Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Would You Kindly Buy Bioshock?

Game: Bioshock

System: Xbox and PC

August 2007

Would you kindly pick up a crow bar or some other blunt object? From the moment I heard those sweet words I was in love. Bioshock is one of those games that attempts to combine multiple video game genres and does so phenomenally. This game is a science-fiction horror first person shooter with RPG elements. The plot is shocking, compelling, and is destined to become a future blockbuster movie. Ken Levine creates a disturbingly vivid dystopian world influenced by the works of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Take a deep breath boys and girls. We are about to enter Rapture.

The game begins in the year 1960 with you, Jack, in an airplane that crashes over the Atlantic. Strangely there is a nearby building that you can swim to, and inside there is an inviting diving pod. From there you run into your first human contact Atlas, and the adventure of a lifetime begins. Rapture is filled with all sorts of wonderfully amazing things. Stem cells from a sea slug have created the substance known as ADAM. This product has insane possibilities and eventually spawned the Plasmid Corporation. From in-game scenes and scattered tape recorders, you discover that this company provided everything from the cure for cancer to pyrokinesis—that’s setting stuff on fire in layman’s terms. Eventually a power struggle develops between two men; the founder of Rapture Andrew Ryan and the founder of Rapture’s blackmarket Frank Fontaine. Of course various things go horribly and disturbingly astray, and it is up to Jack to sort it all out.

Bioshock utilizes the awesome power of Havoc Physics for stunning environment and rag doll effects, and the gameplay is extremely smooth with the Unreal Engine 3.0. Movement is fluid, the environment is very immersive and interactive, and the sound is top notch. Players get a host of upgradeable weapons and special abilities brought to you by the Plasmid Corporation. Powers include pyrokinesis, telekinesis, electric bolts, killer bee swarms, and more. There are also passive abilities that make hacking easier, add bonuses to health packs, and provide a host of other useful talents. The offensive powers interact with the environment for outstanding encounters. My personal favorite was setting people on fire, and when they jump into a near by pool of water I let loose an electric bolt to finish them off. Yes...you read that correctly. The AI is smart enough to jump into a pool of water when it is on fire.

Enemies come in two styles: mechanical and human—if you can call these things human. All of these enemies are extremely smart, and will force players to stay on there toes throughout the game. Turrets, cameras, and drones will be consistent pains in your ass. Luckily you can attack, sneak, and hack your way past these obstacles. Hacking will also unlock various vending machine benefits, and is accomplished through a pipes mini game that resembles the popular PC game Pipe Dream.

Human enemies take on a variety of mutated forms. Splicers are very agile humans that wield two curved hooks. They move quickly, crawling across the ceiling and walls, and they will jump out of various hiding places unexpectedly. There are also deranged humans wandering Rapture in search of ADAM. They wield guns, pipes, monkey wrenches, and anything else they can get a hold of. Precious ADAM is derived from Little Sisters, who are helpless little girls that harvest dead bodies for stem cells. Big Daddies, however, make the Little Sisters a lot less helpless and a hell of a lot deadlier. Killing these monsters will reward you with the benefits of harvesting ADAM from the Little Sister.

How much ADAM you take from Little Sisters is up to you. Early on in the game you will be confronted with the ultimate choice. Harvest the Little Sister to death, or use the device Dr. Bridgette Tennenbaum gives you that extracts a portion of the ADAM and allows the girls to live. Pick one or the other, and stick with that choice. Each will result in a different ending, and trust me you will want to play this one more than a couple of times through.

Bioshock has won numerous awards for its overall presentation, plot, and gameplay. Many websites have given it the honor of Game of the Year for 2007. My own personal score will be no lower. Bioshock gets an amazing 5 out of 5. There was nothing in this game that I didn’t enjoy. The only issue I could possibly think of is a lack of multiplayer, but the balancing issues would be a huge deterrent. Fortunately this game doesn’t need a multiplayer mode to stand out as one of the best video games of 2007.

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