Bioshock is one of those classics that should be in every gamer’s catalog. It is, for the uninitiated, a good first person shooter with a great story and amazing atmosphere. In this broken world, 2K Games has been able to showcase the soaring brilliance and haunting pitfalls of a civilization detached from the shackles of society.
Bioshock centers around Rapture, an underwater city that Andrew Ryan built in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Started in the late 1940’s, Rapture was finally completed in the early 1950’s. Before long, scientists in Rapture figured out how to splice genes and augment abilities with the use of plasmids.
Plasmids bring an interesting gameplay dynamic to the combat system of Bioshock. They grant the ability to shoot different types of elements, like electricity or fire, from your fingertips. One second you can freeze an enemy, the next shatter them with a Tommy Gun. There are many different combinations in the game.
The story begins as the main character, Jack, survives an airplane crash in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily Jack is at a beacon, one of the entry points to Rapture. The only way for Jack to survive is to take the automated ferry to the ocean floor. As soon as players arrive in Rapture they realize something terrible has happened. They can see the grandeur of what Andrew Ryan built and glimpses into how it all fell apart.
A first person shooter, with a twist.
One of the things that makes Bioshock stand out from the standard first person shooter is the use of plasmids. Plasmids really give variation to how a player goes through levels and faces enemies. If an enemy is standing in a pool of water, electrocute them. If you set an enemy on fire, they run for the water to cool off. If you want to hack that turret, freeze it first to slow down the fluid and make it easier to hack.
The sheer variety of ways to dispatch enemies varies up the gameplay. Focusing on upgrading different abilities really extends the replay value of this single player experience. In one pass a player could focus on electricity and freezing enemies with ice, or they could max out their fire and bee plasmids. Using plasmids, then hitting or shooting enemies really gives the gameplay a one-two punch that many shooters lack.
To be a savior in a fallen world or a monster that terrorizes it.
One of the great things Bioshock does is present the player with moral choices that actually matter. You can either be the hero Rapture so desperately needs, or a monster that terrorizes those who are left.
The biggest choice in the game is presented to players after they defeat a Big Daddy. Big Daddy’s are tough opponents, almost like mini-bosses, in heavily armored atmospheric diving suits. They protect the Little Sisters who are girls that have been transformed into monsters roaming the halls of Rapture to obtain the ADAM in corpses. ADAM is used to upgrade your health, power, and abilities. After a player defeats a Big Daddy there is a choice to Rescue or Harvest a Little Sister and take her ADAM.
That’s where the moral choice of the game lies, do you rescue the little sisters for less ADAM, or do you harvest them and get the full amount of ADAM? It‘s harder to play through the game with less ADAM, but the player can feel good knowing that they’re making a positive difference in the world by saving the Little Sisters. Further along in the game these choices determine your communication with major characters.
There are other parts in the game that present you with choices that make a difference. If you take out a major character after completing his level you get an immediate reward, but if you let him live, you can get access to his apartment later in the game which brings a different kind of reward. You can even unlock different endings to the game which stem from your earlier choices to rescue the children or harvest them.
Single Player only and that’s okay
The biggest strength in Bioshock is its storytelling within the fully realized world. The atmosphere in this game is amazing. From the first time player steps out of the pod they’re thrust into a world of depravity and gruesome horror that could only come from a society cut off from civilization.
The first experience of Rapture is a great example of the detail level in the game. Moving through the Transit Hub players can see transit signs that display the cancellation of all travel. Deserted picket signs from people who demanded to leave are scattered throughout the hub. The empty halls cast a hollow resonance. All of these little details tell an intricate story and inspire more exploration of the world.
The game does a great job of varying up the levels so it doesn’t feel like you’re re-treading the same place twice. The levels have different themes which means each level tells a unique story, and by playing the game through a second time you catch great little bits of story and details that were missed the first time around.
There are many reasons to try out Bioshock and step into the world of Rapture. From the unique combat mechanics that plasmids offer to exploring the meticulously detailed world to hearing the cries of help from a little sister before you rescue her, all of these things add up to a unique, impactful, gaming experience.
Even if you don’t have a previous generation console you can still play this game when the backwards compatibility feature goes live on the Xbox One later this year. Then swing by your local gaming store and pick up a used copy for cheap. Or if you have an Xbox One controller and Windows 10, pick up a copy in the Steam Store. Many times Bioshock can be found for up to 80% off in Steam through weekend or flash sales.
There are many ways to play it, but the results are all the same. Bioshock is well deserving of a second look.