Original PostBioshock: The Collection Review
Is a gamer not entitled to a triple-A experience when he pays for a triple-A game? No, says the man at EA. The experience is multiplayer only! No, says the man at Activision. The experience is nothing more than a poor man’s Halo with meaningless lore dumped upon it. No, says the man at Ubisoft. The experience must be patched in after you’ve parted with your cash. Irrational Games rejected those answers. Instead, they chose something different. They chose the impossible. They chose… Bioshock: The Collection. A collection where the fan can meander through memory lane. Where the newbie can discover some of the finest games of the last decade. Where anyone can be rewarded by a HD re-release that pulls no punches and throws in as much additional content as it can in order to earn your money (since the Bioshock series doesn’t have to work too hard anymore to earn gaming’s respect). And with this review, Bioshock: The Collection can become a part of your collection as well.
Forgive this parasite for his plagiarism, but I simply had to pay homage to the superb Andrew Ryan of Bioshock. Returning to the lighthouse and descending into the art-deco, demented and dangerous world of Rapture is as chilling now as it was when Bioshock first invited us to party like it’s 1959 back on Xbox 360. What more can one write about this game? Innumerable accolades, a phenomenal script infused with intensity and literary prowess that to this day has yet to be surpassed, and a cast of characters that pulled and played with the player’s ethics and morals in order to deliver some of the most memorable dialogue ever committed to video games. Bioshock: The Collection’s first act is – and always will be – simply magical and I cannot praise this game enough. Yes, I am a fan. I love Bioshock. Think of me what you will – whether you think my insights and observations are marred by my love of the game, or if you understand that the finer qualities of this title has earned my respect – I leave the distinction to you.
Be that as it may, the brilliance of Bioshock can be relived, with a supplementary facelift that affords the game a sleeker, shinier visage. The enhanced visuals, along with minor technical improvements such as improved physics, deliver a truly invigorating Bioshock experience. Gameplay hasn’t changed at all, with a steady mix of exploration and firefights intermingled with one another, delivering a real gauntlet of genres’: crafting elements, FPS gameplay, RPG-style progression… and maybe a slight dab of horror here and there all unite under the masterful craftsmanship of the sorely missed Irrational Games. What’s more, with all the post-game DLC, an interactive underwater museum full of fascinating concept art and fully-rendered 3D models never-before seen in Bioshock, and a director’s commentary, this truly is a re-release worth re-releasing. Although the director’s commentary has to be found via gameplay through the discovery of ‘golden reels’ hidden in levels, this isn’t such a bad thing. As if the incentive to trawl the halls of Rapture wasn’t immense already, the added bonus of sleuthing your way through the game in order to find ever more collectables will give returning players something new to aim for, rather than simply reliving the glory that is Bioshock. Spaces look prettier, lighting looks light-ier and everything sounds better. As far as updates go, this is a job well done, that was already done superbly well several years ago.
Now, to all parents’ out there. You know where I’m coming from when I talk about the sequel to one of the finest video games ever made, insofar that when I say Bioshock 2 is the child no one ever says they love more, you get what I mean. Sure, all your children are precious, magical, insert adjectives ad nauseam: but when it comes down to it, all children are precious… but some are more precious than others. It might be fairer to say that Bioshock 2 is the Majora’s Mask to Bioshock’s Ocarina of Time. Bioshock 2 is still the graphically superior game, and even with it and its predecessor receiving an HD upgrade, Bioshock 2 is not only lovely to look at but markedly so in comparison to its elder sibling. The two are as diametrically opposed as hemispheres of the brain, with Bioshock focusing on the aesthetic veneration of Rapture, the literary storyline and the grandeur of the whole experience. Bioshock 2, however, is technically a more rewarding experience.
Dynamic use of firearms and plasmids, better physics, and spaces that feel more thought-out when it comes to tackling hordes of enemies or a lone Big Sister. The additional content is quite meagre, but do keep in mind that the early Bioshock games were ‘proper’ games. Remember those? The games that you paid for and got a self-contained, rewarding, fully-realised experience that wasn’t drip-fed to you in monthly instalments for the small price of a down payment of a monthly fee of an expansion pass? Yeah, the extras in Bioshock 2 aren’t much to write to Bungie about, but the single player is a compelling, narrative-focused experience that will have you gripped faster than you can say ‘Underwater Taken movie’. Speaking of shooting stuff, the online multiplayer of Bioshock 2 happily lost its invitation to the Collection in the pneumo line. This bolted-on feature to the original game has thankfully bolted off, and I for one am none the worse for it. Fans of the additional mode may be saddened by its absence, but if a bandwagon-chasing, watered-down version of Bioshock is enough to keep you away from this collection, then more the fool you. The depth of strategy that dual-wielding plasmids and weapons allowed for is still as rewarding as it ever was, and if you can get through the painful pushing-the-circle-into-the-square plot that desperately tries to convince you Sophia Lamb is important, then you’ll have a gay old time returning to Rapture once more.
Again I must reference the Majora’s Mask/Ocarina of Time divide here because I feel this relationship is analogous with that of the Bioshock twins. One (or rather 2) is technically superior, but the other is… well… the first. The one that ‘made it new’. The initial wave that completely submerged you completely encompassed you with its awe and power and brilliance. Also, the shoe-horning of Sophia Lamb into the socio-political landscape of Rapture is as painful to ingest as it was when Bioshock 2 was initially released. What a difference a Ken Levine makes, am I right? Yes. Yes I am. Why? Because Bioshock Infinite, that’s why. If Bioshock is the OoT of this franchise (sorry to beat this dead Epona, but this analogy still has legs, dammit) then Bioshock: Infinite may very well be the Skyward Sword. ‘Bring us the girl; wipe away the debt’. If ever there was a more powerful and mysterious ultimatum uttered, I should love to hear it. Until then, this single line from the riveting script of Bioshock: Infinite remains as compelling, perplexing and dramatic as the entire game itself. If you haven’t played the third and final sequence in 2K’s dystopian epic, then now is the time.
Set against a world where American expansionism and patriotism have birthed a world’s fare in the clouds that celebrates the ideal of the United States, Bioshock: Infinite launches players into the sky-city of Columbia: a literal heaven for those seeking a new start and a clean break from the war-torn world order below. Taking on the role of the heroic and mysterious Pinkerton-turned-private eye Booker DeWitt, you must embrace the cloud-continent of Columbia and do battle with its citizens if you are to ever rescue Elizabeth and wipe away your debt. Booker’s modus operandii doesn’t differ from Jack’s, or Subject Delta’s when it comes to combat. ‘Vigors’ imbue Booker with supernatural abilities that, when combined with his trusty marksman skills, give him all manner of options when deciding upon how best to greet the fanatical followers of Columbia’s grand patriarch-come-antagonist, Zackary Hale-Comstock.
While lacking the nuance and depth that prior installments had regarding story and narrative, the metaphysical implications of Infinite’s story and the sheer shattering of the fourth wall result in a brilliantly told, yet almost impossible to comprehend, narrative. Additionally, the gameplay changes introduced in Infinite try their best to shake up the Bioshock formula of complementing plasmids with gunplay. These changes, however obscure, are appreciated, and the use of Elizabeth’s powers and a hefty arsenal of weapons keeps things interesting as you clash in the clouds with Columbia’s various militia and monstrosities. Moreover, the inclusion of the “Burial at Sea” two-part expansion is well worth the price of the entire collection alone. If you haven’t played this DLC… then just go and play it. I would attempt to construct some elaborate rhetoric urging you – nay, compelling you – to take audience with this DLC until, as if from a plume of opiates, you emerge with a renewed richness of soul and a countenance coloured with every shade of happiness: but what is the point? Infinite’s parting gift – the final installment of it’s long-awaited DLC – is a joy to play. Full of fresh mechanics, never-before seen locales, and enough fan service to make Jessica Nigri look like a cub scout, Bioshock: infinite rounds out this collection in superb fashion.Conclusion
Bioshock: The Collection is simply greater than the sum of its parts. The entire project is a latter-day Half Life, in the sense that the themes, style and character of the Bioshock universe have transcended the games themselves and have since gone on to influence gaming for years after their initial releases. If you are a lover of games or even a casual culture vulture, you must explore Rapture and Columbia for yourself. Admittedly, the collection doesn’t benefit a great deal from the generational leap forward, but that in and of itself is another accolade unto the series. These games have aged superbly well, and are still immensely playable – even by today’s ‘standards’. Now… would you kindly pop to the shop and pick up a copy of Bioshock: The Collection?