Bioshock Review

Way back when I was really starting to get into games, and actually start growing up past the 7 year old that I was on the inside, I heard some ravings about a game known as Bioshock.  For the longest time, I never saw any footage of it, all I heard were people stating spoilers regarding Andrew Ryan, Frank Fontaine, and Atlas, a plot twist, and how it is “deep”.  This was before I was willing to play first person shooters, mostly because they scared me for some stupid reason.  But since then, I have gained an appreciation for shooters thanks to Half Life 2, Mass Effect, and Metroid Prime.  But as for Bioshock, let’s see if it stands up 5 years after the initial release.  

Bioshock Review
Release Date: 21/8/2007
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC, Mac OS X
Price I Paid: $7.50 (Thanks Glyde)

After a plane crash somewhere in the Atlantic during an alternate universe 1960, the nameless main character must swim out of the wreckage and venture into the lighthouse that was only a few feet from the burning wreckage of the plane.  Well, he’s named Jack, but I don’t like the idea of him having a backstory, for reasons that I’ll get too.  From there he ventures into an underwater city known as Rapture, a sort of steampunk Atlantis that is based on 1950’s culture, which I absolutely love!  Now, I admit to being bias on this, but I just love cyber/steampunk.  And to me, the 1950’s had a great style, even though living back then would be less than stellar, what with the conformity and civil rights movements.  But the city itself is in the process of collapsing, and the residents have gone what is medically known as nutter butters.  Throughout the game, you only encounter eight people who are not what the game refers to as Splicers, people who are not capable of speech beyond a few rants about missing children, praising Jesus, and various other mutterings, either way, most of them want to kill you.  Well, that is not strictly true, due to all the audio diaries that you find throughout the city.  Oh, and I absolutely love finding flavor text like this, every bit helps you understand the city in some shape or form, creating a wonderful example of In Medias Res.

The main character wanders through this city, looking door some help, and eventually finds a radio of a man named Atlas, who swears to assist you in getting out of this underwater former utopia.  And during this quest you learn about Andrew Ryan, and how he created this city where artists and scientists would not be restricted by societal chains, which resulted in some very… Colorful ideas.  But after forming this city, one of the residents discovers how sea slugs can produce a substance known as Adam, which allows for the manipulation of DNA, mostly in the form of firing ice, lightning, fire, balls of rage, and overall improvements to one’s strength and intellect.  From there, it leads to a very enjoyable resource heavy shooter where you either act like an idiot and keep respawning due to magical Vita Chambers that have no consequence for death.  Or you can turn that off it you want the game to be good, and just save every damn minute so that you can have more health kits and ammo than you would ever need.  During my run, I never had a problem with any resource, stored health kits, ammo, Eve, and money.  

Instead of having one massive health bar, the game allows you to carry up to 9 first aid kits, which can save you from death whenever you press the B button.  And I actually like this, it manages to feel like the main character is not a refrigerator with human hands.  In terms of ammo, this game has 6 unique guns that range from revolver, to machine gun, to a flamethrower, and a grenade launcher that looks to be made of soda cans.  But the sheer amount of ammo types that you have impresses me.  

From land mines and rockets that you can also use the grenade launcher to fire, to the electric laser that you can make for your flamethrower.  But you would never need to use them, or much of anything once you get a fully upgraded crossbow that is great for headshots, and the bolts can also be reused.  Once I learned that, I only ever used it for Splicers, and heat seeking missiles for the Bigger threat.  From what I gathered, the powers from Adam are stored in Plasmids, which drain the body’s amount of Eve, which I think is caffeine, because Coffee is the best way to restore it other than injecting some Eve directly into your arm.  

Plasmids themselves serve as your secondary weapon of sorts, but they are pretty useless in combat.  You can carry up to six at once, and the combat ones can all be upgraded, but all you need is the lighting power to disable turrets and security robots so that you can hack them while they’re down, and fire to defrost a few things.  Both of which are just given to you.  And sure, they can be used to electrify enemies in water, but I got a massive surplus of electrical goo, so I would just use it instead.  It seems that the passive Plasmids are the best, and they don’t even drain Eve.  From buffs to medkits, food that you find on the floor and eat, and an easier time hacking, which takes place in the form of a fun little puzzle, which can sometimes be literally impossible to solve.  It is bad enough that I’m timed, but at least make this possible unless I want to take an axe to my health, or summon some flying turrets to avoid for a minute.  

I could have tried to use the Plasmids more, but even the Plasmid only boss left me wanting my guns all the more.  Who needs to fire bees when you have a lighting beam?

But the Plasmid to trump all others is sadly not the Hornet blast, which is pretty useless, is a passive ability that makes you invisible if you stand still.  You get this power from a side quest that requires you to photograph enemies to deal more damage towards them, and get an occasional power.  By stalking a certain Splicer who could teleport, I gained this power, and it completely changed my playstyle, and made the game twice as easy, because the only way I can be seen is by either moving or shooting, and a good shotgun blast took care of most Splicers until I got the crossbow.  Although, the Hypnotise Big Daddy Plasmid is extremely useful, and one of the best gaming moments that I’ve had since Skyrim.

But the process of actually getting the Adam requires you to make the decision of, after killing a mutated brainless metal coated creature known as a Big Daddy who protects a mutated little girl, known as a Little Sister.  You decide whether or not you want to absorb the Adam that has corrupted her into something other than a human, or rip their guts out for more Adam to create Plasmids at a designated machine.  Which is a flimsy moral choice system at best, and as good of an idea as making an ice cream spaceship at worse.  Speaking of which, there are vending machines everywhere in this place, all of which you can hack for a better deal, same with health stations.  And there are so many turrets and cameras, that hacking becomes about 10% of what I did in this game.  The actual mini-game requires you to direct one point to another under a set time limit, along a grid.  This served as the most common complaint from many, but I actually like it, because it is reflex based, and only takes a minute to get based. 

But to diverge from this synopsis, let’s talk to the whole idea of giving the main character a backstory.  Near the end of the game, you learn Jack’s backstory, which seemed to be missing the point to me.  I thought this game would end with a deconstruction of the main character transforming from an average Joe who gradually learns to love the act of murder, which is what I felt was happening during the game, but no.  Instead, the oh so praised deconstruction of linear gameplay was what I would have done from the beginning up until you meet Mr. Andrew Ryan.  Oh, and the actions that follow the twist are just moronic.  I would just leave, and don’t say that Jack would not, he has no voice or character, I found him to be a surrogate role, or Holden Caulfield for the first three hours.

Oh, and the ending really did make me feel like I had no choice, but they are saying it like the played decided to do it.  My intention was to take a barrel full of Adam, some research notes, the Little Sisters that I saved, and then sell the stuff, write my story, and become a millionaire with a bunch of little girls that I can molest.  But instead Jack left with the girls, gave them an education, they got married, and then granted him love when he died.  Oh, and the final boss?  I was the one person who played a non-lethal run of Deus Ex Human Revolution, but loved the lethal boss fights.  Because of how intense they felt, and how I had to act on my toes.  But this?  It is just a hulk who fires elemental blasts, calls me a Noob, it seriously sounded like it, and needs to be stabbed after I puncture his skin with rockets.  And he was a businessman who now looks like he’s from Dragon Ball Z.  Before that, I had to rush through an escort mission where I fought a bunch of mobs, and had to do what I never did before in this game, follow someone else’s pace.

I played this game while trying to be as stealth and OCD as possible, every nook had to be explored, and this game that was considered to only be 10-12 hours long, had to be 40 hours.  

I planned every route to every Big Daddy, even though I had an untouched stockpile, and a barrel full of Adam by the end of it all, and I never felt short past the first level.  I loved trying to take the best pictures of every foe, so that they go down all the easier, because taking a picture of something makes you stronger against them.  The level design was very solid overall, and somehow, every area felt different while I was playing, even though I would be unable to tell by the screenshots.  Although, the maps could have used a multiple floor system, rather than having them all on one single screen, with a bunch of arrows connecting locations.  The music ranges from well done atmospheric to catchy 1950’s jingles, which I am a complete sucker for.

Despite my gripes with the difficulty and story, the later of which really disappointed me due to the build up around it, mostly due to Jack not even feeling like a character.  Take away the Vita Chambers, like the DLC allowed, which I didn’t know about until the third to last level.  The moral choice, especially when taking less Adam grants you even more thanks to presents sent as a reward.  And let me carry more than $500, because you can burn through that in a heavy shopping trip, especially when I have four digits to use.  And treat the Plasmids as an afterthought, and then you have an amazing game.  But I don’t believe in rating a game on what it could be.  Even if there is one good way to play it, the designers failed by adding the option to play the game with no consequence for your actions until the final boss.  

Bioshock has a great potential and world, but these easily ignorable flaws are still very large.  I loved certain moments, like the Casino chapter and Sanders character that came with it.  The level where your health lowers after you spent the whole game upgrading it.  But when Jack’s Plasmids get messed up, I only noticed when I met a turret, or the game interrupted me to show that I have a different one.  Overall, I cannot give this any more than a 34/40, because the game is too unbalanced with the excess of loot, and game breaking Vita Chambers, and the story pooped itself twice during the game.  If the issues that I had a problem with were fixed, it’d be a 38/40, but this is the highest score that I can justify, even with the free DLC in consideration.

An impressive product, won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws, but is very enjoyable and worth a purchase.

Leave a Reply