Bioshock has one of the best openings of any video game ever, so I’m not going to spoil it here. Suffice it to say, you find yourself wandering the derelict remains of an underwater city (“Rapture”), attempting to rescue the family of a man known only as “Atlas”. The gameplay is bare-bones first-person shooter with a twist– in addition to wielding steampunk-themed weapons, you also have a variety of “plasmids” (psychic powers) which can freeze, ignite or electrocute (to name but a few) enemies and the environment. Unfortunately you’ll have to keep switching between both weapons and plasmids, especially in the early game, which can get a bit tiresome.
The game also features some RPG elements, in the form of upgrading your weapons and powers, but it’s not a very well fleshed out system. You can also search containers (and bodies) for various ammo, power-ups and cash (which is typically used to buy ammo and power-ups). There’s an eerie atmosphere throughout the game, much of it provided through the various audio logs found around the place, and whilst the game is not exactly “frightening”, it’s extremely creepy.
There are many memorable moments in the game, from the aforementioned opening, through numerous set-pieces and the climatic ending (two different endings are possible, depending upon choices you make throughout the game). The scene where I first acquired a shotgun was particularly memorable for me, and the way that Rapture has been realised is truly inspiring. If you rush through the game, treating it as a typical shooter, you’ll miss the point (and probably be more than a little disappointed), as the visuals are crying out for you to stop and look at them.
* System Shock is a bit of an obscure reference (it was produced in 1994), and if you’ve never played it, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Check out Lewis Denby’s retrospective for more on this classic game.
Performance & Quality
The textures and models look a bit dated, but the art design is so good that it doesn’t matter all that much. There’s a good complement of graphics settings available to get the game to run well, although we did find that panning the camera very quickly did lead to some frame drop.
Special mention must also be given to the audio, which complements the excellent lighting to create one of the most atmospheric games ever made.