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Matt Keller
26 Aug, 2007

BioShock Review

360 Review | Just add water.
Irrational Games has long been a studio producing high quality games, yet never really getting the recognition they deserve. With studios working out of Boston, USA and Canberra, Australia, Irrational has worked on titles such as System Shock 2 (with the now defunct Looking Glass Technologies), Freedom Force and its sequel and SWAT4. Their latest title, BioShock, had many fans excited with the possibility of ties back to the System Shock universe, and similar gameplay, but really didn’t catch the eye of many gamers until recently. After numerous trade show appearances and developer walkthroughs, hype for BioShock began to snowball, and high review scores all round have created high expectations for many. Fortunately, BioShock is a fantastic gaming experience – it’s not doing anything really new or revolutionary, but it’s the way that BioShock brings together so many important components that makes it a truly extraordinary piece of software.

BioShock takes place in the world of Rapture, a massive underwater city created in the middle of the 1940’s by Andrew Ryan, a rich industrialist frustrated by Roosevelt’s New Deal and other government meddling. Ryan subscribes to the objectivist teachings of Ayn Rand; that a man should be entitled to the sweat of his own labours, and that they should not belong to the government, the people or to God. Ryan creates Rapture as a refuge for his ideals and other like-minded individuals. Players take on the role of a man named Jack, who is involved in a plane accident in the game’s rather excellent opening scene. Returning to consciousness underwater and gasping for air, Jack makes his way to a small island, which we soon find out is the way down to Rapture. One quickly discovers that Rapture is in a state of disrepair and disarray. Many of the citizens of Rapture have become splicers from over manipulation of their genetic structure and poor upkeep of ADAM, the substance that allows such bio modification. Jack is contacted by a man named Atlas, who informs us that Ryan has gone mad with power, and needs your help getting to his family. The narrative of BioShock forms such a core of the experience that we cannot give too much away without destroying one’s potential enjoyment of the game, but the story has many twists and turns, and is especially rich in background (explained mostly by recordings) and character.

We're going to start a new life...under the sea

We're going to start a new life...under the sea
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The world of Rapture is ripe with character and interactivity. Parts of the world are literally falling down around the player, with water gushing in from the ceilings, explosions happening all over the place, not to mention the many buildings that have been gutted by looters and other undesirables. The look of the world really tells a story – that human greed and vanity is causing this underwater paradise to rot and shrivel. Irrational has gone to great lengths to produce a real 1940s-50s retro-vibe to all of Rapture – not unlike games such as Fallout, with catchy music of the era, hilarious propaganda posters and a general aesthetic reminiscent of the time. The soundtrack features Jazz artists such as Django Reinhardt and Billy Holiday, which in combination with the game’s orchestral soundtrack create a chilling atmosphere. Many objects around Rapture can be manipulated – security cameras, vending machines and turrets in particular can be hacked to work for the player or provide discounts. Arguably the most impressive part of Rapture, however, is the water. It gushes in through cracks in the roof and floor, flows down stairs and over railings, and looks very natural. It’s an amazing achievement at first, though after significant time, players can begin to see some little tricks and shortcuts taken by the developer to accomplish these effects.

Each area of Rapture has its own distinct style, and each area greatly differs in appearance to the last. Perhaps the best looking section of the game is Arcadia, a massive underwater forest created for the purpose of supplying oxygen to Rapture. With lush vegetation and a variety of colour, an area such as Arcadia really makes many of the Xbox 360’s other first person shooters look drab and dull in comparison. BioShock utilises Unreal Engine 3.0, which has enabled the developer to tap a lot of the power of the Xbox 360, since BioShock is easily one of the best looking titles to come out on the system – both technically and stylistically. Many characters in the game have been expertly modelled, and feature excellent animation, but most of the awe factor comes from their design – especially the diving suit clad Big Daddies. While technically demanding, BioShock never skips a beat in the frame rate department, although some humorous glitches can occur with the game’s physics.

Big Daddy learns a valuable lesson about water and electricity

Big Daddy learns a valuable lesson about water and electricity
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BioShock’s gameplay is not entirely unfamiliar to anyone who has played games such as System Shock or Deus Ex before. As mentioned before, BioShock is oozing atmosphere from every orifice – but it’s not the same sort of atmosphere as the System Shock games, where you were alone in space; rather, you feel like an outsider in a fantastic world. It’s not really that scary – there are a few jumpy moments, but with the constant radio chatter, you never feel like you’re alone and vulnerable. There is a heap of customisation available – plasmids and tonics are body modifications that come in a number of varieties. Plasmids are much like magic in a way – bound to the left trigger, they can often be used as weapons, and can be combined with gun attacks for maximum efficiency. Always be weary of your environment – the electricity plasmid can be used to shock anyone in the water, while the fire plasmid can light up oil slicks and melt frozen objects. Not all plasmids are directly offensive – the enrage plasmid will cause the victim to start attacking anyone in the vicinity. Tonics are essentially modifiers that enhance various abilities. They come in three different varieties – combat tonics which can protect you against certain types of damage, or cause you to emit an electrical surge when you are hit, engineering tonics which make hacking and inventing items much easier, and physical tonics which enhance the effects of healing or can cloak the player temporarily from security devices and splicers.

With all of the plasmids, tonics and hacking abilities available to the player, it’s certainly possible to play BioShock in a more non-violent way, and exploit various enemies and security cameras into doing the dirty work for you. However, BioShock succeeds in one area where its spiritual successors were let down – combat. Perhaps it is due to the use of the Unreal 3.0 engine, but BioShock has a feeling of real weight that other games have lacked, and that makes combat so much more satisfying. There is a good range of weapons available – pistols, shotguns and machine guns all come as standard, but the crossbow, chemical launcher and grenade launcher acquired as the game progressed become very useful allies. Each weapon has three different classes of ammo which can be found around Rapture, as well as invented at the U-Invent stations. After receiving the camera early in the game, you can take pictures of your enemies to research their weaknesses and receive other bonuses. Splicers come in five varieties, but are generally easily dealt with. The most formidable opponent comes in the form of the Big Daddy.

Sugar, spice and everything nice...yeah, right

Sugar, spice and everything nice...yeah, right
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In Rapture, everything revolves around ADAM – it’s what gives you your plasmid powers, and allows the body to be manipulated in a variety of ways. Little Sisters, young pre-pubescent girls harvest ADAM from dead bodies for collection and sale. As ADAM is in thick demand, Little Sisters are a target for attack, so they need protection – and that protection comes in the form of the Big Daddy. Clad in large diving suits, the Big Daddies may seem slow and lumbering, but threaten a little sister and you will hear them scream at you. Attack them, and you’re in for one hell of a fight, as the Big Daddy charges in at ferocious speed, trying to gouge you with his drill bit. Fighting the Big Daddies is easily one of the highlights of the game. Being so strong and fast, you can’t go toe to toe with a Big Daddy – you have to study your environment and find ways to use it to your advantage. With ADAM being so crucial to your survival, you really have no choice but to take on the Big Daddies to get to the Little Sisters – whether you rescue them or harvest them not only decides how much ADAM you get, but also affects the game’s ending.

The length of your time in Rapture will be entirely dependent on how much you wish to become immersed in the world. Seeking out the audio diaries to hear the background story, hacking, learning the environment and saving the Little Sisters is going to take a lot longer than just running and gunning your way through the game – and taking the latter option really is a waste; you’d have to be stupid to squander such an experience. Our initial run through BioShock took us just under 20 hours – but it won’t seem like it takes that long since the game is so immersive and – except for a bit of a lull in the middle – compelling throughout the entire experience, certainly enticing one to replay the game. Some have complained that the game’s Vita Chambers seriously affect the game’s difficulty, since you never really die, as you’re simply warped to the nearest one with half a health bar and all of your equipment, but death is never a frequent occurrence if you know your environment.

BioShock is a really compelling piece of work. While there has been a bit of streamlining and trimming of features from its spiritual predecessors, the game’s compelling story, satisfying action, pleasing aesthetics and brilliant atmosphere more than make up for it. BioShock may not do anything particularly new, but the combination of many important gameplay elements, a gripping narrative and interactivity with the game world in such an impressive fashion will undoubtedly raise the bar for many first person shooters to come.
The Score
BioShock's combination of a compelling story, increased interactivity and fantastic gameplay raises the bar for all future first person shooters. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related BioShock Content

Gore Verbinski to direct BioShock film
09 May, 2008 Universal bringing the videogame to the silver screen.
Bioshock MMO and movie are 'potential opportunities'
27 Mar, 2008 Take-Two's milk brings the franchise over-saturation to the yard.
BioShock 2 to be a prequel?
09 Jan, 2008 Certainly sounds appealing...
28 Comments
6 years ago
probably underscored imo, with possible exception of the lifespan.

i'm very much an explorer in games, but even then it seems kind of short, especially since it lacks a multiplayer mode. i'm not usually too fussed with multiplayer, but the idea of customising your own character with Plasmids and Tonics, then battling it out with other people's customised characters is quite appealing - although i can see that certain builds would be much more effective, and longterm, this probably wouldn't be as exciting.

the respawning splicers is a very good thing in that regard for me, as it doesn't end up being a dead world once i'm passed an area narratively.

good review though. icon_y1.gif
6 years ago
atleast now I am not so tempted to buy the game, after a few people saying it was going to know OoT from its throne I felt like maybe I should buy it when I pick up my 360, leaving me no money after I pick up my Legendary edtion of Halo 3 which I have pre-ordered, and that money would have gone to the two halo 3 controllers
6 years ago
This game is awesome, so immersive, so freaky, and such beautiful art. The only problem I have is the Vita Chambers, for me at least make the game too easy, and takes away some of the atmosphere, since you can't die per se, it reduces the tension when fighting enemies, if a Big Daddy kills you, so what, just re spawn and go back to attack him since the damage you dealt out before remains.

Sure it takes out the annoyance of repeating stuff you already did as in other games, but still there should be some sort of penalty for death, a minor inconvenience to travel back to where you were isnt really much, since the chambers are fairly plentiful around the environment.

That’s pretty much my only gripe with the game, everything else is so awesome. Telekinesis FTW!! icon_biggrin.gif
6 years ago
puddingfork wrote
atleast now I am not so tempted to buy the game, after a few people saying it was going to know OoT from its throne I felt like maybe I should buy it when I pick up my 360, leaving me no money after I pick up my Legendary edtion of Halo 3 which I have pre-ordered, and that money would have gone to the two halo 3 controllers
Well, this 9/10 is certainly going to hurt it's chances of taking OoT.

While I'm only a 1/4 of the way through this is easily the best game I've played all year.
6 years ago
Sugar, splice and everything nice...yeah, right

Fixed kthnx.

Good review BTW
6 years ago
El Taco wrote
Sugar, splice and everything nice...yeah, right

Fixed kthnx.

Good review BTW
hah, I have been hearing it wrong all along
6 years ago
Good review - I would've pushed it that extra .5 higher, as the game itself is simply put, magnificent. Easily my favourite game on the 360 and by how it's going, it's giving SotC a run for its money in terms of a personal fave for me.
6 years ago
After finishing the game myself I can definently say its one of the best game's i have played all year and knocked off gears as my favoret 360 game. There is some replayabilty with the multiple endings (which I have only played through once so more to do!) and trying new things in the same situation so there is quite alot of thime there. That said, hopefully there will be some good downloadable content if any come's that is
6 years ago
Right now, as a PS3 owner, i feel as if this is perhaps the most envious i will ever be of the 360. Although, over time there will be equally as great games across all consoles, the story appears just so intriguing. The beautiful design of Rapture appears to be a major highlight and i am very intrigued by the enemies, namely the "big daddies".

Although games like Gears of War score just as well across the board, those type of shooting games are more common (i think resistance holds a fair torch to GOW). However, the uniqueness of this world makes it one in a million. Love this to go multiplatform. Great review.
6 years ago
the doag wrote
Although games like Gears of War score just as well across the board, those type of shooting games are more common (i think resistance holds a fair torch to GOW).
^HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Great review Matt. Totally agree. I can't believe how much it just keeps getting better.
6 years ago
Really enjoyed that review. Thinking of picking up a 360 elite and I think this (along with Dirt) will be my first purchase. icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
I've lost interest in this game, I dont think the game was for me, the atmosphere and story wasnt my cup of tea, I kinda fell for my friend's opinion. I guess this one falls in with my GOW, Halo catergory, atleast for me.
6 years ago
This game, simply put. is an incredible masterpeice. Easily in my top 5 (after MGS3, 2 and 1 respectively).
Having so much fun playing it, and when I'm not, I can't stop thinking about playing it. I don't have a clue what the (few, if you noticed) naysayers are on about, this is the best FPS on the market (a notch above Half Life 2... now you know my entire top 5!!). The fact I know Halo 3 will easily do (sales wise) better than this game makes me sick. This is the ONLY 360 FPS... no, shooter in general (so, so, SO much better than Gears...) that anyone should bother with. The fact that this has been confirmed a (console) exclusive is reason enough for anyone to get a 360 (even tho at heart I love my PS3 more... I'm even writing this on my PS3!!).
Most everyone's main gripe, the Vita-Chambers, is one of my favourite things. There is nothing in this world I hate more than having to re-do something I just did, even if it was my dumb ass that got myself killed in the first place. So yeah, big thumbs up from me.
Maybe it's the 3 glasses of Glenfiddich + 2 Tooheys Platinums talking, but this game should have gotten a perfect 10.
Absolute masterpeice. End of story.
6 years ago
Been playing it on the PC, love having a rig capable of playing it at full spec and enjoying the full scope. Its in my top ten of games ever but closer to the bottom, i love the story and setting very very awesome, maybe a return to Rapture in the sequal, or a prequal and see the city at its full.

My only disspapointment so far is the ending, but yeah
6 years ago
I don't get all these people knocking Vita-chambers and the like. What, does it damage your e-peen size if you don't have to replay a difficult section over and over and over and over from the start? It keeps the gameplay going forward and makes it damn near impossible to get stuck, without making it an absolute cake-walk.
6 years ago
The trouble with the vita-chambers is that they make the game too easy - there's very little penalty in dying. Admittedly I do prefer it that way, since I stops the game getting frustrating, but I can see why some people would like them not to be there - to increase the tension.

Big props for the Collectors Edition, though! Great content in there. While I have a few issues with how 2K handled the PC activation, they've done a great job of supporting the hard-core audience. Hopefully the game will sell enough to make it a huge success.

One interesting thing I found while playing it on high res on PC was that at times there was almost too much on screen. With such detailed art design it was almost overwhelming. I'm not complaining though, I think I'd rather live with being slightly overwhelmed, than seeing boring office-building-esque corridors icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
James wrote
One interesting thing I found while playing it on high res on PC was that at times there was almost too much on screen. With such detailed art design it was almost overwhelming. I'm not complaining though, I think I'd rather live with being slightly overwhelmed, than seeing boring office-building-esque corridors icon_smile.gif
I agree. It's almost overwhelming but so amazing. And boring office corridors strikes F.E.A.R. into my heart. Can't stand it icon_razz.gif
6 years ago
9.0 for graphics and sound? Which games have you see that would warrant a 9.5, or a 10?

This review is a crock. GoTY and potentially the best console game ever made.
6 years ago
Finished it Saturday arvo, freaking awesome game!

I went through without touching a single Little Sister, so i had almost no Plasmids or power-ups and the lowest possible Health/Eve and the game was like on Hard mode. The ending for "Little Sister Saviour" is nice even if it is brief, aim for it, it's worth it.

Replaying now and aiming for the rest of the achievements (I'll probably miss the Audio Diary one again, bah) and for the "bad" ending after harvesting *all* Little Sisters...
6 years ago
Just beat the game on medium, and despite harvesting only two little sisters and saving the rest, I was punished with the "bad" ending icon_razz.gif
Like the saviour one, it was indeed pretty short, though things seemed to remain unanswered icon_confused.gif
6 years ago
I'm nearing the game's end now and, the story...wooah. I have never been so warped and shocked by a games story like this. Did not see this one coming, no way.

I'll definitely be punished with a bad ending first time round, as I enjoyed destroying the little sisters icon_razz.gif

Would you kindly give this game an 0.5 higher please? icon_wink.gif
6 years ago
Fascinating how a game like STALKER, with an 8.0 score will always have an 8.0 score regardless of patches and mods, etc, whereas a fairly on the rail shooter that will not run on half as many PC's as STALKER, will get plaudits everywhere that will stay long after the hype has died.

What benefits the struggling PC games market more - 90% games that only run on high end PC's, or the fact a 90% game (with patches and mods), will run on 25-30% of average PC's?

And what detracts from PC gaming success more than a media that down scores a game because it does not have state of the art graphics. meaning it will run on many PC's, and increases the score for high end games that means it will run on many fewer?

This is a market that praises a game like Far Cry, that sold 2 million copies and pours scorn on a game like Roller Coaster Tycoon that sold 15 million? You'd think PC gaming was committing suicide! If I hadn't been a PC gamer for 20 years and wanted to stay one for another 20 I might almost find it funny!
6 years ago
uk_john wrote
Fascinating how a game like STALKER, with an 8.0 score will always have an 8.0 score regardless of patches and mods, etc, whereas a fairly on the rail shooter that will not run on half as many PC's as STALKER, will get plaudits everywhere that will stay long after the hype has died.

What benefits the struggling PC games market more - 90% games that only run on high end PC's, or the fact a 90% game (with patches and mods), will run on 25-30% of average PC's?

And what detracts from PC gaming success more than a media that down scores a game because it does not have state of the art graphics. meaning it will run on many PC's, and increases the score for high end games that means it will run on many fewer?

This is a market that praises a game like Far Cry, that sold 2 million copies and pours scorn on a game like Roller Coaster Tycoon that sold 15 million? You'd think PC gaming was committing suicide! If I hadn't been a PC gamer for 20 years and wanted to stay one for another 20 I might almost find it funny!
I don't see why you're bring this up, it's not a discussion about the state of PC gaming but a review on Bioshock. You can not take into account mods and patches in a game review because quite frankly, they don't exist at time of review mostly and not everyone has access to that. You review what you are given because that's what everyone will have at the bar minimum. Stalker running on twice as many PCs as Bioshock? icon_rolleyes.gif Come on, when Stalker was released there was a lot of problems with it running on people's machines and it was only once patches were made that it became playable for more people.

You say you've been gaming for 20 years? Well then, you must be used to the cycle of upgrading or buying a new machine every few years? I do hope so. My current machine which is getting close to 3 years old was a mid range PC at the time, and it ran the Bioshock demo fairly well at 800x600 (game even defaulted at 1024x768 with almost all graphical options on). The specs are a A64 3000+/1GB Ram/6600GT, the bare minimum essentially, but it played well and looked nice.

A good game is a good game, ultra high tech flashy graphics or not, I think you're just hating on Bioshock because possibly your PC doesn't come to specs. If it does, well what are you doing complaining about the game and how it doesn't run on certain machines, this has basically been how every single game has turned up since the DOS days (which was the opposite oddly enough..).

Next time, when you come into a review thread, maybe discuss the actual review, not rant about the state of PC gaming. there's a whole section devoted to PC gaming and you're more than welcome to bring it up there in a new post.

Back on topic, nice review Matt, salivating the full game even more now.. icon_sad.gif
6 years ago
uk_john wrote
Fascinating how a game like STALKER, with an 8.0 score will always have an 8.0 score regardless of patches and mods, etc, whereas a fairly on the rail shooter that will not run on half as many PC's as STALKER, will get plaudits everywhere that will stay long after the hype has died.
Extreme non-linearity doesn't necessarily make a good game.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Take 2 Interactive
Genre:
  Survival/Horror
Year Made:
  2006
Players:
  1

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