About 10 years ago, I was a not-so-serious 11 year old PC gamer. I'd play games just to pass the time, but not really to enjoy the experience. Then, a friend of mine suggested I try Half Life, and I was immediately amazed by the experience. I thought I would never again experience that amazing feeling of something fresh and new. Don't get me wrong, there have been great games in the past ten years. But, for me, personally, Half Life was what changed the first person shooter genre from something that only meant shooting people, to something that meant shooting people for a real reason. So, a week or so ago, the same friend of mine, who most of you know as ze|docteur, suggested that I try Bioshock. So I decided to give it a try. Believe me when I say, I did not regret it.
The game is a "spiritual successor" to System Shock 2, one of the most underrated games of the late 1990's. It was developed by 2K Boston and 2K Australia, while it was published by 2K games (a few too many 2K's there right?).
Big Daddy saw me. That means I’m in for some really deep-fried s***.
Bioshock is set in 1960, and puts you in the shoes of a guy named Jack. You start off in an airplane, just thinking about your parents and how proud they were of you. Then all of a sudden, the plane mysteriously crashes, and you wake up in the middle of the ocean, dazed, amongst the plane wreck, apparently the only survivor. You swim towards a lighthouse, and find an elevator, which you promptly take down to the depths below the ocean.
And this is where you are welcomed into the desolate wasteland that once housed the most brilliant minds of the early Cold War, the underwater city known as Rapture. This is no San Francisco - the people are not friendly - they are high off their asses on stem cells (a genetic substance which in the game is known as ADAM), and the more that these people take of those stem cells, the more mutated they become.
The enemies which you face in Bioshock range from the variety of "splicers" (the population of Rapture who have been having a little too much of the merry ADAM juice), to the more menacing and doubly more difficult (and perhaps the symbol of the game) Big Daddies, to the insane amount of security cameras and turrets which populate nearly every other hallway and staircase. Each one of these enemies (there are at least 5 different types of splicers, so don't think they're all very easy) has a unique way in which they can be destroyed - and each one has its own weaknesses which one must discover in order to survive the horrifying hell hole that Rapture has become.
Big Daddy, right, taking on a puny splicer, left. I’m watching happily with a wrench.
Won't get into any further detail - spoilers are a little too tempting at the moment
The game play is difficult to explain. It has elements of the original F.E.A.R. game (not its crappy, half-ass expansion - Extraction Point), by being slow paced most of the time (in order to build up an atmosphere and suspense), yet so terrifying, brutal, and fast paced once combat actually comes knocking on heaven's door.
There is little to compare Bioshock to in terms of gameplay. Your character can fire powers from his hand - such as freezing enemies like statues, setting them on fire, or even creating little tornadoes to levitate them off the ground and splatter them to the ground like Britney Spears' career. The clever Bioshocker learns to serve death in the same way that food is served at an elegant restaurant - in courses. For starters, you blast your enemy with a power; freezing a splicer is a good example. Then, as a main course, a nice volley of machine gun rounds to the head. It really does the trick, and I have not yet received a single complaint from my customers regarding the food or service
Big Daddies at their best - dead at my feet.
You're expected to be on your toes throughout your journey in Rapture. Just because you cleared an area of splicers, doesn't mean that you won't find any splicers there on your back through that area. This city is alive. Thus, enemies will wander throughout the city, and can unexpectedly pop out of any corner. Who said paranoia wasn't a virtue?
One thing I really loved about Bioshock was the hacking. Without it, the game would probably not have been as fun. In the world of Bioshock, if there's something that can be hacked, it's usually worth hacking. Be it a vending machine, from which you purchase your ammunition, health packs, and EVE injections among others (EVE is the fuel for your special powers, such as lighting stuff on fire) in order to bring prices down to a reasonable level. Security cameras and turrets can be hacked, and they become your allies - they'll attack any enemy that tries to pass by them. Safes can also be hacked, giving you a nice cash injection which you'll probably need. Hacking is in the form of a puzzle. You have to redistribute the machine's energy flow to another point via little pipes which you have to rearrange, and as more time passes in the game, you realize that hacking not only becomes more worth your trouble, but also absolutely vital to your survival.
One more thing. The Big Daddies. They guard the creepy Little Sisters, who walk around the city draining ADAM (a substance which you also need to fuel your powers) from the dead. The Big Daddies will not attack you without you attacking them first. However, once you attack them, you're in for one hell of a battle. Don't let their big size fool you, they're fast, cunning, and powerful enemies. Once you defeat the Big Daddy, you can choose to either "harvest" the Little Sister, or else save her. Harvesting the Little Sister kills her, but gives you more ADAM, saving her gives you less ADAM, but you're promised "rewards" for ensuring the Little Sisters are saved. The game has three endings, depending on whether you saved the Little Sisters or not. So choose wisely.
Renting flats in Rapture are quite cheap, and come with great views. Make sure you get a furnished flat though.
Absolutely top notch. Even in DX9, the game ran beautifully. The graphics are amazing. When looking out of the window, one can see the other parts of Rapture, with the water effects partially distorting the picture in order to stimulate water effects. There was actually a moment in the beginning of the game where I had a a few drops of water on the screen, and my brother, who was watching me play, said "Wipe your screen, how did you get water on it?!". Yep. It's that realistic. And once again - I was running the game on DX9.
Enemies look quite unique - with the graphics correctly displaying their morbid facial features, such as the permanent scowl that resides on the faces of each splicer. You can easily tell the difference between the population of Rapture, with surgeons, nurses, middle aged men, and even what seems to be a very stereotypical mother-in-law type trying to tear you to shreds, amongst others.
Don't get me wrong - one needs a strong VGA card to run Bioshock in its full graphic beauty. Anything less than a 7 series Nvidia or it's ATI equivalent will not really run this game all that smoothly.
Sound Hearing splicers complain about their parents, or else offer you their surgical services (in the case of the wacko surgeon splicers) is quite nerve wracking. Little Sisters talking with and depending on their Big Daddy protectors also gives the game a sense of morality - forcing the player to think twice about attacking the Big Daddies, or as the Little Sisters call them, "Mr. Bubbles". Don't ask.
The game has more atmosphere, than say, F.E.A.R., or even Half Life, because Rapture is alive with enemies, and it's not the first time that I had to actually strain my ears to try to hear enemies, in order to better prepare myself for what may come to me. Hearing your enemies screech in horror when you light them on fire, and then as you watch them run to a source of water, you hear the sizzling of their flesh as the fire is extinguished. Not much unlike the sizzling of a decent hamburger on a bbq.
Verdict Many first person shooters have shown ambition on the PC platform for the last several years. Many have attempted to try new things, or introduce something which they felt might be "groundbreaking" in some form. Few succeeded. However, Bioshock not only lived up to the hype it had created over the last several years of its development, but actually surpassed most expectations.
Saving a Little Sister.
Bioshock combines horror, suspense, an intriguing storyline, a variety of combat situations, and not to mention it actually triggers your sense of conscience: should you save the Little Sisters or should you harvest their ADAM? Saving the Sisters leaves you vulnerable throughout the beginning of the game since you can't purchase upgrades to fight bigger and faster enemies, however, harvesting the Sisters' ADAM chemical gives you a large ADAM income, at least early on. Which will you choose?
Bioshock is a great game. I can't possibly write down all the details and great experiences I have had playing this game, because the article would end up being a book. Simply said - it's an excellent game which is not only worth playing, but is essential because its a new monument in the evolution of first person shooters.
Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) or
Minimum System Requirements:
CPU: Pentium 4 2.4GHz Single Core processor
System RAM: 1GB
Video Card: Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600 or better/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550).
Sound Card: 100% direct X 9.0c compatible sound card
Hard disc space: 8GB free space
Recommended System Requirements:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo processor
System RAM: 2GB
DX9: Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB RAM (NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT or better)
DX10: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 or better
Sound Card: Sound Blaster® X-Fi™ series (Optimized for use with Creative Labs EAX ADVANCED HD 4.0 or EAX ADVANCED HD 5.0 compatible sound cards)
Pros - Gripping storyline, smooth graphics, intelligent enemies, challenging gameplay, and guaranteed gaming longevity. Cons - No multiplayer, not too many different types of enemies. Storyline can be incoherent at times.
Not only an unmissable game, but a very strong candidate for the best game of 2007. Bioshock is the new yardstick for measuring other FPS games.