I’m going to pick my video game reviews back up with my review of the Playstation 3 version of Bioshock. Note – for the purposes of this review I won’t be playing the DLC challenge levels.
Developer: 2K Marin (formerly Irrational Games)
Publisher: 2K Games
System: PlayStation 3
Release Date: October 21, 2008
Genre: First Person Shooter
You play an unnamed protagonist whose plane crash lands in the middle of the Pacific, near a mysterious lighthouse, which contains a bathysphere that takes him down to the underwater city of Rapture. Something horrible has happened in Rapture, and it’s up to the player to figure out how get out of there alive.
I might as well get this out of the way first – the game’s twist. Now, it didn’t totally blow my mind, as I had been spoiled on it by the internet, as after the game came out and everyone started talking about it, I didn’t stick my head in the sand. That said, I won’t go into too much detail on it, at least not without spoiler tags. I will say that the twist was extremely well executed, and that, as with all good twists, there are a lot of clues in the game to let the player know that something isn’t quite right, and possibly even what it is, before the official reveal – if you know where to look.
Also, the narrative of the fall of Rapture is very well executed. As I mentioned in my review of Gungrave, every good fall in fiction is one prefaced by pride. Well, in the earlier review I was speaking about Gangster fiction, but that can really be expanded here to fiction in general. Ryan founded Rapture based on personal pride, as well as the idea that objectivism – or the popular definition of objectivism – alone could run a society. However, as things started going awry for Ryan, he started slipping from his ideals, and as that happened, control of Rapture slipped more and more away.
While the Vita Chambers were a controversial game mechanic, I liked them a lot. Conventional checkpoint systems can occasionally build a sense in the player that he’s beating his head against a wall. If you run into a certain roadblock in the game, if you die any progress is wasted, even if you made it further before dying then in your last attempt – unless you reach the next checkpoint, none of that progress matters. With the Vita Chamber system, everything the player does advances his or her progress through the game. While this could be argued that this saps difficulty from the game by allowing you to basically not vary your tactics, I would say that skilled players would still be able to get through the game with a minimal amount of deaths, and faster than a player who was doing poorly.
The environments in the game can be a little too cluttered. In several fights, both against groups of enemies as well as Big Daddies, I found myself getting stuck on chunks of the environment, and not being able to free myself before I was killed. Thanks to the VitaChamber system, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem – except for some of the fights against Big Daddies with Little Sisters. You see, with the Big Daddies, they’ll ordinarily take Little Sisters on their rounds, and then once they’re done, they’ll take them back to special ducts which the Little Sisters use to go back to a central… Adam repository or something. Anyway, the after the Big Daddies have killed you dead, they continue on their rounds, which means if you don’t kill them fast enough, then you have to stalk another Big Daddy until they get another Little Sister for you to rescue or harvest.
Also, the morality mechanic is very much a binary choice – Harvest or Save. Since there is actually no in-game advantage for harvesting, as you receive gifts for every few Little Sisters rescued that more than makes up for any Adam you didn’t get, I can’t think of a good reason to Harvest.
The Chemical thrower weapon is unfortunately pathetic. I literally used a full supply of Electric Gel on one standard splicer, without electricity immunity, and it didn’t kill him.
Finally, even with a not unsubstantial install on the PS3 (get a sandwich and a cup of coffee), I still encountered some significant loading times between areas.
This game was rated Mature by the ESRB. The game has a lot of profanity, a lot of graphic violence, and some mature themes – and I don’t mean the political stuff.
Originality: The game borrows a fair amount from the System Shock series, and the hacking minigame is taken from from the game Pipe Dream. However, the plot and environment is fairly original, in my opinion. 4 out of 6.
Story: The story is executed extremely well. Those coming in cold have plenty of little clues to come back for. Additionally, the collectables are definitely worth hunting down – Little Sisters give you more Adam to unlock special abilities. There are additional concealed Plasmids which are nice to find. Best of all are the audio diaries, which you can take with you and listen to as you play, so you can get the side story at your own pace, and the diaries are written and performed well enough to make it worth while hunting them all down. Though there are some that are worth listening to where they are found, just related environmental stuff. 6 out of 6.
Graphics: The graphics are alright, though they were at a noticeably lower screen resolution for other PS3 games. My TV supports 1080i, and most games can run at that. This game downscales to 720p. THere are fe wother little things as well that I had problems with, but that was the main issue that caught my attention. 4 out of 6.
Sound: The voice acting and music is exceptional, and I particularly like how the licensed music is used in an amusing and ironic fashion. The gun effects felt a little week though. 4 out of 6.
Playability: Controls are solid, though I did find myself getting hung up on lots of little things in the environment (one particularly obnoxious example being some stacked books on the floor), and often times this lead to my getting killed. Also, the game forces you down certain Plasmid paths, with alarms and cameras just not being hackable without the right plasmids equipped towards the middle of the game. 4 out of 6.
Immersion: The UI is fairly minimalist, with just your weapon, ammo capacity, health and Eve levels, as well as how many Eve and First Aid kits you have in your inventory on screen. Also, if you get lost, you do get a very helpful on-screen arrow to point you to your next objective, which I found extremely helpful. 5 out of 6.
Overall: This is an extremely impressive game. I would say that those game critics who said that the game advances the way games tell stories with their narrative and the themes addressed in the game are accurate. If you’re able to play First Person Shooters, in the sense that the games don’t make you motion sick, then I’d recommend giving this game a try, at least once and maybe twice if you’re coming in cold, so you can catch the clues that you might have missed earlier. 6 out of 6.
In Total, Bioshock gets 33 out of 42.