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Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: FPS
Release date: 08.21.2007
Every now and then something comes along that stands out from all things around it; this happens in every form of entertainment. Usually there is no pre-hype or expectations whatsoever because it just arrives out of nowhere and immediately gets everyone talking. The Matrix did this with movies, Nirvana did this with music, and Harry Potter did this with books. The videogame biz has also had its share of highs with Half Life, Grand Theft Auto 3, and Halo. Now there is a new title to add to that list, BioShock, which is not just a game but also a virtual experience that engulfs you the very second you press start. You may have played a lot of games this year, but BioShock will play with your mind, sending you down a rabbit hole into what may be the greatest adventure you?ll have on your Xbox 360.

Just imagine your worst nightmare came true; the plane you?re on is in flames and about to crash, with the only thing left for you to do is pray as the aircraft slams into the ocean. You manage to survive the crash and swim through the freezing water towards a nearby island thinking you?re safe. But actually the worst part of the nightmare has just begun, and you were probably better off dying in the plane crash, because even before your socks can dry, someone is already trying to kill you.

BioShock is set in the 1960?s and primarily takes place in an underwater city known as Rapture, which resembles a cross between an old world?s fair attraction and an amusement park fun house, created by a madman named Andrew Ryan, who is the prime villain of the game. BioShock has some of the best art design you have ever seen in a game?Period. Someone needs to call Tim Burton or David Fincher and let them know that this should be the next film project on one of their slates. Instantly, you will be seduced by the presentation of the game as it draws you into this odd world. This is definitely not another save the planet from aliens or save the princess type of game.

Within this city of Rapture something has gone wrong, and it?s become infested with mutants, creepy little girls, and walking mechanical monsters. You just need to survive long enough to solve the mystery of what happened and find a way to escape. Voice recorders hidden around, and the few humans who are trapped inside the city fill you in on details, but it?s mainly up to you to figure out how to save yourself. Even though BioShock is a first person shooter, you won?t be relying on guns that much because every other power you acquire along the way is much more effective than bullets. Plasmids, which are the genetically engineered powers developed by the scientist of Rapture can be used for your defense to keep you alive. These plasmids powers range from such abilities as Telekinesis, enabling you to lift objects or bodies with your mind for use as weapons or shields; Incinerate allows you to engulf an enemy into a ball of fire, and melt formations of ice that block doors; or Enrage which makes your enemies attack each other for a short period of time. You have a limited number of slots to hold the available plasmids, so you will need to constantly swap them out for others until you reach a point when you?ve unlocked more free slots.

The main life sources you will need to survive are Adam and Eve. Adam is used to obtain new types of plasmids, and can be acquired mainly when you choose to harvest a Little Sister (more about this later); and Eve is used as the energy to keep the plasmids you have powered up. All around Rapture City are vending machines where you can use the cash that you?ve collected from enemies you?ve killed to purchase health, ammo and film stock. Then there?s a U-Invent machine that allows you to take miscellaneous items you?ve collected and invent better tools and weaponry to fight your foes. To get more Eve when your plasmids need a boost, hidden syringes can be found, and a quick shot in the arm will get you powered up.

Besides the variety of attacking genetic beings, called Splicers, the biggest menace to you are the Big Daddies, who are the personal protectors of the young girls known as Little Sisters. These giant brutes (not sure if their human or not) are dressed in old-style metallic diving suits and stand to be about seven feet tall. The Big Daddy is probably the most unique character seen in a videogame for a while now. There are two ways you?ll know when one is around. Either you?ll hear a Little Sister talking to it, or you?ll feel it walking as the rumble in your controller goes ballistic with its every step. A Big Daddy will only harm you if the Little Sister sees you and screams, or if you begin to attack it. You can literally walk inches away from one as it slowly walks its route and it won?t even touch you. When it does attack, it comes at you fast and furious and will kill you before you can even react. It takes careful timing and the right type of ammo to bring one down, so they are not invincible. When you die (and you will a lot when you go up against a Big Daddy), you are re-spawned in one of the many Vita-Chambers that are positioned throughout the city, which sort of look like the pods from Cronenberg?s film, The Fly.

Once you successfully kill a Big Daddy, the Little Sister it protected will stand crying by its smoking corpse, and here is when you must make a big moral decision. Once you grab the Little Sister you are given two choices: Harvest or Rescue. If you harvest her, the child will scream in terror as the life is sucked out of her and she is reduced to a mass of plasmid in your hands, which you?ll need to continue your fight. If you choose to rescue her instead, the entity that possesses her will be removed returning her to an innocent little girl who thanks you and runs off for safety. Unfortunately, you?ll either get very little or no plasmid at all for your kindness, but there are some other rewards for doing so as you get deeper. Watching a Little Sister being transformed, (whether it be harvest or rescue) is one of the most disturbing things you?ll ever see in a videogame and it?s sure to creep you out.

Another prime weapon in your arsenal is the camera that comes into your possession. With it you will need to perform tasks, such as photographing enemies and sending samples to the lab in order to learn ways to defeat them quicker. The camera only has a limited amount of film, so it?s very important that keep a good supply on hand. Hacking is also very vital to get into safes or opening locked doors. Hacks are mini-puzzles that require adjusting a maze of tubes, making them line up from start-to-end-point correctly before time runs out. Along the way you can purchase auto-hacks that will allow you to bypass the puzzles to access sources instantly.

The combat system, which while not on the level of Halo or Gears of War, is very well thought out and delivers both a thrill as well as a horror element at times. The AI is nicely crafted and challenging; so if you?re surrounded by a bunch of Splicers and open fire, some will jump on the ceiling crawling like bugs as they attack you, while the other will stay on the ground and charge ferociously at you like they?re on crack. Another compliment to the developers is the ease of the control system. Even though there are so many options available to bring down an enemy, you?ll never be forced to pause the game and switch to another weapon or power. Everything is laid out to be accessed with the tap of a button, so even when things get intense you can get what you need swiftly.

The highlight of the adventure is the underworld environments you are exploring, which ranges from ice caves, graveyards, markets, casinos, science labs, museums, and abandoned apartment structures. Whenever something is not trying to kill you, there will be calm moments when you may actually want to walk around and explore this world, just as long as you don?t trip any security alarms that will alert the gun turrets that are positioned all around, or the flying machine gun toting drones that will race to eliminate you without pause.

BioShock should be placed on a pedestal as the signature example of how to create an original game in the current market that is filled with non-stop sequels and ridiculous licensed titles. Also, Bioshock shows off what can be done with the Unreal engine when it?s pushed to its full potential. It?s a thrill to play a first person shooter that is not your basic run and gun scenario; where yes, there are plenty of moments like that, but there are more times when thinking your way out of a situation is much more effective and satisfying. Like many great games before it that broke new ground, BioShock will also have a place on the history shelf of video games as a classic...an honor that is well deserved.
BioShock is a visual splendor at its finest, enforcing why art direction is incredibly important for this generation of games that will be designed for the high defintion era. This game must be played on an HDTV to get to get the full experience, otherwise it?s like listening to your iPod with one dead earplug. There are moments when your TV will become a canvas displaying scenery unlike anything seen before on a console game. The water effects are spectacular, with droplets decorating the screen when you pass through flooded areas; and the lighting sets a tone that draws you in, but at the same time makes you overly cautious, because you never know what?s going to jump out at you when you enter a room. The character models are top notch. Whether it is the expressions of the Little Sisters who look like the twins from The Shining, or the broken movements of the Splinters, they will remind you of the horrific images you?ve seen in Japanese horror films. Also, worth noting is the attention to detail on a Big Daddy?s diving suit. Can future Xbox 360 games possibly look better than this? If so, standard DVD games will be able hold up just fine against the mighty Blu-ray.

The ace in the deck for BioShock is that the sound matches the vision perfectly. Like having an HDTV for the visuals, it is a must to play this game with a surround sound set-up, otherwise your losing out on audio effects that have been so perfectly mastered you?ll believe you?re in Rapture City. Just listen to a Little Sister as she playfully talks with the Big Daddy in the distance, and then hear her demonic screams when you harvest or rescue her. During a gunfight in the lab you'll notice the sounds of bullets breaking glass, and then ricocheting off of the metal walls and floors. Listen to the way the water flows in the aquatic levels, or the echo of the icicles dripping in the cave. And when a Big Daddy comes charging at you, your speakers will practically explode. Attention should also be paid to the games excellent voice work that emulates the exaggerated manner in which actors said their lines in classic movies, imitating the likes of Betty Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney.
replay value
This is a stand-alone single player game, and thank god for that. Sticking some generic multiplayer onto it would have ruined the game, offering something obnoxious like a Big Daddy deathmatch or Little Sister capture the flag. You?ll be able to finish the game in just under 20 hours, but as soon as it?s done you?ll want to hit the start button to play it again. There?s just something about this eerie world that will make you want to explore it further. There are various powers that you can unlock to play the game again for a different experience, or try replaying it once harvesting all the Little Sisters and then playing it again rescuing them all to see what may occur. And BioShock is definite show off material for all your friends who bought a Wii instead of an Xbox 360; now they?ll see what a real game looks like.
bottom line
Without a doubt, this is one of the finest video games you will ever play. The bar has not only been raised, its been twisted into a pretzel. BioShock works best because you can?t categorize it as just another FPS action game, because it?s more than that; it?s a story driven mystery with chaotic scenarios wrapped in a world of artistic wonder. It may be a while before another game comes along that can sit on the same plateau with BioShock, but there are a lot of talented game designers out there, so hopefully it won?t be that long. When the ballots are counted and the envelope is opened, BioShock will be the Game of the Year. Who?s your Big Daddy?
Review by: Johnny McNair
Posted: 11/30/1999
Replay Value:
Bottom Line:
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