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"A man chooses. A slave obeys" ~ Andrew Ryan
What better way to start off a review of a fantastic game with a fantastic quote from the game's mysterious visionary, Andrew Ryan. His vision of a utopia free of the shackles of modern (1950s modern, mind you) society delved him fathoms below the ocean's surface and into the world of Rapture: Underwater paradise for those looking to shed the oppressive forces of communism, Washington bureaucracy, the church, and commonality. He designed a world away from the prying eyes of John Q. Public and gave it a chance to flourish. Too bad he didn't factor in a few misguided crackpots wanting to crack the glass that sheltered his paradise.
So begins Bioshock. This game is a fantastic first-person shooter that looks at story and character development just as much as it looks at physics and framerate. Stunning to look at, fun to play, easy to get sucked into, Bioshock took the FPS genre and made it entertaining and emotional. With splicers jumping around you with their bunny-eared masks and jazzy 50's style suspenders, the world that Rapture dwells in is extremely well-crafted. Sure, the fantastical entered into the picture with ADAM and gene splicing but that's what the 1950s were all about! We're talking about a generation of people who just finished off Japan by splitting the atom and using it to level Hiroshima and Nagasaki! The 50's totally changed how the world looked upon itself and its enemies. Soviets started to stockpile warheads, Cuba worried the US only two decades later, technology was jumping by leaps and bounds. Bioshock takes an era while taking you away from it, as well. You're both in the 1950s and out of it. It's quite the feat for 2K Games, one that hasn't been rivalled until Fallout 3.
I won't reveal much about the story for those still uneducated on Bioshock's ways but the above paragraph is a glowing image of what the game has to offer. It's easy to lose yourself in the audio diaries and images, let alone the enthralling characters and the fantastic storyline.
Story: 10 out of 10
The look of the game is something else! You're dealing with an underwater world in the grips of collapse, so expect lots of leaking pipes and cracked glass. Sure, there's your demolished areas but it is what's still there that really gets me. We're talking a full-on city with gardens and graveyards, bars and brothels. The neon lights glow bright beneath the sea.
The enemies are fluid and frightening. If you ever get close to their mangled faces, 2K rendered them extremely well! The Big Daddies are what really take the cake for me and this game. You're dealing with a deep-sea diver's suit with a drillbit for an arm and speed unlike any Splicer. Plus, the retched screams from the LIttle Sisters circling their feets don't exactly help! Rapture is a fantastic place to look at. Too bad the enemies tend to make sightseeing impossible!
Graphics: 9 out of 10
Mixing muscle with magical powers is not always an easy mix. We're talking about a very grounded plot with its head in the science fiction world. That's essentially the plot for a lot of famous sci-fi outtings but how many more have tried and failed? Bioshock definitely does not fail! They excel so far ahead of the game that they never need to think twice or give you much backstory regarding Plasmids and their development. Sure, you find out the basics from characters but there's no real explanation. It's all just blended together so seemlessly that you don't notice. The gameplay follows suit: switching between lighting someone on fire and then beating them to death with your wrench is commonplace. You have to plan your attacks for the bigger ones and switch your Plasmids accordingly but it's a pleasure to do so. The game pleases those classic RPG gamers: the gamer who likes to only play as the fighter or the mage (use your guns or your Plasmids,) as well as catering to those who like to mix n' match.
The difficulty is similar to any game: it's harder in the beginning. You'll struggle when Atlas tells you to nail your first Big Daddy to the wall but once you get your feet under you, you are golden. The Brass Balls achievement is a fun little addition for that extra 100G making you play the game without dying and using a Revitalizing Chamber. Saving is a cinch so abuse it often!
Gameplay: 10 out of 10
The sound of the game is amazing. You're under the sea so the ocean noises fill the void left after large battles take place. Voice acting, long touted as a breaking point for many games, is excellent and eerie all at the same time. The shrieks and cries of a Splicer frying beneath your manmade flames, running for the nearest pool of water, is quite the sound. Big Daddies sound like they should, lumbering around the world of Rapture with their clunky boots and inhuman groans. Little Sisters have an echoed effect to their voice, which is appropriate considering what they are. The voice actors are excellently cast, as well.
The music is an area I want to touch on. For a game that doesn't have a lot of original score to play with (the downloaded score has 13 songs each no more than 2 minutes) it hits on the perfect emotional notes. The strings play a huge role in really getting the emotion across. If you have a chance, download it and listen to Empty Houses and you'll understand.
Sound: 10 out of 10
The achievements are spread out over several levels: info gathering, weapon upgrading, difficulty completion, you name it. The replay value is definitely there, unless you are superhuman and nail everything in one go. Aside from that, the lack of multiplayer hinders it's viability after the single player campaign is done, but I'm completely fine with that.
Replay Value: 8 out of 10
Overall, if you haven't picked up this game, do it now. The game has changed a lot of minds about FPS. I personally find this game to be brilliant and would recommend it to everyone on TA. Just watch out, though. The sequel is said to be a bit disappointing...
Overall: 9 out of 10!