Continuing along the path of heavily respected video games of 2007, today is the day for a look back at a game that many consider to be the best game of the seventh console generation. Bioshock is revered for its complex story line and innovative gameplay. It is also the self proclaimed spiritual successor to one of my favorite rpgs, System Shock 2. I remember Bioshock quite fondly but I haven’t played it since I was like fourteen, and back then I thought sports games were fun. So I decided to pick the game up again and see if Bioshock really is a masterpiece, or an overhyped mess like Mass Effect was.
Despite it’s age, Bioshock is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve played. Lip syncing and textures can be a little iffy, but the game’s animations are masterfully done, with the opus being the water physics, which outdo some games made today. The one complaint I have about the water is that Bioshock thinks it’s clever and does the same thing a billion other games do, where walking through falling water will make the screen shimmer like you’re watching the world through a lens. I’m supposed to be looking through this fuckers eyes, not through a camera, I don’t need random waves blocking my vision when a big daddy is charging at me from across the room. That petty niggle aside, Bioshock’s impressive voice acting and animation mean that it’s presentation certainly still holds up today.
Bioshock’s gameplay is extremely reminiscent to that of System Shock. Combat is divided between your weapons and your psi abilities (called Plasmids this time around). Unlike System Shock, however, Bioshock is a shooter, not an RPG. Rather than having to put 3 points into guns to be able to fire a shotgun, or a few points into strength to swing a weapon, the player is immediately able to wield any weapon he finds in Rapture. This theoretically adds more variety to a play through, but the lack of effort to obtain a weapon means it’s a lot easier to pick the one weapon you like and never use any other one. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the best weapon in the game happens to be the very first one you get. That wrench must have been made out of fucking titanium because it hits harder than a sledgehammer. After the first combat upgrade I found that increased the wrench damage, there was almost no reason to use another weapon. I saved my grenades and exploding shotgun ammo for the various big daddies, and then just whacked endlessly on the splicers while throwing around electro bolts. And this was on this hardest difficulty, I can’t imagine how much damage that wrench must do on the easiest. Enemies are probably killed just by you pulling out the wrench while you’re in their eyesight. This brings me to my first main complaint about Bioshock, much like its predecessor, it makes out to be a resource based survival horror game, meaning the player spends half of their time scavenging for supplies, and the other half frantically trying to win fights while not wasting all of the supplies they just got. System Shock 2 did this perfectly because the combat was unforgiving as hell, but Bioshock attempts to create tension in it’s combat where there is none. The enemy splicers are surprisingly varied for a shooter, but they never evolve from doing slight damage to you, while you two hit every single one of them. I enjoy the plasmid mechanic, and my god there are like a billion of the things, but a game needs to offer some sort of challenge to make the player switch around his play style. Otherwise it is way too easy to fully upgrade one perk and one weapon, and let every other direction on the radial menu turn to dust.
As basically every other person on the internet will tell you, the plot is where Bioshock really shines. It tells the story of what could happen if somebody were to try and create Ayn Rand’s perfect society. A place with no government, where day to day life was dictated by the “invisible hand” of a free market system. An incredibly interesting idea, and one that very few games have the balls to delve into. Adam is another interesting concept to the plot, being basically what scientists wish stem cells were, an all purpose DNA changer. It adds a lot to the plot, with plasmids and that one crazy doctor who was using it to do fucked up plastic surgeries in the hopes of creating the perfect face. The one problem is that it becomes a bit too convenient for the writers. What I mean by this is that at times, especially when it comes to the history of the main character, the writers thought of a super cool thing the scientists of rapture could achieve, and the only explanation given is Adam. I get that Adam is awesome and can rewrite DNA, but how exactly can it be used to control people’s minds? Also, how the fuck is it used to create the little sisters? And why are the little sisters the ones that gather the Adam and not the big daddies? It seems to be adding a useless middleman that does nothing but endanger the supply of Adam flowing into Rapture. Regardless Bioshocks plot is definitely something worth looking into; although it’s ending is absolutely awful. It’s surprising that a game about a player’s lack of choice, decides to give the player two vastly different endings based on one choice. And no, choosing to rescue or harvest the little sisters is not a ton of choices throughout the game. Nobody is going to be switching back and forth, people are going to see such a blatant good or evil choice like that and go, “Oh I want the good ending” or “Oh I want the bad ending” and only chose that option throughout the entire playthrough. It’s the same problem I had with Mass Effect, splitting a player’s choice between two incredibly simple choices, and then basing the entire game’s ending on those choices, is just plain bad storytelling.
After Bioshock’s second act climax, it just dribbles on until the player is given an ending where they are either jesus or skeletor. Playing Bioshock made me realize how easily a game can ruin what it’s built for itself. The world building of this game is unmatched by any game I have ever played before, and yet dragging through the final few missions, having a final boss that’s straight out of a shitty World of Warcraft dungeon, and then being given an ending based entirely upon the fates of the little sisters, which were a minor plot point at best, I found myself looking down on Bioshock. I still think everyone should play it, but Bioshock is one of the clearer examples of a plot that really loses sight of itself by the end. To be honest, if you’ve never played Bioshock before, I would play the game up until you reach Andrew Ryan’s Office and then stop playing. After that, continued play will only show you how repetitive the combat can feel at times. It throws a lot of variety at you from the very start, but never adds any new layers. You’re just given better guns or plasmids to kill the enemies with, and they’re given a handful of special traits and a slight health boost. It’s certainly the best of the Bioshock games, with 2 having slightly more fun gameplay and a much less intriguing plot, and Infinite having a plot that may be as good, but is horribly pretentious and is backed by the most generic gameplay I have ever seen from Irrational Games.