Welcome to Rapture, Welcome to Gaming Bliss
The long awaited Bioshock has the distinct honor of being the first non-sports title to usher in the long awaited holiday gaming rush. As the spiritual successor to the System Shock series, Bioshock is a highly anticipated title because of its blend of incredible visuals and innovative First Person Shooting. Our tickets to Rapture have finally arrived, and everyone is obviously wondering if Bioshock can live up to its own hype. The answer is a resounding yes, as Bioshock is a genre-bending adventure-roleplaying-FPS hybrid that completely absorbs the player and doesn’t let go until the thrilling end.
Bioshock takes place in the underwater city of Rapture, built by the homicidal genius Andrew Ryan. Ryan conceived Rapture as a place for geniuses and the mentally elite to be able to separate themselves for society and flourish without the constrictions placed on them by morality and government. However, something goes deathly wrong in Rapture, leaving most of the inhabitants dead or raving, murderous lunatics. The game begins with the protagonist as the lone survivor of a plane crash in the ocean, with Rapture being your only hope of refuge. You quickly get caught up in unraveling the mystery of Rapture as you fight for survival, getting caught up in the different objectives of other “sane” inhabitants that usually need favors before they’ll aid you to escape to safety.
The blessing and curse of Rapture is the rampant use of Adam, a material that allows individuals to alter their own genetic code and give themselves superhuman abilities. Adam is a hot commodity in Rapture even long after most of its inhabitants are dead. Odd ghoulish girls called Little Sisters harvest Adam from dead bodies while armored monster known as Big Daddies protect the girls from harm. This relationship between Adam, the Little Sisters and the Big Daddies is at the core of Bioshock. Your character needs Adam to evolve and to remain capable of surviving the various foes that Rapture throws at you. However, the choice at the center of the gameplay revolves around the sacrifice of the Little Sisters. Will you kill the changed little girls to get maximum Adam, or will you attempt to save them and risk not having enough power to stay alive?
The first and most noticeable thing about Bioshock are the visuals. Bioshock simply looks gorgeous. The underwater effects are among the best ever in a game, which is wonderful since there is a lot of water in the game considering that it takes place at the bottom of the ocean. The character models all animate incredibly as well, and even the protagonist has lifelike movements, flexing his on-screen hands occasionally in a convincing manner for the idle animations. The varied locales all look great as well, ensuring that the game experience is as immersive as possible. Rapture actually feels like the dilapidated city it is supposed to be. You’ll encounter scattered bodies, some hung, some killed by gunfire, some killed by traps. There’s always a sense that something has happened here, that the stage isn’t a simple backdrop for you to explore. The world actually seems both dynamic and alive in a way that has rarely been done before. There are occasionally some issues with transparency, especially when using telekinesis, with some objects appearing transparent up close when they shouldn’t, but overall the visuals are incredibly done.
The next most noticeable thing is the high level of audio quality in the game. The sound effects are all spot on, from the bang of the shotgun to the whisper of the Little Sister to their protectors. The assorted splicers all chatter when they believe themselves to be alone, espousing nonsensical or deranged statements that reinforce their insanity. Also commendable are the voice actors in the various audio diaries scattered around Rapture. The voice acting in the diaries are all movie quality, with brief snippets of spoken word that paint a little bit of the total picture of Rapture.
This brings us to perhaps the best quality in Bioshock… the story. Bioshock masterfully weaves an intricate tale by allowing you, the player, to piece together the story of Rapture and its mysterious fall. The various audio diaries, though not essential, help to evince the large picture for the player in between radio transmissions for various characters that guide you to the finale.
Though classified as a First Person Shooter, Bioshock shares elements with a role-playing game or an adventure title. The various plasmid induced abilities as well as the different Adam-costing upgrades to your character give you a constant feeling of growth. There are also assorted “minigames”, such as the ability to hack different machines via a pipeline game, or the ability to take photos of your enemies to give your character combat bonuses against them. There are also slots for combat, physical ability, and engineering where you can equip gene tonics, which enhance your abilities with traits such as a faster melee attack or the ability to turn invisible when idle. You can also upgrade your weaponry and invent items at designated stations. This variety serves to keep the gameplay fresh, as your character is always encountering a new ability, a new weapon, or better traits.