Product Type: Take 2 Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... one of the best stories in gaming, it is so deep and every single character you meet (excluding the splicers) have a huge back story an... more
In Deep Water
Bioshock (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Puggers
Bioshock (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Wonderfully atmospheric, perfectly conceived and designed, enormously entertaining.
Disadvantages: Don't play it in the dark ...
Set in a 1960 that mercifully never came to pass, the game opens as your character's plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. A survivor amid the flaming wreckage, he is able to swim over to a building standing in the water. Inside, a great statue and a scarlet banner; "No Gods or Kings. Only Man."
In the basement of the building, a bathysphere - a descending pod - seems to offer the only alternative way out to swimming for it. With thousands of miles of ocean in all directions, the only way is down - into the underwater city of Rapture.
Originally conceived as a utopian paradise for the intellectual great and good by mogul Andrew Ryan, Rapture is now a broken shell of its former self. As you enter the city, you are contacted over a radio by someone who appears to be one of the few trustworthy, untainted humans left alive. Though this "Atlas" certainly has his own agenda, you have little choice but to follow his directions if you hope to work out what happened to Rapture and live to tell the tale.
Bioshock throws you into a world of absorbing, intricate plotting - and what's more, reflects this depth and quality of storytelling in the gameplay. Rapture is a world riven by genetic warfare - the currency of the city, as much as dollars, is ADAM; stem cells harvested from deep-water sea slugs by Ryan's brilliant scientists. With the ability to not only regenerate damaged tissue but also to alter the human genome in a variety of weird and wonderful ways, it quickly becomes clear that ADAM was at the heart of much of Rapture's downfall.
For the player, this means that you have two considerable arsenals at your disposal. Firstly, one can lay hands on a variety of more conventional weapons, from the basic - a trusty wrench and pistol - to the more outlandish, including a napalm-based flamethrower.
Additionally, though, when firepower isn't quite enough, you can freeze, electrocute and chargrill your opponent, or if you're not bothered about the personal touch, hypnotise another enemy into doing your dirty work - and all with a flick of your left hand.
These plasmids - syringes with ominously fluorescent contents - are acquired and upgraded throughout the game, and are enormously fun to use. They run down your supply of EVE - much like a magic meter - and as such need deploying sparingly, but they're wonderfully realised visually and add another aspect to conventional all-guns-blazing combat.
Bioshock moves between story and scares, action and exploration seamlessly, but there's a further aspect to the game in the form of the moral dilemmas it poses. The Big Daddies - the iconic figures emblazoned upon all the game's promotional material - are not simply intimidating enemies. Indeed, they won't attack you unless you happen to run up and slap them in the face first. Now, who'd choose to do that to an eight-foot behemoth encased in an armoured diving suit with a drill half the size of your body for an arm? Well, you will. You will because these friendly faces are the guardians of the Little Sisters, creepy little girls who harvest ADAM from dead bodies and store it inside their own. You need the ADAM to grant yourself the powers you'll need to persuade undesirables not to mess with you, and to do this, you'll have to remove the Big Daddies from the picture. Oh, and they're deceptively fast. Enjoy firing off your most powerful weapon in their direction before running off wailing, "Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap ... !" while an angry metal-clad hulk chases you round the room.
Anyhoo, the twist is thus; you can be a thoroughly disagreeable individual and execute the creepy kid, thus gaining hefty piles of ADAM and a few guilt pangs, or you can be an all-round nice chap and extract a smaller amount of the good stuff, leaving child alive, grateful and much less creepy. What starts off seeming like an easy choice (doesn't it?) quickly becomes a tougher proposition when you realise just how much damage you'd be able to deal from that tanked-up left arm if you could only overcome your conscience.
In managing to make this a pretty difficult choice, Bioshock succeeds in one fell swoop in nailing the whole "good choice/bad choice" moral maze that the Fable games trumpeted about, but never quite pulled off.
There are many ways of saying it, but they all boil down to much the same message. I could talk about how perfect the controls are, something that first-person games can struggle to make intuitive; I could underline just how stunning the visuals are, and how enchantingly-rendered the underwater world of Rapture is (water's never looked so good). I could rave about the pace, the voice-acting, the depth of the plot (soon to be a film) ... but there are only so many synonyms for "great".
Bioshock is a quite phenomenal game. It's the game that every other game that has you picking up a gun wants to be. It's original, it's beautiful in its art-deco dystopian shades of destruction, it's addictive, enthralling and very, very entertaining. And as I said earlier, this isn't normally my kind of game. I can't really conceive of how much this must appeal if you actually like first-person shooters. There are a few games that make it worth buying the console simply to have the pleasure of playing - Super Mario World was one, Ocarina of Time was another, and this is oh-so-very-much one too.
Summary: Somewhere, beneath the sea lurks a world of riches, ruins and genetic warfare.