For those who
have been living under a rock have never heard of it, “BioShock” is an extremely highly regarded first person shooter (FPS) video game. On Metacritic it is tied with “Half-Life 2” as the highest rated FPS of all time.
Let me start with this: I don’t really like FPS’s. They’re TOO intense for me – I know that’s what people love about them, but there you go. I don’t like jumping out of my skin every three minutes frantically trying to stave off hordes of enemy fighters. That’s too frantic and too immediately pressing to be fun to me. This is part of why I think the Portal games are so amazing – you manage to get totally invested in the story WITHOUT this type of ever-present danger of death. It’s a remarkable achievement.
All of this said – “BioShock” is an incredible game. It is, in every possible way, a masterpiece. You play as a silent first-person protagonist who survives a plane crash and just happens to find the grand underwater city of Rapture, now in a state of bad disrepair and overrun by being called splicers. You quickly gain communication with a man named Atlas, who puts you up to the task of rescuing his family, trapped by the megalomaniacal Andrew Ryan in the bowels of the city. As you go through the game you also slowly piece together what happened to transform Rapture from an apparently vibrant, beautiful metropolis into a giant leaking monstrosity overrun with ghosts and mutants.
“BioShock” is most famous for its story, and without revealing any spoilers oh MAN is that reputation deserved. I knew going into the game that there was supposedly a big twist that came in somewhere near the end. Since there are really only four characters besides yourself you pretty much know who the twist will involve, but even I didn’t expect what happened. I was floored, and in the best possible way.
One really impressive thing about the story is that things that, at the beginning of a game, might seem a little “off” to you generally end up being explained later. “It just so happened” coincidences and unexplained plot points aren’t just a part of the suspension of disbelief – there’s actually a reason, something I never expected to get. And the way the story is told, through scattered audiologs throughout the city, immerses you totally into the game. Instead of being spoon-fed information you discover it organically, really making it feel as if you’re solving a mystery on your own and not because developers want you to.
The writers of “BioShock” explore the meaning of “choice” in a video game in a way that I’ve never seen before. There are certain choices in the game that you make that actually have an effect on things later on. Still, even with that, you’re playing a game crafted by developers to move you towards completing an ultimate goal. Yet again though, instead of just making this a part of the typical video game suspension of disbelief, “BioShock” goes above and beyond and in a very meta way actually addresses this issue in-game, coming up with a solution that is completely believable given what we know of the story to that point and as creepy as Hell. The game does a great job making you think.
Then, of course, there’s Rapture itself. Rapture is, in its own way, beautiful. For a relatively old game (2006), the graphics are still pretty stunning. The whole place feels sprawling and grand. You can see both how it was so great and why it fell. In its heyday you can see that it must have been simply marvelous, but it was simply TOO big. Large sections were there just because they could be. The gross overindulgence exhibited is always a good indicator of corruption creeping into the works, and this was very apparent in Rapture.
If the game had a flaw it’s the flaw of basically all FPS’s. The gameplay is sometimes too repetitive, with missions involving you running around to find things while hacking through enemies. This is a minor criticism that is mitigated in a big way by the huge variety you have in the style you fight, but a criticism it remains.
I’m not even finished with it yet, but having passed the big twist of the game I felt ready to comment on it. Overall, a 10 of 10. Not quite as good as the Portal games, but then what is? Nothing, that’s what.
When this is over I can’t wait to play “BioShock Infinite”, a spiritual successor set in the same universe. It looks, if anything, even better.