Tuesday, December 24, 2019

First Play Review - Bioshock [2007]

Note: This review is for the 2016 Remastered version of the game.

With so many people surprised I hadn't played a Bioshock game and so many recommendations were given, when I had to opportunity to get "The Bioshock Collection" a bundle of all games in the trilogy in November last year, I took it.

Now I want to start by saying I'm not a fan of the horror genre itself. I can't relate to most horror movie characters because they're so incredibly dumb. I also particularly isolate the games, or movies of the survival-horror genre. I regard survival horror as unentertaining and a waste of my precious time for the most part. For example, I hate Ridley Scott's Alien [1979], the thought of going into outer space without an arsenal of heavy weaponry and the military training to use it is the most dumbass concept I've ever seen committed to film. I only bring this up here because Bioshock is often labelled as survival horror. I disagree with this label as unlike the say, Resident Evil series, because Bioshock gives you enough guns and ammo; and while it's tense and atmospheric, it's not frightening or scary. I just wanted to nip that concept in the bud before the entire internet goes wild with "Creedon played a survival horror game!!!?" or some such social-media 'panic'.

Bioshock, the spiritual successor to System Shock marries Steampunk/Cyberpunk with biological elements creating a sort of 'Biopunk' as it were and if you can visualise that concept then you have a fundamental understanding of the world in which the game takes place. The story is a simple concept, it's 1960 and you survive a plane crash, washing up near a lighthouse that's actually an entrance to a giant underwater city - Rapture. Unfortunately it's a world in chaos and you must navigate it's perils guided by an ally on your radio to get you to safety.

Despite it's somewhat horror-oriented setting, you never feel like you're in too much peril. You have an array of weaponry as you would expect from an FPS: pistol, shotgun, machine gun and the like but also a few weapons unique to it's biopunk setting. The trick is that ammo for all the weapons is not plentiful but you can pick up raw materials and craft ammunition at special stations which are plentiful enough. If an arsenal of weapons wasn't enough, you also have some biologically created "superpowers" called Plasmids that allow telekinesis, mind control or the ability to burn or freeze enemies or the environment to name but a small few. You can upgrade not only your powers and talents as you would in an RPG but also your weapons, so eventually you feel powerful enough to ignore most dangers and waltz around killing everything like an omnipotent god.


Most of the characters are unfriendly towards you, which is not unusual for an FPS but sadly enemies are not incredibly varied. All are humanoid, mostly the former denizens of Rapture who are all driven insane but in contrast - one duo of enemies is very interesting - Big Daddies and Little Sisters. I will say now that I say these in my head as I type, it feels really weird! Little Sisters are a plot point, they are the ones who carry magic essence harvested from the ocean floor, they are immune to your interference while their protectors, the Big Daddies - mutated humanoids in deep sea diving suits - are active. One of your main objectives is to incapacitate the Big Daddies, so you can rescue the Little Sisters from their power-induced mind-controlled state or if you're evil you can harvest their power for yourself! 

The environment of the game is truly unique and I've never seen, let alone played in one like it. It ran great at 60FPS in 4K. I didn't play the 2007 version of the game but I know that lighting, texture detail, volumetric smoke and surface reflections were unlikely to be as good in that as they are in the 2016 version. The sound plays a very important part adding to the atmosphere. You will need to become familiar with the groaning and moaning of the Big Daddies to track them and you'll likely hear them long after you turn the game off! Voice acting isn't shabby with Armin Shimmerman and J.G. Hertzler (Quark and Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) lending their voices to characters as does Juliet Landau (daughter of Martin Landau) who is remembered as Drucilla in Angel.


Bioshock was a worthwhile diversion for 24 hours, which is certainly longer than the norm for first-person-shooters and I'm looking forward to Bioshock 2 and Bioshock: Infinite at some point in the future.

Bioshock: Remastered is available on it's own for €19.99 or €4.99 in many sales on Steam or GOG. Steam also offers Bioshock: The Collection which has Bioshock 1 & 2 Remastered and Bioshock: Infinite in one package, and this collection is often discounted from €60 to €14.99 or even cheaper on a Key-vendor like Fanatical.

Note that the 2007 edition of Bioshock is no longer available for sale, but a purchase of the 2016 remastered version (or collection) will have the original version also added to your game library. The same goes for Bioshock 2. Additionally if you own the original versions of Bioshock or Bioshock 2 on Steam, you have access to the remastered versions for free.

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