August 29, 2007
I was tempted to let the post title say it all, but I suppose I should write something as well. Bioshock, for both PC and Xbox 360, closes out my Summer of Adventure with a high explosive shotgun blast to the head, and after quite a mixed bag of games lately, reminds me of just how lofty the bar can go.
In some ways, it’s hard to review a game like Bioshock. The story revolves around an underwater city named Rapture and is based loosely on the concepts of objectivism and pure meritocracy of Ayn Rand (who even receives an in-game homage as the city’s creator, Andrew Ryan). Things begin as an airplane your character is flying in crash lands right in front of a Bathysphere — a Myst-esque transporter that whisks you into the depths. To say much more than that is to risk touching on plot points I’m certain some readers would prefer to discover for themselves. All I will safely say about the story is: it does not disappoint, right up until the end.
Virtually everything else in the game is nearly without peer. The visuals are beautifully varied and logically laid out (unlike so many games), yet for its relatively high PC system specs, runs rather well if you machine is in range. Aurally, Rapture is on par with other PC shooters’ extremely realistic sound effects, but features some harder-to-get-right, excellent voice acting, as well as haunting, period appropriate (if rare) music. As far as gameplay itself, it plays as a standard shooter with above average weapon choices — mostly the usual shooter staples fleshed out with several types of ammunition each and performance upgrades — and an equally realized “magic” system based on genetic modifications called Plasmids.
I could seriously go on for quite a bit longer singing Bioshock’s praises, but sadly the most compelling part, from the way everything from the first moment of dialogue to the Plasmids to the Big Daddies and Little Sisters, the game’s imaginitive and most recognizable inhabitants, ties into that most powerful element of the game: the story. A few fetch quests aside, the plot stays remarkably on track, and what kept me moving forward wasn’t the environments or the freedom to solve problems however I chose (though freezing enemies solid and letting the aerial machine gun sentries I had hacked blow them to bits became my favorite), it was a genuine interest in the outcome. It’s a personal feeling I haven’t felt in a game in a long time.
Maybe it was the first-person perspective. Maybe it was the feeling I got every time I rescued one of the Little Sisters, with Garry Schyman’s score stirring in the background. Whatever it was, it was a deeper level of enjoyment than I have been used to in my videogame hobby, and it comes highly recommended to anyone that reads this.
Score: 9.5 / 10
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