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Destructoid review: BioShock photo

I had almost lost hope. Almost. You know what article I've had sitting in my queue for almost two months? It's called "Requiem for the Single Player Campaign", and it was gonna be good ol' Linde up on his soap box complaining about an industry so tied up with multiplayer and pwning bitches that I thought the great struggle for effective storytelling in games was getting swept aside. Three days ago I would have argued this passionately, even angrily, bemoaning the state of gaming with an array of charts, graphs, and PowerPoint presentations designed to illustrate the gradual decline of genuine creativity within the industry over the last few years. Ask me tomorrow and I'll likely just mumble "BioShock" and crawl back into my cavern of half-baked elitism. It's a game that will bring any cynic to their knees.

You worry, writing something like this -- worry over how overwrought it might sound, of angry accusations of "fanboy!" accompanied with torch and pitchfork, that kind of thing. Just believe me when I tell you that it's not without merit. BioShock is truly about as good as it gets.

Hit the jump for my review. 

The first character introduced to the player in BioShock's sprawling narrative is the unnamed protagonist, plummeting down into the sea after his plane crashes over the mid-Atlantic. His refuge, Rapture, is the second. After making your way out of the waters and onto the deck hanging off of the monolithic tower in the middle of the ocean and venturing inside, it becomes quickly apparent that Rapture isn't just a place where BioShock, y'know, happens -- no mere backdrop, the doomed city and all of the philosophies, ideologies, and excess inextricably bound to it infuse every moment of play within the game.

Those of you who've played the demo (or, like me, tracked down one of them criminal copies leaked onto the market prior to street date) know that moment: creeping into the dark of the tower, the door shutting behind you, the lights clicking on in measured succession. A colossal statue of Andrew Ryan, creator of the underwater utopia, hangs ominous over your route downward, holding a massive banner that reads "No Gods or Kings, Only Men". An appropriate introduction to the city of Rapture, where just about everything -- the characters, the artwork, the music and the masterful level design -- aims to realize this world for the player in breathtaking detail.

From the moment you start the game to just moments before the ending, BioShock never tears you out of first-person view. No cutscenes, no camera zooms, nothing -- everything from behind the eyes of the protagonist. Similar to Half-Life, this choice serves well to amplify the atmosphere and immersion you'll feel as you make your way through Rapture -- a notion absolutely key to the BioShock experience. Most of the "action" has happened long before your arrival, which puts quite a bit of weight upon the environment and audio logs to convey the story, which it does phenomenally well. Through the audio logs, radio transmissions from a very limited cast of NPCs and the set pieces scattered throughout the city, the history of this once magnificent monument to excess is pieced together by the player, resulting in one of the most organic and effortless narratives since the game's spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2. Moreover, BioShock features one of the most compelling plots I've ever seen in a game -- a brilliantly measured story delivered at the perfect pace. 

Nothing tells the story quite like the city itself, however. Established as a utopia in where citizens were promised absolute freedom to research, create, and build, Rapture now stands in ruin, utterly destroyed by its own decadence. Propaganda on the wall reinforces the Randian philosophies at work in Rapture -- take everything for yourself and leave nothing for anybody else -- and the advertising promising citizens the best life they could ever hope for is scattered everywhere. Evidence of comings and goings, parties, and life in general is found in every nook and cranny throughout the game. Messages written in blood are found on the walls and floors, and hey, here's an audio log to accompany it. With BioShock, it's not so much about telling a story as it is letting the player experience it.

Rapture is so thoroughly realized that it genuinely feels like a place that very well could exist -- not so much something created by the art and design team, but rather lifted from some preexisting pocket of hell deep under the ocean. It's an absolutely stunning game with some of the best graphics you're likely to see on the 360, bringing to life the gorgeous art deco environs of the city. You'll hear footsteps, mumbling, and the creak of metal buckling under thousands of pounds of pressure. The level designs are top notch and filled with crap to pick up, search, sift through and explore. Nothing is extraneous; no item, no prop, nothing seems out of place. Rapture is -- or was, anyway -- a living, breathing place, and is absolutely breathtaking to behold. It's also claustrophobic, dark, wet, and terrifying, which makes it a perfect place to be hunted by the genetic mutants who want to peel your skin off.

Simply put, BioShock is a FPS. Owing to its roots in System Shock 2, however, the game is also one of the most interesting takes on the genre I've ever seen. Through your travels in Rapture you'll stumble across six weapons, each with three interchangable ammunition types, all of which can be beefed up at upgrade terminals stationed throughout the city. You've also got a huge amount of genetic and personal upgrades at your disposal, which can be found, researched by photographing enemies and technology, invented or purchased with ADAM -- I'll get to that in a minute. You've got a limited number of slots to equip these abilities, however, which makes for ample opportunity for character customization. Do you want to increase your melee power or reduce the damage you take from fire? Speed boosts, sneaking ability or both?

Plasmids add further complexity to the FPS experience. By finding or buying new plasmids, you can equip a wide variety of abilities that will allow you to freeze, enflame, or enrage your enemies. You can mark them as security targets or cover them in swarms of fucking bees. Combining these skills with the variety of weapons and upgrades you can equip makes for some extremely interesting opportunities in dealing with your foes, and you'll need all of 'em, especially if you want more ADAM to purchase new abilities. If you want ADAM, you'll have to claim it from the Little Sisters who scour the hallways of Rapture, gathering the blood of the dead to be recycled for the precious resource. And if you want to get to the Sisters, there's a big, scary bastard you'll have to get through first.

The Big Daddy battles are some of the finest moments in BioShock. You'll encounter a set number of them on every level, and they come in two varieties: the iconic Bouncer, who carries a drill and is featured in most BioShock imagery, and Rosie, who wields a rivet gun. Both brands of Big Daddy fight in altogether different manners, but neither can be dealt with swiftly or easily -- the first encounter with a Big Daddy, a Bouncer, is likely to be marked up as one of the most intense experiences in gaming. They've got a staggering amount of health, beefy defense, and are awfully spry for such hulking bruisers, particularly the Bouncer. To survive and succeed, players can use any combination of plasmids, abilities, weapon and ammo types to bring down the Daddy, and it's up to you how you want to do it.

Unlike many other games that tout "multiple ways to play", BioShock actually brings this feature to the table, thanks in no small part to the huge array of weapons and abilities it offers. There's a lengthy list of different enemies, traps, security devices and bosses to be dealt with, and with each encounter is a new opportunity to try something new. The absolutely outstanding enemy AI ensures that no battle will be quite the same -- they will give chase, run away if heavily damaged, seek water if en fuego, and find new and interesting ways to tear you to pieces. The game encourages and rewards using all of your resources and the environment itself to your advantage, so much so that combat is never, ever boring in BioShock. The controls are tight, the keymapping effective -- this, mind you, coming from a guy who typically abhors console first-person shooters -- all in all, an absolute blast to pick up and play.

On top of this solid foundation is an amazing amount of polish. Water cascading down the POV and leaving small droplets behind, the sound of your protagonist coughing as he walks through a cloud of dust, and the way your point of view staggers and is knocked back by the crushing blow of a Bouncer. A few of the Splicers, warped by extensive genetic modification, will even scream "I am good enough!" and other tidbits of story context at you before they strike; a small touch, but one that really brings to light the culture of excess and outrageous expectations that the people of Rapture once placed upon themselves. These little additions really draw you in, even if you don't notice them right away -- they serve to make the world of Rapture seem that much more real.

I could certainly draw attention to some extremely petty faults like the occasional audio glitch (nothing more than an absence of sound once or twice), the lack of a player's shadow, and the somewhat shallow ending, but I'd feel kinda silly doing it. Vague disappointment over the game's very final minutes doesn't lessen the impact of the preceding 14 hours. BioShock is to the FPS genre what Super Mario 64 was to platformers, what Chrono Trigger was to RPGs -- such a drastic leap forward that you wonder if it will ever be topped. Whether it will or won't be is largely irrelevant; what matters is that, after BioShock, the first-person shooter will never be the same.

Verdict: Buy it!
Score: 10/10


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next 50 comments

128 comments | showing # 1 to 50

ZMTToxics's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:38
I pre-ordered the limited edition for PC.

I think bioshock will be the next Half-Life 2 (the next greatest game of all time).
Mxyzptlk's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:40
Damn it, now I really need to get to work upgrading my PC.
harelo's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:40
I already have this game pre-loaded on Steam, and in all honesty, the wait is killing me
fra_diavola's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:45
Damn i just put 20 bones down on 2 worlds! I think its gonna be far more emersive.
Professor Pew's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:48
Professor Pew
14 hours! You beat Husky by half an hour?
Coonskin05's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:49
@fra_diacola-do you have a PhD in making bad decisions? Cause that's what you did.
BlackDove's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:49

I upgraded my PC just for this.

Go team Bioshock GO!
supremeFronk's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:49
DO WANT!!! awesome review
Eschatos's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:52
Bastard, if it took you less than the reccommended 25 hours, then clearly you are skipping important material! How could you deny us of the full review we expect and need. I'm officially boycotting Destructoid in general and Aaron Linde in particular.
Roryzilla's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 21:54
sorry but I played two worlds and it was an utter craptastrophe. Shitty voice overs, bad graphics, and countless bugs make it suck. Hard. I hope my computer can run this, if not I'm grabbing the 360 version.
Roryzilla's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:04
electro lemon, will you become my deity?
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:09
Aaron Linde
Whoever told you 25 hours is retarded. It took me about 14, and I was taking my time. And that's a lot in a game this good.
Buddha's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:18
jesus christ 25 hours for a shooter?
that is a long ass time 14-15 hours sounds good
Eschatos's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:21
Just read it on the Cult of Rapture/Wikipedia.
Eschatos's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:23
I bet I could make it last 30-35 hours, with my obsessive compulsive desire to find every single secret and explore every nook and cranny.
Necros's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:23
Dammit Microsoft, where are those new 360s? I need my Biocrack!
rabidkeebler's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:26
I've heard 20 if you are a completionist (all plasmids, all upgrades used, all recordings, etc.)
DGX Goggles's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:28
DGX Goggles
I will probably rent it because with all the upcoming 360 titles, I don't have money to toss around on single player games, but really looking forward to abusing Blockbuster's month long $1.25 late fee policy with this game.
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:29
Aaron Linde
DGX, you don't need any of the other 360 titles. You just need BioShock.

You need it.
Husky Hog's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:30
Husky Hog

epic review FTW

have my babies
Spectral's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:30
I preordered the DS version. =)
Eschatos's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:32
I couldn't find it on the website, but I clearly remembering it saying the game would on average take 20-25 hours. And btw, some idiot added an age gate on Cult of Rapture.
FreQ's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:33
"You can mark them as security targets or cover them in swarms of fucking bees."

Fucking classic.
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:39
Aaron Linde
It's one star, yeah. One beeeeeg star.
waxximis's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:44
ive been waiting for this game for a very long time! i just cant wait. i want to go out and build and art-deco house!
Tristero's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:46
I just got my new 360 yesterday. One of the first things I did was try the Bioshock demo. Jesus, that's a hell of a way to break in the system! That game held me upside down by my grass-stained Wii jeans and shook out all my pocket change. If I had any doubts about my Xbox purchase before, consider them thrown out with yesterday's recycling. Great review, Linde. You've got me completely pumped for next week.
Chris Taran's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:46
Chris Taran
waxximis said:
"i want to go out and build and art-deco house!"

You mean, I'm not the only one?!
The Incredible Edible Egg's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:52
The Incredible Edible Egg
I vowed to only buy games with some form of multiplayer earlier this year, but I reevaluated my decision and I ahve the limited edition preordered.
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 22:57
Aaron Linde
Multiplayer is crap poop. Screw multiplayer. BIOSHOOOOOOOOOCK.
xX SolidPliskin Xx's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:02
xX SolidPliskin Xx
i think im with DGX on this one gonna rent it so i can afford to buy GH3 rock band h3 etc. gonna be a fun next couple months
Neonie's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:04
"I pre-orderd the DS version"

Detry's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:06
I'm sure Bioshock is a great game.

I trust youz guyz opinionz. I really do.

But the "Sponsored by Bioshock" title board has been up for nearly a week.

You can't tell me there were no coke whores involved.
tehuberone's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:08
You got no legs in the game WTF?

I thought it was next gen.
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:09
Aaron Linde
Hey, they didn't put any money in my pocket. Niero and Ron might've been awash in coke whores, but I didn't get any fun out of our sponsorship with 2K. Hell, I even had to buy my own copy. :((((
10BobMarleys's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:13
Collector's edition reserved. BioShock get!
Neonie's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:14
I hounestly cant wait to play this game. I am going to pre-order the Limited Edition tommarow and pick it up at Gamestop tuseday. I must have every piece of this epic momment in gameing history.

And that my friend, should be EVERY gamers mind set about Bioshock right now.
ZMTToxics's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:21
I bought my new computer for this game.

x2 5200, asus m2n32-sli deluxe wifi edition, msi 8600 gt oc (hard ocp ed choice), 2gig kit ocz sli ready pc2-6400, audigy 4, 320 gig sata II disk.

Its an awesome system, rocks for lost planet, stalker, vegas. Slightly older games like Empire at war load instantly, its amazing. My buddies are all in awe of how fast games load on it.

Im putting it up to 4 gigs of ram this weekend though, just because ram prices went down.
Detry's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:26
Unless it's 64 bit Windows only reads 3G's of ram.
PwnyBownz's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:27
So, I can't anonymously be called a N****r-J*w-F****t by a 12 year old???
I'll buy this game specifically because it's not online.

Great review Aaron. You are now the Harry Knowles of game reviews: light on the nit-picking, heavy with heart. May we all play it with such unbridled enthusiasm.

I can't wait to.
LordRegulus's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:28
Ken Levine = the new Warren Spector.

Must. Play. NOW.
idleeidolon's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:28
*stares at dilapidated laptop*


LordRegulus's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:30
Oh, and Neonie:

Haul ass, dude. GameStop stops taking preorders a few days before the games are released. Don't waste any time. Make haste! Run like the wind!


*pant pant*


See what that demo can do to a man?
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:31
Aaron Linde
Harry Knowles? You're just saying that 'cos I'm fat, aren't you? >:(
ZMTToxics's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:31
Detry, actually, your wrong. XP out of the box supported 4 gigs. Look it up.
PwnyBownz's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:32
Fat with good taste and ham.
Aaron Linde's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:33
Aaron Linde
ZMTToxics's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:34
*side note, It reads 4, but dosn't address as 4.
Promagnum's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/17/2007 23:54
Wow, didn't see that coming....

Not a's lies!
Sharpless's Avatar - Comment posted on 08/18/2007 00:04
How long before BioShock becomes the next Halo? "OMG that's so old!!! your stupid for liking it!!!! only fairy pussy kitten otter bitches like biosuck!!!!!!!" And the internet rolls on...

Good to see that all the hype wasn't for nothing. I demand that someone record a run through the game and post it on YouTube, so us 360-less bastards can enjoy the game ASAP!
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