Developed by: 2kBoston/2kAustralia (Formerly Irrational Games)

Published by: 2kGames

Players: 1

Released: August 21st, 2007 (some may argue August 14th, 2007, see below)

Genre: Science Fiction/Horror FPS/RPG

Systems: PC, XBox 360

 Bioshock.   Bio, meaning life.  Shock, meaning holy-shit-what-the-fuck-just-happened.  These two combine to form what many are lauding as a masterpiece of modern gaming, myself included.  Its score on Metacritic as of right now1, 98/100, is only surpassed by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  This game which has been in production since 2004, and gathering hype for these past three years, is actually seeming to live up to expectations.

 And some say surpass them.

Plot (Spoiler Free)

 The game opens in 1960, over the Mid-Atlantic.  Your character, Jack, is flying.  To where?  From where?  We know not, and are given little opportunity to find out as screams are heard.  The plane is crashing.  You are, as cliche would dictate, the sole survivor.  Sitting in the water, you swim towards the only object that seems to offer refuge -- a mysterious lighthouse, in mild disrepair.  The large bronze doors are slightly ajar, and shut behind you upon entry, leaving you in darkness.  A record player scratches to life, as light blinks into existence.  Directly in front of you is a massive bust of a man, with a tattered banner draped in front.  "NO GODS OR KINGS, ONLY MAN" it reads, in a blocked gold on red.  You descend the stairwell, find a bathysphere, and begin a voyage to a terrible utopia.

 Its name is Rapture, the brainchild of Andrew Ryan.  Rapture is a place of pure, unbridled capitalism.  In Ryan's own words, "a place where the artist would not fear the censor, a place where the scientist would not be bound by the laws of petty morality, a place where the great would not be constrained by the small."  As a note, you objectivists should be going "ooh" right now, as the heavy Randian overtones begin their bear.

 Years ago, in Rapture, a pair of scientists discovered sea slugs which could produce pure stem cells.  Through these, they developed a method of modifying one's genetic code, allowing telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and a variety of other kinesises and genetic enhancements, all for the right price.  Their use scarred the denizens of Rapture, and slowly drove them mad.

 In 1959, on New Year's Eve, a revolution began.  You come in, then, at the tail of it.  Rapture is in shambles, the ocean desperate to reclaim this city under the sea.


Before I continue, let's get some vocabulary out of the way, it'll make all this easier.  You'll catch on, I promise.

  • Plasmid - the more 'Active' genetic enhancements discussed above, including pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, special abilities which allow you to turn enemies against each other, and more.
  • Tonic - the more 'Passive' genetic enhancements, including increased melee strength, invisibility when standing still, and improved hacking abilities.
  • Splicing - the act of using either Plasmids or Tonics, from the modern concept of splicing genes.  Plasmid users are known as Splicers.
  • ADAM - The stem cell secretion that is used to make Plasmids and Tonics. Without it, one cannot further splice oneself.
  • Little Sisters - Young girls, looking to be around 7 or so, who harvest ADAM from the dead.
  • Big Daddies - Massive, hulking tanks, looking like retrofitted diving equipment with giant weapons and incredible speed when agitated. They protect the Little Sisters.  There are two varieties: Bouncers, who are melee oriented with a gargantuan drill, and Rosies, who carry a powerful rivet gun and proximity mines.


In two words: it delivers.  In more:

This is one of the most engaging expriences I've had playing a game in a long time.  The fundamental mechanism of play is to get from point A to point B; however, there is always something more complicated about what you've got to do than that.  In attempting to save Atlas's family and defeat Andrew Ryan, you'll need to photograph terrible insane mutants, save an underwater forest, photograph some dead terrible insane mutants for an art project, destroy the core of Rapture, find a cure for genetic mind control, and become a Big Daddy.  Admittedly, it seems a little cheesy in retrospect, but the game is entertaining enough while you're playing it that you'll often forget.

 The plasmids add a very interesting dynamic to what would otherwise be just a neat FPS.  Firing lightning from your hands, making your enemies fight each other, and turning invisible when standing still are all quite handy.  However, some of them are particularly overpowered (Electro Bolt, I'm looking at you).  The ability to electrocute an enemy, stunning them, then get a quick shot to their head with the pistol (or later, the crossbow) seems a bit cheap.  Personally, though, I like the feeling of absolute power this grants after a time.  You are just simply too badass for these guys to handle.

 A note on enemy spawns:  Aside from plot related spawns, when other characters will send Splicers after you in retribution, I can only think back to one instance of a scripted moment.  All other enemy spawns are either native, where it's where they begin in the level, or essentially random.  This gives the game an interesting feeling of wandering monsters, as you can't really know for a fact if there's going to be someone sneaking up on you, waiting around the corner, or watching you from a balcony above.  Sometimes it can break immersion ("How'd they get in there?  I just came out the only entrance...") but those moments are few and far enough between.

 News and Controversy

Bioshock's release was anything but smooth.  Firstly, Toys "R" Us broke the street date of August 21st to release the game a week early.  They were quickly reprimanded, but many people were able to obtain a copy and begin to spoil the plot online.  For a game like this, where the story and plot twists are major selling points, this was a major problem.

After the game was released, numerous problems were noticed by the community.  The first one to hit the waves was an 'issue' with the FOV, and how it changed between playing in widescreen (16:9) and regular aspect ratio (4:3).  Many gamers noticed that the people playing in 4:3 had a taller view, with the same viewing width as the widescreen players.  The widescreen users felt both ripped off and lied to -- 2k had previously said that they were designing this game with widescreen as the expected FOV.  However, 2k released a statement after a few days stating that what they said was indeed true.  The difference in the vertical view was a design decision made to minimize the view loss when the game was played in regular aspect ratio.  This placated some and outraged others, as can be predicted.  Some PC users have discovered a way to gain the increased view height in widescreen through modification of a few key game files, prompting 2k to begin working on an official 'solution' to this 'problem'.  Personally, I didn't care a lick about it -- the game was gorgeous as it was.

Another issue facing the PC gamers was the copy protection software SecuROM used by 2k.  This allowed only two installations of the game for its lifespan, effectively killing its ability to be sold as a used game, much less shared between family members on their own personal computers.   2k has stated since that they're working on a way to allow people to uninstall the game and the license on that computer simultaneously, so that it may be reinstalled on another device.  They have also said that in the future (more distant than soon) that they will be removing the SecuROM protection entirely.

My opinion

In summary, the game is absolutely amazing the first play through.  Unfortunately, I personally am finding it a terrible grind to get through a second time.  Even though I'm playing on Hard instead of Medium, the game still flows much faster and plays much more easily now that I know what I'm doing, and I'm not sure I like that.  In honesty, the main reason I'm fighting through it at all is to get the achievements I've missed.  Even despite the lack of replay value, I'm really glad I've played through it.  It's a great discussion topic amongst my friends, and (to sound very fanboyish) it was a brilliant way to fill the time until Halo 3.  Not to belittle this game at all, of course. 

In Closing

Play Bioshock.  Seriously.  As far as system preference goes, I like the XBox version better having played both.  But if you've only got one or the other, you're not really missing out.  The game is worth the $50-$60USD you'd be paying for it.


1August 23rd was when this statistic was taken.  It currently (as of this posting) has a score of 96/100 on Metacritic, a very respectable score in any event.

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