single player adventures.
Now, let’s face it, the PC master race was laughing at us mere console gamers three years ago when Bioshock’s threequel hit the shelves. Like many games in recent years, the Windows-based experience outshone what the consoles at the time were capable of in resolution and framerate. Now, though, we can finally band together and in one united voice say, “We’ve caught you up, it only took three years”, thanks to the remastered Bioshock Infinite. If I’m honest, when I first played this game on my PlayStation 3 I was is awe, the crisp blue sky and stunning open streets filled with people, such a massive jump in a different direction for the franchise and yet the feeling of seeing Columbia for the first time almost mirrored that of Rapture.
While there may not have been much done for Infinite, the visual upgrades are still noticeable, everything just looks a little more crisp and with what looks like a few minor lighting upgrades, this was a pleasure to play through once more, still fresh in my mind. If I’m honest, though, Infinite has literally been given a slap of makeup and sent on its way. The game was one of the last big releases of the previous generation and pushed the technology to its limit then, sometimes even breaking it in places. Apart from a few minor improvements here and there, the game looks like it was made for the Xbox One and PS4 generation already.
Like Bioshock 2, all of the released DLC are included in the collection and that in itself is a superb treat. With two-parter ‘Burial at Sea’ being one of the true highlights of the franchise as a whole, sending you back to Rapture for one last adventure. Again we’re missing the multiplayer aspects of the game, and again it’s not missed, Bioshock is at it’s best as a single player, story driven adventure and that’s exactly what the developers have focused on delivering.
Overall, Bioshock: The Collection is an excellent package, three great games, though varying in remastered effort, packaged along with all of their DLC, a worthy purchase just for that if you missed it the first time around. The star of the show is undoubtedly Bioshock, the original sees so much passion go into it’s remake that, apart from a few iffy-looking character models, makes this game look and feel like it’s finally reaching its full potential. Rapture is simply stunning.
The biggest disappointment is that the same effort didn’t go into Bioshock 2. While the game has seen some visual improvements, the sequel just doesn’t quite match its predecessor for sheer brilliance in wowing the player this time around. It would be incredibly difficult to justify Bioshock Infinite seeing much more improvement than it got given it’s only a few years old, a bit like the recently released Uncharted Collection version of Uncharted 3, a better resolution and framerate and a few minor texture and lighting adjustment were all the game ever needed to look spectacular.
If Bioshock has had the full face-lift, then Bioshock 2 opted for the botox, leaving threequel Infinite with slapping on the makeup.
Bioshock: The Collection, in the simplest terms, is the “nearly 10-year” anniversary edition of the original game that will not only please series veterans but should also entice younger players who may have missed out the first time around. As a added bonus this celebration of Bioshock includes the rest of the series. This is a worthy purchase, especially if you’ve never had the pleasure of a Rapture visit.
- Bioshock never looked this good, the visual upgrades on all three games make a difference, but on the original, it’s something truly special
- Despite the modernisation, the essence of the original is firmly implanted, the atmosphere and amazing storytelling at their peaks.
- The inclusion of all DLC is a much desired bonus
- Bioshock 2 deserved the same standard put into the original game. It sadly didn’t get that.
- With each game, the innovations decrease, with the final installment differing little from its original release.