Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.
What the Game’s About
A plane crashes in the ocean. You are the only remaining survivor. Hopelessly surrounded by the husk of the plane engulfed in flames, you spot a refuge. An odd building seemingly in the middle of nowhere is your best option to life. As you explore the building, you realize that it is a gateway to an underwater metropolis that was the social experiment of Andrew Ryan called Rapture. It appears that something went horrifically wrong, and you explore the hidden city, in a state of total decay, looking for clues and a way to get out. You learn of exotic technologies called Plasmids and you learn what makes Rapture tick, Adam. Each corridor unlocks a piece of the puzzle and something else that will disturb you. Welcome to Rapture.
Atmosphere is vital in a video game. BioShock nails it perfectly. From the very first image you see of Rapture to the Art Deco handrails, you get a feeling that you are in another world. When you think of that era, you think prosperity and progress, a golden epoch of humanity where life was simpler and better. BioShock twists that concept around the fact that Rapture is anything but the utopia it billed itself as. As you explore the rotting city with water seeping in, the sense that the good times are gone is the understatement of the century. The halls are moody and rooms are smeared with blood, falling apart and littered dead citizens of Rapture. Each door you open, your stomach will get that sinking feeling when something bad is going to happen. There are a few moments where you’ll jump when the mutated citizens startle you. The world of Rapture is meticulously crafted and the art direction taken is sure captivate and pull you into the underwater world.
To combat the ravenous enemies who thirst for the ADAM, you find some traditional weaponry and get access to Plasmids. Plasmids are a genetically-altering injection that have a wide range of effects. With them, you can shoot electricity from your hands, start things on fire with the snap of a finer, use your mind to control object with telekinesis and more. What is remarkable about these powers is that you can use them in conjunction with the environment. For example, if you see your enemies standing in a pool of water, use the lightning bolt for charge the water full of electricity and fry the bad guys without laying a hand on them. You don’t get unlimited uses and need to constantly recharge your EVE to use your plasmids.
The best part of BioShock is the fact you are driven to make some moral choices. When you encounter Little Girls, you have the option to save them or destroy them. You have to choose, because they are ADAM producers. If you stop the supply of ADAM, you stop the madness. Saving the girls gives you less ADAM but a clean conscious. Destroying them gives you more ADAM but makes you feel like the scum of the earth. In the end, you’ll have the same amount of ADAM but the choices I made were based on how I felt rather than what made rational sense. Finding a game that does that is a rare find. Emotions also come up during the haunting retelling of the fateful day on New Year’s Eve. Finding out the history, full of backstabbing and questions if the Rapture experiment would work, was movie quality worthy. There is also a twist that reveals itself and will make you question your choices throughout the game.
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BioShock masterfully tells an emotional story wrapped in a moody, atmospheric setting. However, some gameplay mechanics are not executed with the same panache. The first being the menu systems. It isn’t a quick tap of a button to switch between all your available moves. Plasmids work on this principle and until you can find more slots, you’ll have to switch Plasmids in the pause screen. If you want to see how different Plasmids effect the environment early on in the game, you’ll be doing a lot of swapping. I think there was some light RPG elements the developers wanted to incorporate but don’t fit with the existing framework.
Progression through the game isn’t a matter of skill but a matter of how patient you can be. You respawn in Vita-Chambers and can basically continue where you left off. Enemies do not repopulate, which makes the punishment for dying feel like a tickle rather than a slap. While it affords you the opportunity to explore, there isn’t much to explore. The game’s level design feels linear but is thinly masked by the way Plasmids interact with the world, so if you are hoping for a completely nonlinear approach to FPS, you’ll be halfway disappointed.
When games age on the shelf for a year and you go back to play them, some of the magic disappears. The reason for that is because technology progresses at such an incredible rate that many games will copy successful games and evolve the gameplay to make it better. BioShock is still the game it was a year ago and is an amazing entry for the PlayStation 3’s line-up. The game still evokes the same themes and messages it did on the 360. If anyone missed it last year, they have to be a fool to miss it now because it achieves what few video games can do: it makes you think and it makes you feel.