|Developer||2K Boston / 2K Australia|
|Type||First Person Action RPG|
|Platform(s)||XBox 360, Windows|
|Kelly Score ™||95 / 100|
It was a great relief on a lot of levels to play BioShock after my rant about checkpoint saves the other day. In addition to being an XBox 360 game (also available on the PC) with unlimited saves, it is probably one of the best computer games I’ve played in a long while.
BioShock has it all: a fantastic and original story, brilliantly realized game mechanics, and stunning use of visuals and audio. The story is set during the post WWII era: your passenger plane plane crashes and you, the only apparent survivor, discover the entrance to a secret oasis…or what might have once been one. Rapture, an entire underwater city founded by a wealthy man with a passing resemblance to Howard Hughes, was founded on principles of moral and scientific freedom. Unfortunately, it seems as if something has gone terribly wrong…
In terms of mechanics, BioShock is a first person shooter with many of the trappings of a role playing game. Like most first person shooters, you can pick up many and varied weapons, but like an RPG you can build your character based on abilities and skills you choose. Those choices are genetic and biological alterations you make to yourself using the brilliantly twisted techniques created within Rapture’s open scientific environment.
The way you fuel your abilities is somewhat…gruesome, and drags you into the story of Rapture from the start. Combat controls are fluid: switching weapons and abilities is easy, providing both a “real time” quick select and a “pause” rotary weapon/skill choice when you hold the appropriate gamepad button. The game produces a helpful map as you explore, and retains a history of all the communications you have with the various residents of the falling city. And of course, there are unlimited saves available at any time: plus an autosave feature that captures the gameplay status when you move between major areas.
Difficulty-wise, BioShock provides what appears to be an excellent range. You can wimp out like I have and play on easy to spend most of your time enjoying the story. In this mode, save games are almost superfluous for the veteran FPS player- even I haven’t died once. There is also a normal and “hardcore” mode which I haven’t tried. I can easily see how tougher modes could make the game massively challenging, though. There are many points where large numbers of enemies and dangerous environmental situations link together to raise the adrenalin level and, without my easy-mode safety wheels, death would be a near certainty.
BioShock uses graphics and sound brilliantly to set its mood. Lighting is handled very well: neither too dark nor too bright, with lots of metallic sheens and an appropriate layer of rust, dust, and downright dirt. In terms of visual quality, the characters are slightly less “photographic” than some recent games. I’d position it somewhere at the same level as Halflife 2 in this regard: realistic without being “uncanny valley” realistic.
The first person view is (so far as I can tell) permanent: there is no third person option. Initially, I found this a bit odd- I’ve grown used to third person view, and like it. But in BioShock (as with Halflife 2), living entirely “within” your character makes sense. It also gives a chance for the steam-punkish 50’s style science fiction visual features of things like weapons and weapon upgrades to be more obvious. The work put into some of these is beautiful: my upgraded sub-machine gun looks both brilliant and fragile. The sound is equally well done: period music pieces, the creaking of failing walls and rattling pipes, the ground-shaking rumble of a nearby Big Daddy…the mood is precisely drawn.
I really do want to finish the game to complete the story- it is very compelling. What happened to the “evil” Fontaine, or the emotionally-bankrupted female scientist who twisted young girls into collectors for the plasmid “fuel”, Adam? Can any of the Splicers be saved, or are we all irretrievably lost to the madness of the Plasmid mods that give us our power?
BioShock is a game I recommend without reservation to anyone who has enjoyed things like Halflife 2, Deus Ex, Oblivion, Unreal 2, Far Cry, or similar games. I’d rate it as a 9.5 out of 10 on the “Kelly” scale.