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BioShock Review

publisher: Take 2 Interactive
developer: Irrational Games
genre: Shooters

ESRB rating: M

release date: Aug 21, 07
» All About BioShock on ActionTrip

You see your character onboard a plane, you avert your eyes for a split second to grab your drink on the small, glass living room table, and the next thing you know, the roar of your speaker system announces trouble ahead. Everything is happening too fast and you find yourself trying to stay afloat amidst a burning mass of oil on the Atlantic Ocean. The fire looks beautiful, the gamer in you registers that, but your instinct (albeit a gamer instinct as well) says that it's time to follow the path predetermined by the designers at 2K Boston, formerly known as Irrational Games.

The sequence of events that follows leads you down into the depths of the Atlantic and into the underwater city of Rapture. Once seen as a utopian society for men and women brave and worthy enough to carry on the true legacy of human kind, Rapture is now a tattered, leaking social monstrosity, filled with creatures dependent on bio-modifications which have, in a cruel twist of fate, turned them into monsters.

That in a nutshell, is your introduction to one of the year's most anticipated first-person shooters, BioShock. As I write this, the game has already garnered such critical acclaim that it almost feels like my judgment will be yet another ripple in the ocean - so to speak.

To be fair to the game, there is a very good reason why this is so, it *is* great after all.

Then again, things in the gaming world have changed dramatically. True triple-A titles take forever to make, and high profile releases on an annual basis are becoming almost extinct. What this means is that press, having their own asses in mind first and foremost, will jump at every opportunity to hail a title as the second coming if that's going to bring them ratings, and make more people take interest and click on their pages/buy their magazines. Trying to keep things in perspective has become very hard for that reason; objectivity and journalistic integrity seem almost as utopian a goal as Rapture itself.

That said, I will cordially go back to the subject now, but I do feel that this little overture to the discussion about the finer points of the game itself was necessary (especially, bearing in mind how important this release is for the gaming 2007).

From the get go, BioShock asserts itself as an amazingly atmospheric interactive entertainment experience. The Unreal technology (which has been heavily modified - and that is an understatement) is put to amazing use to convey a massive underwater structure, which is bursting at the seams (or leaking from all sides, as it were). The art deco style of the architecture combined with the retro sci-fi feel of the whole place creates a unique ambience. Visually, the art team has paid great attention to detail. The softly lit rooms are not overdone, and taken as a whole the world feels amazingly consistent and well thought-out.

Adding to the fantastic atmosphere is a superb soundtrack, coupled with meticulous sound effect design and excellent voice acting. The story itself seamlessly blends into the world through various manifestations, so that the player feels completely sucked into the environment.

Adding to this is the superb AI. Again, the intelligence of your opponents doesn't feel overdone, nor do they ever appear like simple NPCs during your trip through Rapture.

But really, it's the story which holds this game together. I could go on and on about the finer points of the environments, but ultimately, it's the mysterious relationship of the little sisters and their big bodyguards - the big daddies, the connection they have with the Adam, the building block of plasmid bio-modifications that citizens of Rapture use to enhance their bodies, that will keep you guessing and wanting to know what happens next. Without giving anything away, the key plot twists in the game are powerful and superbly done.

BioShock presents a well-told tale intertwined with the action, which in itself is good enough to keep people entertained. This is something that 2K Boston paid close attention to - making the action worth your while, and they've managed to achieve this with effective use of plasmids, physical, engineering and combat tonics; stuff that makes you have supernatural abilities, like being able to set your opponents ablaze with a flick of a wrist, freeze them, use telekinesis for combat purposes and so much more.

Plasmids as such add great variety to the nitty-gritty of the gameplay. Taking a somewhat old-school approach (similar to what we saw in games like System Shock *wink, wink*, and Deus Ex), players can decide which type of fighter they want to be. Whether they want to be good at hacking the security systems (hacking handled through mini-games), and generally using plasmids which utilize the environment or the enemies themselves as tools, or if they want to take a more straightforward shooter approach, mod their weapons and go into every fight all-guns-blazing.

The truth is most players will likely take a mixed approach, thus keeping the action as diverse as it can be in BioShock. Even so, diversity is something that BioShock lacks in certain aspects. Going back to my little overture about high profile releases in this day and age, it is important to realize that for all that is good about BioShock, this is not a perfect game, nor is this the best first-person shooter I have ever played. It ranks high up there, but once the media frenzy has settled, people will begin to approach this title in a more objective manner. During their stay in Rapture, players will spend 99% of their time indoors, often in pretty tight spaces in Rapture. This inevitably makes the game feel claustrophobic at times. Concept-wise, one could argue that this is perfectly justifiable; nonetheless, shooters like Half-Life 2 have another dimension to them, simply by being able to take the players out of confined and gloomy spaces and into the sprawling outdoor environments.

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9.2   Excellent

Excellent story, atmosphere, AI, graphics, sound, plasmids, you can hypnotize one big daddy to fight against another - this in itself is worth the price of admission;

Feels claustrophobic at times, backtracking through levels; menial tasks used to lengthen campaign.


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