WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS
The very meaning of the word (well, one of the meanings) is the, and I quote, "carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence." I, a humble gamer, could not find anything more blatantly truthful about the word when regarding the masterpiece BioShock.
Rapture. It is another place--perhaps even another world entirely--where many of the world's brightest and most ingenius minds have been gathered, blissfully to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, where they may carry out the means to achieve their wildest ideas for the betterment of Science, Industry, or Art. Rapture. It is a place where the artist would not fear the censor, and a place where the scientist would not be held back by "petty morality." It is, in short, a utopian society that would house "No Gods, no kings, only men". This was the vision of one Charles Foster Kane
Andrew Ryan was an industrial billionaire. Amassing ludicrous fortunes but growing ever so weary of the way government had decided to force him to "cough some over" (for various and unsatisfactory reasons), he decided that he--Andrew Ryan--did not need government. He was very much capable of governing himself, and the very idea of government seemed preposterous when considering all that he could accomplish had he not the Government to tie him down, keeping a firm leash.
It was this balking of authority, this Billionaire Rebellion that led him to devise the means (and the funding) to build a city under the ocean. A city that would be safe from the prying eyes and the sticky fingers of Government. A place where the industrialist, the scientist, and the artist could come together free of all shackles to truly push the evolution (and betterment) of mankind into overdrive.
However... something happened along the way. Science was, perhaps, pushed too far. Other capitalists who were just as savvy as one King Ryan, were also trying to get more than their fair share of the pie. Free Market was at the heart of Ryan's Utopian ocean city, and free market was what the public would get. Events unfolded, poor choices were made, even war itself reared its ugly head amongst the citizens of Rapture.
All of this took place between 1946--the year Rapture was realized as a living, breathing city--and the year 1960... where you, the player, drop marvelously into the now fractured, schizophrenic world of Rapture.
I will not spoil any more of the plot, but needless to say, it is the focal point of the BioShock experience. There is no multiplayer to be found here, and it's just as well. No amount of Capture the Flag or Team Deathmatch could possibly come close to competing with the claustrophobic and sometimes murky morality of Rapture itself. Sure it'd be nice to be Big Daddies and have to guard Little Sisters (the flags), but eh, you're not missing much of anything at all. Why? An experience like this--an experience like BioShock--can more than quite capably stand on its own two feet. There is no need for multiplayer, and, to be honest, you won't miss it.
"Ah, but this mysterious, amazing plot you keep telling us about!" I hear you say. And I wish I could tell you more, but to do so would mean ruining the experience for you, the potential buyer. In all honesty, this type of narrative constitutes as something far more than cinematic. It's much more than that. It's much more than a "game". It's so much more than these because it offers you something that videogames rarely, if ever, do.
They give you morality. You are not some lowly elf child who MUST find a way to slay the evil wizard to save a forgotten land. You are not a fresh adventurer out of the academy and looking to do good or evil. What you are, in the world of Rapture, is a man trapped in wonderland and looking for a way out... by any means necessary.
And that, I think, is what makes the morality and ethical nature of this experience so enthralling. It's the very idea that, even under the ocean, and even in the face of incomprehensible dangers and psychotic,formidable enemies... you still have a choice. You can still choose just what kind of man you become, or in fact already are. And it's because of this morality play (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), that really shows you just what kind of stuff you're made of.
And believe me, you will find out things about yourself while playing this experience that you may not have thought was there. You may find yourself in one moment, doing the bidding of a psychotic, maniacal artist in order to advance to your one true goal, and at another, saving a little girl from the chains and shackles that forced her into becoming something less than human. This experience, to put it bluntly, ****s with your head.
And it is perhaps for this reason alone, that the choices and the consequences themselves resonate so well with the player. Perhaps it's because that, in the face of amazing obstacles and having been downtrodden and betrayed by so many before, we can still realize that not everyone is an enemy, and not everyone is out to hurt you. Perhaps, the most powerfully emotional experience is seeing a frightened little girl, her protector fallen before you, crying with the heart-wrenching, beautifully captured piece of dialogue; "Why won't you get up Mr. B?"
As corny as it may sound in text, I can guarantee that these words resonate deeply within the player. These powerful moments, and others like it, are at the very heart of this game. The Big Daddies and Little Sisters don't go out of their way to harm you. You're not even their primary concern, let alone on their radar. You're just another spliced up wanderer looking for some ADAM--and while that does not make you friend or foe, it does make you wary of whether or not to cross these abominations.
And that's another thing that's so astounding and poignant about this experience. No one in Rapture is wholly good, or wholly evil. There is nothing but a stark dark gray on one side, and a murky, somewhat lighter shade on the other. No one is good, and no one is evil.
It is in my experience, that the best laid plots for anything--be it literature, film, or game--are told from a variety of perspectives. It gives you reasons to hate, and it gives you reasons to sympathize. It might even have you rooting for the proclaimed "bad guy" of the group, just because you might identify with them more so than anybody else. The fact remains that in BioShock, no one's hands are clean... and all of them, have just cause for doing what they do.
With the story and powerfully emotional baggage that comes along with the experience of BioShock, the core gameplay elements are really not that different to any typical first person shooter. You have weapons that resemble the era (shotguns, tommy guns, pistols and the like), and some that look apart of the era, but are actually quite sci-fi in nature (a heat-seeking RPG coming out of a hand-held grenade launcher?). For some reason, all of this comes together beautifully to form a well honed, well crafted weapons cache that, while in later levels will leave you feeling overwhelmed, will always seem like you have just the right weapon for the job ahead. As unremarkable as the weapons are, I can assure you that the genetic enhancements more than make up for them.
Plasmids. ADAM. EVE. All of this combined presents you with an incredible array of genetic enhancements that, when enabled, will give you fascinating super human--and perhaps almost god-like--powers. By re-writing the genetic code of your body, you can suddenly become a God of Thunder, raining down lightning onto Splicers from your finger tips. And with the flick of a genetic switch, burn them alive with intense fire. Perhaps you're feeling a little more frosty? Why not pack a frozen punch and turn any enemies into an icicle where they can "cool it" while you hammer away at them, hoping to shatter them into thousands of itty bitty pieces?
Get the picture?
The plasmids are ****ing cool. There's just no other way to explain it; and using the plasmids are much more satisfying than going toe-to-toe with a souped up shotgun (while that it is definitely nice as well). There are so many ingenious things about this game, and about how the game is played, that it's really hard for this writer to try and sum it all up in just one review. I think, personally, that while all of this is in good fun, it's also little more than to distract the player from the main purpose of this experience; to learn about Rapture, to learn about yourself, and to learn about the consequences of choice.. be it from personal, or otherwise.
When I set out to write this review, I tried to think of anything that could possibly work. I tried inventing a theme for it, a linear expression of thoughts that I thought would best sum up my experience... but I can't. Instead, this is nothing more than erratic ramblings about a "video game" that somehow transcended the boundaries, and became something much, much more than that. This game is so much more than the sum of its parts, and it is so much more than just a "story". This game is a work of art. True art. And nothing, not Roger Ebert, and not the naysaying legislaters who would ban it for giving you the choice to harvest or rescue Little Sisters, can take away from that.
In conclusion, my hat is off to Irrational (whom I refuse to call 2k Boston). They astounded me by providing an experience that is not often felt, and not often seen in this medium, or any other.
Well ****ing done.GRAPHICS:
A+BioShock employs an art-deco style that is perfectly retro and yet somehow futuristic at the same time. Maybe it's the fact that's all under the ocean? It doesn't matter. Everything from the lighting effects to the textures, to the art style and presentation, this game sucks you in visually right from the very beginning; grabbing you by the short and curlies and refusing to let go until the final, climactic ending cinematic. This game deserves a solid A+ for graphics.AUDIO:
A+Everything from the creaks and groans from the city of Rapture, to the wails and cries of Big Daddies, to the psychotic and often schizophrenic mumblings of Splicers, to the incredible voice acting of the various characters... everything about the audio screams professional. The score itself is perfect as well. Providing strings that seem to cry during moments of sorrow, and uplifting, powerful sections during moments of triumph. The Audio in BioShock cannot be beat anywhere.GAMEPLAY:
A-While it is definitely standard in the term of First Person Shooter, it does however employ enough relatively-new tricks and some new, fresh, original ideas to overlook some of the gameplay hitches. Most notably (and this is nitpicking), is the hacking of objects. While this is fun at first, slowly it becomes tedious over time, and you're more often tempted to use a hack tool or buyout the objects completely to jump right back into the immersive world of Rapture. Thankfully, Hacking is not critical.REPLAY VALUE:
B+The Replay Value lies solely in whether or not you want to try and get the "good" or the "bad" ending. I myself have not tempted the "bad" ending, because I still cannot bring myself to harvest a Little Sister. However, if you possess the moral ambiguity necessary to do such a nefarious act (yes, it's ****ing nefarious even in a video game), then you would perhaps be hard pressed for a reason NOT to play through it once more. It's truly a riveting experience. And that's what it is, my friends, an experience.