10:30am Tuesday, August 21.: Recieved Limited Edition Bioshock from local Gamestop.
10:43am: Tore open package to get a gooey gamey goodness inside, immediately used EP soundtrack for Tuesday’s podcast. Moby is on the soundtrack. Why?
10:59am: Looked at included big daddy figurine while uploading podcast, upon inspecting the feet I noticed a “Made in China” sticker. Fear of poisoning on the rise. Note to self: don’t lick big daddy…
11:13am: Began playing Bioshock
5:00pm Wednesday, August 22: Finished single player campaign of Bioshock.
It’s been a long time since a game has enthralled me so completely. I’m stuck in the stage between finally graduating college and finding a real job, so this week I’ve been in the advantageous position of having a serious amount of free time to spend on gaming. Time well spent in Rapture with my new best friend Bioshock.
I feel at this point I should point out that Bioshock is not perfect. Many people have to have been looking at the high review scores for this game prior to release (after the Toys-r-us release date though…) and have began to get their hopes up or, more likely, begun to discount the reviews. Do not make either mistake. If you do not enjoy action RPGs or Shooters you will not enjoy Bioshock, no amount of 10 out of 10 reviews can change that. If you do like those genres–do not despair–Bioshock is that good.
And if you have been wary of FPS games in the past but want to cut your teeth on a game, this may be the one for you. The ammo conservation is a bit brutal for newer shooter players–almost every shot needs to count–but that should not stop anyone from beating the game on Easy or Normal, you’ll never run out of wrench ammo (a nice nod to the Half-Life series).
I’ve mentioned this before, but the design of the game is what really draws you in. I have enjoyed a lot of FPS games and I haven’t been drawn into a world like Bioshock’s since Half-Life 2, I might even go so far as to say I think the atmosphere in Bioshock was pulled off better than the venerable HL2 (such a comparison is unfair given the time since HL2’s release). It is this atmosphere that provides the story with legs to stand on. The story, while leaps and bounds better than the usual game fare, is still slightly short of the quality of a decent sci-fi novel, so the ample atmosphere really helps gel the experience together. It’s evident that
Irrational 2k Boston/Australia put as much of the story into the environment as the audio diaries (which you collect everywhere throughout the game), which is a very good thing.
Some people find contention with the sparse audioscape of Bioshock, but I found it enjoyable. From the beginning of the game, which evoked a very “Myst” feeling, to the end the creepy noises of Rapture, a sunken art deco 1950’s New York. I couldn’t help but notice that very little enemy chatter is reused, and some of the things characters say in this game are genuinely creepy. The only catch to the sounds is that without a surround sound setup it becomes very hard to locate enemies by sound, which the game clearly wants you to do, as all the enemies talk to themselves when not in combat.
All this talk of story and interesting environments is good, but games have accomplished this before, where most fall short is in the gameplay. Indigo Prophecy had an interesting story and setup for the first 70% of the game, but I had a hard time classifying the experience as a “game”. Bioshock manages to defy this convention and pack in one of the most entertaining game play experiences I have ever played.
Customizing and powering up your character along with managing all of the combat powers you have in the game provides enough variety to warrant a second play (making achievement whoring more fan than usual). Completionists will feel completely at home in this game as exploration is key to having enough ammo to make it through the next set of battles, although, not making it through the battles doesn’t seem to penalize you at all anyways, but the environment is so deep you’ll probably explore it all anyways. And I haven’t even talked about the best part.
Combat is more fun than I expected, the demo proved this, but with the full game’s selection of powers the combat is only ore entertaining. Yes, it’s possible to use only a handful of skills ad nauseum but why punish yourself? Especially considering the wealth of options you’ll have. The major part of combat, if you haven’t tried the demo, is switching between weapons–pistol, machine gun, grenade launcher–and plasmids–pyrokinesis, telekinesis, electro-kinesis, angry-bee-kinesis –to defeat your enemies. Finding fun combinations is the best part of the experience. My only suggestion? Do not avoid the big daddies, if you don’t deal with the little sisters life will become hard very quickly.
Are there downsides to Bioshock? A few, the story isn’t all that strong, while the back story certainly is. The game also hit some technical snags for me, hitching when switching to hacking turrets or buying new plasmids and crashing a couple times (probably my decrepit 360’s fault). But the advances in integrating customization and strategy into the FPS combat and trusting players to be mature enough to handle high brow concepts like a failed Randian utopia more than make up for some shortcomings.
I’m very happy with my purchase, which I normally wouldn’t say about a single player game that last 15-20 hours. But the experience of playing Bioshock is worth a purchase to ensure the success of Ken Levine’s studio, who apparently had to sell several limbs and the name of their development studio to make this game. Even without a multiplayer mode I heartily recommend the title, although, a multiplayer mode would be really interesting in this game…