Posted in Quiet Stories, Reviews

Bioshock: The Collection – Bioshock Review

I decided to review each of the three games separately. Here’s the first of the three, my review of the original Bioshock in all its remastered glory.

Originally posted on Gameskinny.com

Game design ingenuity and uniqueness are fleeting. Within a year, the sleekest graphics you’ve ever laid eyes on will have been surpassed. Open worlds will have become bigger. Enemies will have become smarter. Ingenious level design and gameplay elements, which allow certain titles to stand out, are duplicated in the years to follow, until the point of becoming standardized. It’s hard to make a game that still feels unique and enticing to play years down the road. Which is why I am so impressed by the original Bioshock. Sure it has its flaws, but 9 years after release, it is still a masterpiece worth experiencing.

The Bioshock Collection includes Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Bioshock: Infinite and all the accompanying single player DLC each game spawned. However these are three entirely different experiences. Each has their own flaws, strengths and history’s. And so this review aims to nit-pick the experience of the original Bioshock and leave an analysis of the other two titles for another time.

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Set in an alternate version of 1960, Bioshock is a first person shooter that places you in the shoes of a man named Jack. After surviving a plane crash in the middle of the ocean, you commandeer a small vessel that takes you to the depths of a mysterious and ostentatious city. The city of Rapture. You’ll spend the next 12 hour’s unraveling the mysteries of this world. Learning how a substance called ADAM (which through genetic modification allows one to gain super human abilities) has led the city to ruin and engulfed its remaining inhabitants in insanity. You’ll fight your way through these deranged drug addicts known as Splicers. You’ll scavenge audio logs to find out where it all went wrong. You’ll search for Andrew Ryan; Business Tycoon, Ayn Rand sympathizer and founder of Rapture. The majority of Bioshock’s story is told through audio logs, and strangely enough that has somehow allowed its tale to hold all the strength and tension it held nearly a decade earlier. The voice acting is superb and learning the intricate ways in which each character viewed the world is still just as satisfying to understand. Because these moments aren’t provided through cut scenes, the admittedly aged character model designs don’t deter from the narrative.

It’s through intelligent game design that many of Bioshock’s flaws remain hidden. As mentioned, cut scenes are next to non-existent, and enemies, when encountered, run towards you with speed and lunacy. So it’s rare that you really get an up close look at many of the character models, which therefore allows the player to ignore the fact that many of them look aged. There was only one moment of interaction where I truly felt the games story was hindered due to out dated graphics. The same can be said for the world. Often older games, when revisited, seem small or less dense compared to more modern pieces. However Rapture is designed to feel self-contained, isolated and cramped. The city is in ruin, so being unable to enter every building you see doesn’t break the immersion, like it may in other titles. You believe that doors are locked, blocked by debris or flooded. The tight corridors and small rooms are meant to make you feel claustrophobic. So once more the clever individuals at 2K Boston were able to slow the aging process through intelligent game design.

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However there is one facet of Bioshock that does feel decidedly outdated. Hindered more by its own sequels than anything else, Bioshock’s combat although satisfying seems clunky. The upgrade-able weapons and abilities you gain after your descent to the bottom of the sea feel remarkably powerful and allow for tactical thinking. Will you use a shotgun or a crossbow? Will you focus on your ability to electrocute Splicers or try out the Incinerate and Telekinesis plasmids? However the process of switching between these abilities is slow and clunky. In Bioshock 2 and Infinite the player wields their supernatural abilities in one hand and their weapon in the other. The ability to use them both in a tactical manner is swift and natural. The original Bioshock however had not yet mastered this same feeling of flow. And so often switching between ability and weapon too slowly amidst the heat of battle, mixed with a poor aiming system, meant I was killed again and again.

Bioshock, during its prime, was a hallmark in both the first person shooter genre and narrative within games. The moment to moment gameplay is still satisfying 9 years on, even if some flaws are a little harder to forgive now than they were almost a decade earlier. The narrative that astounded the world, due to intelligent game design, is still just as tantalizing to rediscover.

9/10

Chris Bowring

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