Classic Games: BioShock

Posted on October 17, 2011

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Bioshock

          The sound of water can be heard from everywhere…echoing in the distance, and pouring from pipes and dripping from the walls and ceilings. It’s the only sound breaking the heavy silence aside from your cautious footsteps. You’re traversing a hallway with a grand glass hallway to the right, purpose in every step that connects with the metal floor, finished in brass that has long been tarnished. A quick glance out of the clear wall of the corridor is greeted with only the sight of the expanse of the ocean floor. This city at the bottom of the sea is drowning, slowly being taken by the ocean. The moan of the hulking creature, clad always in diving suits, comes through the glass as you watch it walk across the ocean floor, mindlessly repairing bits of a city lost as a whole. The drowned out thump of his rivet gun interrupted by frantic, rabid footsteps and mad ranting from behind. The Splicers are hunting. Quickly finding an air duct in the side of the wall, opposite the glass window, you kick in the grate and crawl your way into a maintenance room. You put your back to the front of the desk, facing the grate you just emerged from. You hear their footsteps stride by, their mad ravings. They’re asking each other for milk for their tea, while singing to themselves. A drop of water pats you on the head from a busted pipe jutting out of the ceiling. A grim reminder of the lack of true safety. The moan of the creature clad in a diving suit continues. Welcome to Rapture.

           By technical definition, BioShock is a first person shooter with a bit of an odd twist, giving you not only access to a wide array of firearms, but plasmids as well. In that technical sense it works well, with solid shooting game play, spiced up with the access to plasmid. But BioShock is so much more than that. It is more a work of art than it is a video game. A mature and enthralling story told through the median of a video game.

           From the start of the game you are submersed in the perfect and beautifully rendered dystopian setting of Rapture, a city built on the ocean floor to escape the laws and restrictions of normal society. And there at the bottom of the ocean, the same human ambition that built the city was also its downfall. Bits of genetic code known as Plasmids and Tonics were designed to rewrite an individual’s genetic code in order to give them the ability to launch fire from their hands, move objects with their minds, snap freeze items and in some (more than you’d think) cases people, turn your skin to a rock hard shell. These were no doubt popular, and widely enjoyed by the citizens of Rapture. So much so that they would continue to splice plasmids and tonics until their bodies could no longer handle it. They started to mutate and their minds fell apart. Now all that is left of Rapture are the rubble and remains of a city built and destroyed on ambition, and the sound of the mad ravings of its citizens.

           Knowing a bit of the story is necessary for understanding some of the core game mechanics, so on that note lets get into the combat system. As you start the game you are given a wrench that may not seem like much in the wake of a grenade launcher or a crossbow but tonics augmenting your wrench make it a valid choice for combat even towards the end of the game. As you progress through the game you are given access to a wide array of weapons ranging from a common revolver to a shotgun to a grenade launcher. Each weapon coming with two special ammo types, offering even more to room for creativity and adding a sense of uniqueness to every encounter. But common firearms are not the only weapon you have at your disposal. Much like the denizens of Rapture you can splice yourself with plasmids and tonics as well, giving you the ability to set fire to or snap freeze your opponents, spawn a swarm of bees, create a decoy to draw attention or enrage your opponents into fighting each other, and with tonics that augment damage done with fire, ice, electricity, turn you invisible while standing still, create a discharge of electricity when taking damage. These are examples of only a few, the possibilities are almost endless and creative players will spend endless hour exploring all variables.

           But the power of plasmids doesn’t come without a price. Rapture has its own system of economy separate from buying material things with money. Although there is also a system for that, using money found from vacant apartments or bodies of fallen foes you can buy ammo, health, and EVE. But in order to obtain a plasmid you must gather ADAM, ADAM being the soup of genes and DNA making all this possible. But it isn’t as simple as picking some spare ADAM up off the ground. No only the Little Sisters are capable of extracting ADAM from the bodies of the dead. Little Sisters are small girls genetically repurposed to harvest ADAM from the dead and only ever harvest ADAM. The former citizens of Rapture are not unaware of them or the importance of ADAM. They constantly hunt for ADAM, meaning they constantly hunt for Little Sisters. Little Sisters are not left defenseless though. They are guarded by giant, hulking creatures clad in diving suits, known as Big Daddies. They wield drill arms, rivet guns, auto turrets and rocket launchers, not to mention their armored diving suits effectively make them damage sponges. In order to get to a Little Sister and her ADAM, the Big Daddy guarding her must be defeated. Plasmids cannot be used indefinitely, they must be fueled by EVE, a mixture of protein strains making plasmid use possible. These EVE vials are not difficult to find though, they can be found in hypos many places throughout Rapture.

          Another core game mechanic would be hacking. In Rapture, you have no friends. So when you find an auto turret shooting at you would you simply destroy it, or hack it to make it fight for you? Hacking is the only means of having an ally in your journey through Rapture. Auto turrets, sentry bots, and security cameras can be hacked to assist you as well as vending machines, which can be hacked to offer special items and discounts on already available items. The hacking mini-game is at times repetitive, but never tedious as the value of an ally is nearly priceless which is ironic considering that if you absolutely hate the mini-game you can simply buy out the machine, giving you all the benefits of hacking at the cost of some money.

           The story of Rapture is told through many voice recordings found throughout the game, allowing the player to set the story at their own pace, and requiring the player to explore Rapture in order to piece together the story. Forcing the player to take in the atmosphere and the intricate story, which solid combat system aside, are really the strong points of this game. Combat being exiting and fun to experiment with but not in any real way challenging. Even on harder difficulties where death is more common, death really doesn’t really carry a price. You’re simply re-spawned in the nearest vita-chamber, allowing you to get right back into the story.

            It would be unfair to simply call Bioshock a game. It is a progression in video games. A step towards video games being art, poetry, and story rather than just another time killer or thrill ride. BioShock delivers in all ways, as an interactive piece of literature and as an adrenaline fueled first person shooter. The second you take your first step out of the bathysphere and into the empty hallways of Rapture is thrilling. The first time you look out the window of a destroyed tavern to see a whale swimming by or to see a Big Daddy walking the ocean floor, repairing bits and pieces of this broken city, immerses you. You always remember the phrase you heard as you entered: “Welcome to Rapture.”  Reported by Brendan Buffington
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Posted in: Reviews