Shockingly original shooter
September 2nd, 2007
Bioshock is easily the best action game of the year.
Supposedly, we're supposed to wait until November to get blockbuster games.
Bioshock for the Xbox 360 (and PC) has jumped the gun. Oh, what a late summer/fall game season we're having. Magnificent sports games like Madden and Tiger Woods PGA Tour (and hopefully FIFA and NHL to come), Halo 3 is coming in less than a month, but the daddy of them all just might be the excellent Bioshock.
This is a deep game, and not because it's set underwater. The game tries to make you feel compassion, sympathy, guilt and tweaks your emotions with decisions you must make in gameplay. Is this an interactive story or is it just a game with which to blast away for your own selfish survival?
The game begins with one of the most striking sequences I've encountered. Your plane crashes into the ocean and you set out for a lighthouse on a small island.
Your search takes you down below the island into a one-time utopian civilization that's gone wrong. A madman created the colony of Rapture to get away from the ills of society, but genetic modification either drove people away, or turned them into genetic mutants.
For the most part, the zombie-like freaks that you battle are called splicers.
The key figures in the game, though, are the most intriguing: the little sisters and the big daddies. To survive in Rapture you need "plasmids," both to upgrade attacks and for health. The little sisters carry the stuff, called Adam, that gives you plasmids. And the big daddies ferociously protect the sisters.
So you can go through the game without plasmids, fighting less effectively for your own survival but leaving the little sisters and big daddies in peace, or you can kill them all and make yourself as powerful as possible.
The thing is, if you're in a big battle and the splicers are a big threat, if one of the sisters or daddies are nearby and get hit, they may clear the whole room of splicers for you. So you can use their ferocity strategically.
Is it worth the trouble for Adam?
Well, it can be, because the weaponry in Bioshock is pretty standard until you start adding genetic powers. You have some cliché first-person-shooter (FPS) weapons to begin with -- handgun, machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, wrench. A chemical- and flame-thrower add some spice, but the big attacks will come from using plasmids to throw frost waves, bug attacks, electric and fire bolts.
One of the best things about Bioshock is the Artificial Intelligence. You hear about this all the time in games, but in Bioshock, there really is more of a thinking, calculating enemy that behaves with no discernible patterns.
If you're winning a fight against splicers, they'll decide it's too much and run away -- but will still be there later.
It's the other part of this game, however -- the free range and the randomness of the gameplay -- that's exceptionally compelling. You go where you want to, you're not stuck on a rail, and areas that you've cleared and thought were safe will be crawling with enemies again if you come across them.
The look, mood, style and sounds of the game are fabulous. Sound effects and soundtrack are wonderful (the soundtrack is available for purchase), the graphics are sharp and detailed, and the level design is fresh and original.
Easily the best action game of the year so far, Bioshock is a title that gets the adrenaline pumping. It really does feel like an experience that will stay with you long after you turn off the 360.
Style, story and atmosphere of a fresh game experience.
Maybe adding multiplayer, but this game stands on its own and is not just another FPS clone that has a mission mode, then deathmatch, then capture the flag, then blah, blah blah.