From the moment BioShock began, I knew I was in for something special. Its opening sequence, placing the player in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the fiery debris of a sinking plane, is one of the most dramatic prologues I've ever seen in a videogame. My stomach tightened anxiously as I spied the massive entrance to Rapture off in the distance. This was no full-motion video cut-scene, but a tightly scripted set piece that pulled me into BioShock's world with a sense of frightful urgency. And such is the nature of BioShock—the entirety of the game is experienced from the protagonist's perspective as players are propelled through a tightly scripted narrative that feels like a strange hybrid of science fiction and philosophical exposé. But while BioShock begins with a great deal of promise, ultimately only some of that promise is realized.
Set in an alternate-past 1960, Rapture is a failed capitalist utopia, a monument to individualism and rationality masterminded by eccentric industrialist Andrew Ryan. It was to be a collection of the world's greatest minds, free of the shackles of collectivism that, in Ryan's view, constrained mankind from reaching his true evolutionary destiny. Without question, Rapture is one of the most provocative settings ever created in a videogame. A surreal mixture of art deco architecture and wondrous technology, it creates a harrowing backdrop that inspires both awe and dread. And Rapture not merely a static backdrop; it still breathes—or rather gasps—as it leaks, creaks, and crumbles farther and farther from its idealistic foundation.
When science was allowed to flourish outside the bounds of morality in a free and unregulated market, citizens began making drastic genetic modifications to themselves, and soon the entire city was in disarray as its citizens became more godlike, but at the cost of their sanity. The people of Rapture seem to be going about their business, often quite indifferent to my presence. I often stumbled upon one of Rapture's “Little Sisters” —innocent-looking children cursed with freakish genetic modifications—grazing on a corpse to extract a precious biological resource called “ADAM” while fiercely protected by a powerful, monstrous guardian known as a Big Daddy. The genetically mutated citizens of Rapture—known simply as “Splicers”—need the ADAM to survive, and can often be spotted attempting to kill the Little Sisters and reaping the wrath of the formidable Big Daddies.
To survive in this dangerous dystopia, players are required to “evolve” as well. ADAM is the catalyst for a diverse array of genetic modifications—from supernatural “plasmid” abilities that range from setting things ablaze at will to exerting mind control over Big Daddies, to a host of other abilities such as exceptional physical prowess, an affinity toward hacking and controlling computers, and even extracting health and energy from food. Of course, harvesting ADAM from the Little Sisters means confronting Big Daddies, who are the game's deadliest foes. And while these superhuman abilities certainly become a necessity of survival in Rapture, an impressive arsenal of unique firearms provides ample destructive flair as well. The weapons, most modeled to some degree off real-life weapons from the early 20th century, can be used with a variety of ammunition types that work with varying efficacy against different types of foes. Everything is exceptionally well-balanced here, and it's gratifying to play a game in which so much variety is given to the player. Freeze an enemy with a plasmid and blow them to icy bits with a shotgun, or set an oil slick ablaze and watch any of the Splicers haplessly caught in the ensuing inferno run in panic toward the nearest water source to douse the flames. Or perhaps catch a grenade in mid-air using telekinesis, and toss it right back at its owner.
And yet despite its aesthetic brilliance and the near-overwhelming variety of weaponry, BioShock never left me with a feeling that it was truly an evolution of the genre. Its rote linearity feels dated compared to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl or even 2004's Far Cry. Its core gameplay structure of upgradeable weapons and abilities has been done many times in first-person shooters, not only in the System Shock games but in the Deus Ex series as well. What's more, I found the multiple approaches to gameplay considerably imbalanced; for example, in Deus Ex, a character with an affinity for stealth and computer hacking is significantly less formidable in head-to-head combat. In BioShock, however, there is little to prevent the player from acquiring a broad but disparate array of lethal skills. Frequent conflict is an inevitability, and the myriad of tactics mostly serve to provide visually flashy ways of dispatching similar types of foes. Sure, there are Splicers that run around maniacally, crawl on the ceiling or teleport, but there is little to differentiate them aside from their theatrics; all of them will charge head on eventually or, if they are armed, spray bullets in an erratic fashion. Save for the Big Daddies, the enemies never display a sense of awareness or uniqueness that make them truly satisfying to kill. I would have liked to have seen the Splicers make better use of the dark, confusing environments to create combat with a cat-and-mouse kind of tension, rather than the more brute force approach that is prevalent throughout the game, save for a few well-crafted scripted sequences. The “Vita-Chambers” are also problematic. Their frequent placement renders death more of a momentary inconvenience than anything of real consequence. Their abundance combined with the litany of power-ups scattered about the levels, makes the game a fair bit too easy. The game already provides both checkpoints and quicksaves, so the inclusion of the Vita-Chambers is quite superfluous.
The game also presents a “moral” choice that feels promising early in the game, but ultimately falls into the cliché traps of black and white extremes. When harvesting the Little Sisters for ADAM, players can choose to either extract as much of the biological goop as possible—killing the Little Sisters in the process—or extracting less ADAM and allowing the Little Sisters to live. The goal is to arouse empathy within the player, as the Little Sisters are merely innocent victims of scientific tyranny and can be spared their slave-like fate. This minor choice drastically affects the storyline, but only in one of two tightly scripted ways. There is no middle ground to the endings; players are either a saint or the Devil incarnate. The choice has little effect on the gameplay as well— although allowing the Little Sisters to live harvests less ADAM, the players are “rewarded” later on with a fat amount of the stuff such that it equals out very well. While I don't take issue with the fundamental choice or the gameplay balance, the black and white nature of the morality in the game renders it more of a superfluous ploy than a compelling gameplay concept.
So BioShock is not a revolutionary game, or even a particularly innovative one; by the time I reached the end, I felt as though I had played a rather standard and predictable first-person shooter. BioShock's redemption lies in its methodical pacing, its elegant scripting, and its breathtaking art direction. It's a game that is truly a visual treat not merely because of its polygon counts but because of its superb realization of such a strange and complex universe. Simply exploring and interacting with the city of Rapture is truly engrossing; rarely in a game have I seen such a horrifically beautiful and original setting. The entire game even carries with it a none-too-subtle critique on Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy—Ryan's staunch adherence to individualism and rationality is both the genius of Rapture and its ultimate downfall. But regardless of whether players agree with—or even pay attention to—the game's philosophical underpinnings, there's still a great deal of humanity in the storyline with well-developed characters and clever plot twists. It's unfortunate that much of it is merely wrapping though; the combat, the role-playing, and the morality all could have been much better fleshed out to create a truly inspired work of art, but ultimately they feel incomplete. But while BioShock's gameplay may not be as evolutionary as Andrew Ryan would have made it, its dramatic storytelling and imaginative vision still elevate it above its more primitive peers.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PC 1.0 version of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
Parents should keep the wee ones away from this one. It's graphic and very intense, with themes that are more suited toward adults. The combat is frequent and bloody, and the game carries with it a philosophical nuance that may be too complex and mature for young children.
PC Gamers might want to pass and get the 360 version if possible, or purchase the game online from either Steam or Direct2Drive. There have been many problems with activation issues with the retail version of the game, relating to the SecuROM copy protection. Also note that there have been widespread reports of stability issues with the PC version of the game. I experienced crashes to desktop and system hangs on a regular basis, and in some cases was able to duplicate the crashes at the same point in the game. If you have troubles, download nVidia's beta 163.44 drivers, which contain optimizations for Bioshock and update DirectX.
Fans of Deus Ex and System Shock can't go wrong here. It's right in the same alley and features many identical gameplay elements. The upgrade system reminded me a great deal of the "Biomods" in Deus Ex: Invisible War and indeed they function very similarly. It's more of a straight-on shooter than Deus Ex—few opportunities are given to play the game without direct conflict—but the fundamental ideas are very similar.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers needn't miss out on anything essential, as there are subtitles. The game does rely fairly heavily on audio cues, however, such as approaching enemies shouting, or unaware enemies rambling on incoherently.
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I totally agree….you (the author of this article) must be from another planet entirely to think that this game is not wholly unique and revolutionary compared to any other. The care that went into this game is, frankly, unparalleled by any other that I can remember playing. And it represents an excellent balance of game types: a little bit of role playing, a little bit of action/shooting, coupled with some experimental ideas (plasmids, genetic modification, etc.). What’s most important, it is done in such a way that the story is the key focus and it is such a haunting and… Read more »
Pretty much Zero, good shit. Fuck the bullshit, I played a level and a half of this game it’s pretty pimp, reminds me of Fallout 3 with the searching and story elements etc. Graphics are ass those when enemies die, looks weird I dunno. The biggest error most fools are making is that they’re comparing the shit out of this game. HL2, Deus Ex, and System Shock are their own respective games. Let it stand on it’s on and judge from that standpoint, then compare it a little. And to those claiming 10/10 and above…more power to you glad you… Read more »
And yet they made a sequel. Oh so close.
Interesting that millions have said it was game of the year, and I had no technical issues on my PC, maybe its time for you to upgrade. This game stands at the top of PC gaming, and threatens the top FPS games for PC. If you are any type of professional, you can see this game is minimal an 88 out of 100. 80 is an above average solid title, giving no credit to greatness.
Far cry 2 is better…
It seems, at the moment, as if there are two (or maybe three, see below) camps of people as far as opinion on Bioshock are concerned, those who think its near/perfect 9 to 10 /10 material, and those that find it average or worse (as evidenced by the group splurging taking place over this review). For me, what this all comes down to is how much emphasis we each place on gameplay, story, replayability or anything else you can think of, when it comes to forming an opinion (or score) on a game. For this reason I don’t think anyone… Read more »
Well put Zero.
Hm…. seeing all the comments made me think. A review is the opinion of one person. It doesn’t really matter what they think, it’s what you think that matters. If you enjoy it, who cares what others think. I love CoD4, Bioshock (haven’t played Stalker yet) and even if other says it’s bad, hey, I enjoyed it, it was fun. I got my money worth. A review is a guide for people to choose. The reviewer may have qualms with some aspect of the game, but maybe you won’t. Personally, if the game gets 8.5+, it’s in my list of… Read more »
I agree. STALKER is easily better than Bioshock, even without mods. With mods for STALKER, Bioshock’s not even in competition.
I didn’t review Call of Duty 4, Brandon did. I wasn’t particularly impressed with CoD4 either. For my money, the best shooters of last year were PC exclusives – STALKER and Crysis.
how can gamecritics criticize bioshock for its “non-evolutionary” gameplay, then jerk themselves off over call of duty 4?
i don’t get it, COD4 is garbage compared to bioshock, yet you guys criticize bioshock for its gameplay shortcomings and talk about how great COD4 is ?
[quote=Xenoxo]Ok, so you think this game is overhyped. You think this game comes off as a standard FPS with better graphics and better “art direction” and you think this game just isn’t as good as everyone says. Well, I must agree with you dumb bastards. This game is exactly like any other FPS. Ever. I especially despise how the creators of this game seem to spend no time in trying to develop something revolutionary such as incredible AI and self enhancement elements. This isn’t even the shittiest part of this game though. The epitome of shitiness in this game could… Read more »
[quote=Philip O] This reviewer obviously knows nothing about FPS’s in general, and to give Bioshock a 8(and Halo3 a 7), proves he’s doing his awful(and how about giving me more then 5-6 paragraphs, please?) reviews, just to get this website more hits. This review is a joke(as was his Halo 3 review), and i should know, as iv’e been playing FPS’s since the Wolf3D shareware. To back myself up, Look me my gamecard: ElMariachiPJO on Xbox Live, and i live FPS’s. http://live.xbox.com/member/ElMariachiPJO (Iv’e beaten every 360 FPS on the hardest difficulty. I know my FPS’s, and Bioshock is this years… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous]wow this is the dumbest review ever. this game was definatley revolutionary and innovative. if you don beleive me then why dont you read other websites and magizines reveiws to see how to rate games, hey maybe you’ll learn something![/quote] Everyone also said the earth was flat, but it didn’t mean it was true. This is about the most honest review I’ve read for the game, and I entirely agree. There is nothing that hasn’t been done better before in other games. The only reason to buy bioshock is for original idea of being under the sea. Nothing at all… Read more »
Thats all this review is doing. Yes, Bioshock has a few minor flaws, but that doesn’t mean the whole game is flawed. You are pulling minor details to try to make an argument about why Bioshock is bad.
Maybe its not revolutionary, but the games it borrowed from are from years ago.
Yea, you’re probably right, but that doesn’t make it less awesome. It’s actually only a game for the experienced players to enjoy, because you have to beat it several times (I’ve done it 4 times), to try, unlock, and understand everything.
This fourth time i played, before defeating “The boss” (For no spoilers), i had all ammunition for all weapons, because i only used the wrench all the friggin time. This CAN be done, and you CAN beat Big Daddies with the wrench (*Cough* Bloodlust + Electro Bolt *Cough*)…
So wrong; stop picking at little shit this game was a great revolution in story line plot and single player game play, definitely better then you give it credit
Nice grammar and spelling, dipshit. This is one of the better Bioshock reviews I’ve read. This game was in no way revolutionary, except maybe its art direction. Sure, the game has great graphics, a great story-line and a somewhat immersive environment, but it was a rather dull and formulaic game. It follows the criteria for a great game, but ends up being dull and boring. I put this game down after 3 hours of gameplay, and looking at all the user reviews, lots others did too. This was a fine game, perhaps deserving of a 8-8.5 rating, but no way… Read more »
Great review. I agree. I’m not so much into first person shooters but I heard the almost novel like story trumped up and I thought hey Bioshock might be that fun, adventure game with some shooting thrown in. What I found though was a very dark little arcade shooter with a few extra smooth touches thrown in. Just not something I can get excited about.
I totally disagree with the reviewer. The graphics are revolutionary. The water effects are astounding. But I don’t need to argue that point, you can see for yourself. The gameplay is revolutionary. The Vita-Chambers are NOT superfluous. I think the developers were trying to address quicksaving and checkpointing in an innovative way. Instead of just spamming quicksave and dying until you learn the encounter by wrote (destroying any tension in the process) they put a gameplay element in to negate it. And then they gave you the choice to quicksave anyway (choice is good). Did you never wonder why the… Read more »
I haven’t played this game yet but i have always valued games as processes of telling a story and apparently the atmosphere and immersiveness and storyline of this game are good so i am gonna buy it. OFF TOPIC: have to add i have been quite annoyed at the way gaming has seemed to have turned into an graphics arms race to see who can make the most rediculously pretty game while neglecting the rest. i wish developers could stop going the easy option of just pumping up the graphics to satisfy their corporate funders and actually try to make… Read more »
I guess it all comes to want sort of gamer you are. I mean do you focus on the story-line, or the gameplay. BS really shines when you consider the story, and its underlying messages, and morals (do skip the little sister killing or not thingymigig, the developer could have had you killing or not killing the kids and left you with only one ending, and might have escaped this criticism of being too black and white). Yeah, the gameplay is mediocre nonetheless, too easy and prdictable, thats what i think. But still, IMHO this is a good game if… Read more »
Bioshock is an above average FPS. Aesthetically, it is pleasing but gameplay-wise nowhere near good enough to warrant the hype it has. A major disappointment for me, but I’m a sucker for hype.
I think the main problem is not that the game is just ‘typical’ FPS fodder with supposedly nicer graphics and story but that it is in fact a SUB PAR FPS to start with. The graphics are sometimes nice, sometimes garish, sometimes scruffy… either way I don’t judge it from the graphics I judge from the gameplay and i’d stand up in court and swear on the bible that this game isn’t as good in gameplay, ergonomics, polish, testing, controls, pacing, variety as much less well reviewed games going back almost a decade. Forget about the graphics, underneath is not… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous]wow this is the dumbest review ever. this game was definatley revolutionary and innovative. if you don beleive me then why dont you read other websites and magizines reveiws to see how to rate games, hey maybe you’ll learn something![/quote] How is the game revolutionary? You sound just like my friend. It doesn’t even have life like graphics. Not even shader pixel lvl 4. The water is the best part and the most fun part, stay close to some water and and go in and out and splash about and then u’ll have the time of ur life, its probably… Read more »
I’d like to add, so as to eliminate any misunderstandings, that clearly this technique did not work for boss characters or big daddys who require the use of weapons and usually specialised ammo. They are somewhat infrequent however and the multitudes that are the splicers are easily defeated.
Its good to see a review that mirrors my oppinion. I agree entirely, the game was good but not great. It certainly isn’t “perfect” which is what a 10/10 score means surely? 10/10 means no possible room for improvement? What about the AI? Surely even those who hate this review have to agree that the enemies either rush you head on or stand and shoot. They don’t take cover, they don’t work together in any co-operative fashion and even on hard difficulty setting they don’t do particularly devestating damage. Iplayed through the entire game using mainly the lightning plasmid and… Read more »
I can only agree with this excellent review. While the dialogue heard throughout the game is excellent, I was more than disappointed by the lack of any actual interaction. What main characters you do actually meet in the game are rough approximations at best of their portraits. It honestly seems like more than half the time was spent purely on the Big Daddies/Little Sisters. Compared to the splicers, this duo has a much more vast, entertaining, and well executed array of reactions, animations, and interplay. In almost every way, the splicers are pale in comparison. Also a bit point of… Read more »
Good but not great
Totally agree with the review, seems a lot of reviewers loved this game to bits but I just found the enemies to samey and the “Atmosphere” not nearly as engaging as everyone seems to say it is.
Guess ill wait for Half-Life 2 Episode 2 *sigh*
If you’re going to disagree with the reviewer, that’s fine, a little intelligent debate is never a bad thing, but justify your claims with your own opinions about the game itself. Saying “you must be wrong because all the other reviewers say it’s good” is only more evidence that hype is behind this game’s elevated status.
And no, hype can’t save a crappy game, but it can boost a decent game up a few notches, such that lesser journalists start throwing around things like “revolutionary,” and “game of the year,” almost too easily.
Frankly, I love this game. I disagree somewhat with the reviewer simply because he doesn’t really qualify his points, IMHO. Sure, he gives an example here and there, but I think the point he misses is that the game wasn’t meant to be full of completely new gameplay, it wasn’t meant to be a breakthrough game. Few games are (and even fewer succeed). I think the point he misses is that the presentation, the production values, and HOW the game plays out is what makes it so great. It appears as though the reviewer is knocking BioShock just because it… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous]I think the point he misses is that the presentation, the production values, and HOW the game plays out is what makes it so great. It appears as though the reviewer is knocking BioShock just because it plays like other FPS’s – which doesn’t make sense.[/quote] But presentation and production value don’t make good gameplay, which really should be the deciding factor in a game review. Yes, the environments are pretty and the voice overs are well done, but that’s not enough to save the remarkably average game itself. He’s not knocking it because it plays like an FPS, he’s… Read more »
[quote=Cunick]Very interesting opinion, but you watch at the game at a very small angle. You didn’t marked it’s revolutionary technologies, because they have very natural and quality realisation. [/quote] sorry, no offense, but I strongly disagree in almost every respect: of course, it’s a matter of preference an how you play a game but exactly HOW these “revolutionary techniques” are implemented makes Bioshock so mediocre at being an FPS. Even in Jedi Knight – yes, the one from one decade ago ! – your Force Powers could be put to much besser use than the whole array of plasmids. [quote]… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous]wow this is the dumbest review ever. this game was definatley revolutionary and innovative. if you don beleive me then why dont you read other websites and magizines reveiws to see how to rate games, hey maybe you’ll learn something![/quote]
I don’t believe you. Want to know why? Because there are times when the majority is wrong, or when people’s spectacles get so tinged with rose that they can’t truly give an objective review. I agree with this reviewer. Bioshock is an 85/100 at best.
Ok, so you think this game is overhyped. You think this game comes off as a standard FPS with better graphics and better “art direction” and you think this game just isn’t as good as everyone says. Well, I must agree with you dumb bastards. This game is exactly like any other FPS. Ever. I especially despise how the creators of this game seem to spend no time in trying to develop something revolutionary such as incredible AI and self enhancement elements. This isn’t even the shittiest part of this game though. The epitome of shitiness in this game could… Read more »
Your an imbecile!
“smart reviews for serious gamers”…thats your tag line right? You are a little too serious, so serious its not even ABOUT gaming anymore. Not feeling that Bioshock is revolutionary AT ALL, IS COMPLETE BULLSHIT. You must think you are hot shit don’t you, pretending to be intelligent. Have you ever tried to design a game all by yourself? I somehow greatly doubt it. You must not be able to appreciate anything. Did you have a rough childhood? Sure, you can attack me and everyone else with your pointless perceptions on how smart you are, but you won’t be able to… Read more »
He gave the game an 80 out of a hundred. You say you agree with the review. Then you say you think it is still one of the best games of the year.! Duh! Which way did he go George, which way did he go!
Did I stumble into an anti Bioshock forum? This so called reviewer gives game reviewers a bad name. It’s ironic his name is Doolittle because his reviews do little to inform a gamer and actually just mislead them.
He didn’t give it an 85. He gave it an 80. He’s an imbecile.
It’s thoroughly refreshing to read a review by someone who has actually played games for more than 5 years and don’t think every game that does things well is “the best game ever”.
I found Bioshock a deeply frustrating experience. Its setting and backstory are magnificent but the actual execution of the story and the gameplay were insultingly average, especially in light of the 10/10 reviews it seems to be getting everywhere.
Best game of the year, perhaps, but only because genuinely outstanding games come maybe once every 5 years.
you really cant make a sequal to a game like bioshock
wow this is the dumbest review ever. this game was definatley revolutionary and innovative. if you don beleive me then why dont you read other websites and magizines reveiws to see how to rate games, hey maybe you’ll learn something!
[quote] again, VERY subjective … while the rough outlines are indeed great, the way of telling the story through audio logs, though it worked great in SS1 and 2, is not fit for such a fast paced game like BS. I missed great parts due to some enemy turning a corner (behind which I was hiding, so I could listen to that tape undisturbed) just in the wrong moment or the groaning from a distant big daddy – in that case, I just didn’t bother to open the menu and search for the right log to listen to again, running… Read more »
There’s a good humorous review here.
[quote=D]It’s thoroughly refreshing to read a review by someone who has actually played games for more than 5 years and don’t think every game that does things well is “the best game ever”. I found Bioshock a deeply frustrating experience. Its setting and backstory are magnificent but the actual execution of the story and the gameplay were insultingly average, especially in light of the 10/10 reviews it seems to be getting everywhere. Best game of the year, perhaps, but only because genuinely outstanding games come maybe once every 5 years.[/quote] I have to agree that i was VERY disappointed with… Read more »
hhhmmm I’d have to disagree with you there, unless you’ve been living in a hole for the past ten years (or perhaps you are an xbox gamer).
Anyone with a decent understanding of the history of FPS games and the truly revolutionary ones knows that Bioshock is exactly as described in the review; standard, predictable and honestly, fairly ho-hum baring the art direction.
Lair and heavenly sword were a real hyped titles, and i only see rates under 9 (under 8 on lair). I realy think than this review is wrong, because its the only review under 9 of bioshock. But, at the end, the review its your opinion of the game, so you think than bioshock is a game of 80 and 99 people think than its a game of 95
I, for one, think this is the most sensible, objective review of the game I’ve seen yet.
I suppose we should all look at games only in the context of how “everyone else” sees it, hmm?
Let the man have his opinion.
There are 4 pages of comments over at gametrailers forums about this review. Amazingly, most readers agree with Mike. Score one for the people!