Bioshock takes a great game engine (Unreal’s), and incredible artistic direction that successfully recreated a vintage/sci-fi city from the 1940’s and a great storyline to bring us the best game I’ve played in a very long time.
Most story based first person shooters are disappointing. Over the years the genre evolved from a simple, yet fun, “you’re a good guy, they’re bad guys” script that simply pointed you in the direction of enemies, to much more complex stories that bring the game closer to a roleplaying experience, rather than mindless action.
The System Shock games were one of the very few (back in the day) that gave us an unique and engaging storyline, without sacrificing too many gameplay aspects. Bioshock continues to follow the tradition set by System Shock, but in a completely different environment, and simpler, though somewhat over-powered “evolution” system.
Gameplay: 4 out of 5
Most modern shoot-em-ups have some perks that distinguish them one from the other. If Half-life’s is the Gravity Gun, and Portal’s is, well, the Portal Gun, then Bioshock’s is Plasmids.
Plasmids allow you character to obtain certain characteristics that do many things from that go from burning his enemies, to cracking vaults and security cameras.
These Plasmids give you customization options which change your gameplay, but as you progress, you’ll start to feel much more like a demi-God rather than a normal person. Unlike System Shock where you had to choose between being a better fighter, or a better technician, in Bioshock you are able to be good at both things, and if you decide to take the path of “evil” (more on that later), then you’ll be just as good at killing enemies just as you are in converting enemy turrets to your side.
The game would have certainly been harder and possibly a bit less enjoyable for some people, if they decided to restrict the upgrade options. On the other hand, it would have increased the game’s replay value which is, unfortunately, very low.
Storyline: 4.5 out of 5
The game’s story is one of the game’s best aspects. The story seems mysterious at first, then predictable, then surprising, and finally, rewarding.
Like most games nowadays, you are given a choice between “good” and “evil”. Although the choice you make does not change the storyline too much, it certainly changes your gameplay.
For people who are only thinking of playing the game once I recommend you choose the “evil” path. Although the ending is different, the general experience will be more enjoyable.
As you quickly learn when you step into the game, the whole society there was corrupted by the same “Plasmids” I referred to before. People became addicted to them as they do to drugs in real life (although in a smaller scale) and eventually drove themselves to misery.
You only meet a handful of less mentally-ill characters through your journey, but all of them are unique enough to make it worthwhile. As a small side note, I found it a bit disappointing that we were not given the option to meet more characters or have a better idea of how the economy, or the society, in the city worked.
The only things we know about the environment will be learned from the character’s radios, or from recorded messages which are spread throughout the game. Although those messages enrich the storyline, I would have preferred to have more “direct interactivity” with the characters I heard on the recordings rather than only being able to listen to them all the time.
If it were not for the excellent plot twists, I would have rated the storyline a point lower.
Presentation: 4.1 out of 5
The first let’s say, 10% of the game, are perhaps some of the most impressive moments you’ll find in a modern fps. The 0.1 points come from those first moments. Unfortunately, the rest of the game does very little to raise the presentation value, but that isn’t a bad thing really, because the game looks and feels great.
The best way to describe the environment is as a vintage sci-fi one. Although there are some very impressive devices and technologies, they all have a 1940’s look about them. Whether they are the door’s with code locks, or the vintage “ka-ching!” cash registers.
The art team took no second measures in reproducing the look from that era, and that alone makes this game worthwhile.
Another impressive feature is the water effects, which are shown throughout the game. It’s unfortunate that we only see them a few times through the story, but whenever they do they are always spectacular, despite being accomplished in a very simple way.
For a game that is situated under water, I expected to see a bit more water. But for a game that tries to portray what this one does, I expected no less. The amount of details, and thought, placed in the sceneries are overwhelming.
We’ve seen great physics in Half Life 2, and then graphics being pushed to their limits with Crysis. If I were to place Bioshock between those two, then I’d say it is the closest thing to a perfect marriage between great physics and great graphics, with the added bonus of an engaging storyline.