Would you kindly?
In 2007, Ken Levine breathed life back into the “Shock” series. After the critical success of System Shock 2, Irrational Games’ first game, Levine went on to work on and complete Bioshock. It continued on to take home numerous Game of the Year awards in 2007 from Spike, IGN, and more. Bioshock was a special game, and Ken Levine solidified his name as a master storyteller and virtuoso game designer. On September 13, 2016, 2K released the entire Bioshock collection on two PS4/Xbox One discs with upconverted graphical fidelity and the entirety of DLC that belonged to each game. The first game on disc one was Bioshock.
Influenced heavily by Ayn Rand’s utopia in Atlas Shrugged, Bioshock is set in the underwater metropolis of Rapture. You awaken on a plane, flying over the middle of an unspecified body of water. Suddenly, your ship is shot down, and only you survive the crash – treading water and watching the carcass of the plane sink slowly into its aquatic grave. As you begin to take in your surroundings, perhaps hopeless for rescue, you notice a lighthouse glowing in the darkness. Inside, you’re greeted by monolithic architecture and a sign that reads “No Gods Or Kings. Only Man.” You follow the only pathway given to you until you reach sole bathosphere in the lighthous (a pod shaped vessel that serves as a type of elevator). During your descent, a man named Atlas contacts you via a radio, offering assistance and asking for your help to rescue his family.
Sounds pretty enticing, right? Almost ten years later, the opening of Bioshock still resonates with me; few games have the cinematic impact of first stepping foot into Rapture. In fact, Bioshock is filled with so many iconic moments that fans of the series will never forget. And while these moments are still present, visually pleasing, and meaningful, the real question is whether Bioshock’s innovative gameplay can compete with today’s slick feeling shooters. To answer that question, you’ll have to examine what Bioshock meant to be and whether it should be compared to shooters like Titanfall 2 or Call of Duty (or Battlefield for that matter).
For me, the PS4 version of Bioshock played much smoother than either the PS3 or Xbox 360 version (and while I owned it for the PC, my older PCs had sound issues with Bioshock). Aesthetically, the upconverted visuals enhance the creepiness and dark atmosphere of Rapture, a city ruined by greed, drug-like addictions, and enormous egos. The idea of Rapture and its execution is brilliant and brilliantly done, and with the updated visuals, and residual screen tearing that I experienced on the PS3/Xbox 360 versions was nonexistent.
The controls hold up, too. While not nearly as smooth or fast paced as the excellent Titanfall 2, Bioshock still gives the players an above average shooter experience due to its innovative gameplay. I’ll knock the negatives out first. Should you require a zoom on your weapons, you’ll need to click your R3 button, which locks you into a zoom (meaning it doesn’t pop out of zoom when you let go; you’ll need to re-click the R3). Outside of that, the biggest challenge comes with using your weapons and plasmids appropriately.
In Bioshock, you very early on acquire superhuman abilities thanks to EVE and plasmids, a genetic modification to your body. Each plasmid you obtain can be equipped to your L2 button (L1 brings up a plasmid cycle for you to choose from, and you can have up to six equipped at a time). Meanwhile, your weapons are equipped to the R2 button and can be cycled with R1. Each weapon has about three different ammo types, too, which you can collect, buy, or ‘invent’ (craft). Combining your weapons with a solid plasmid, or strategically utilizing your plasmids (for example, throwing electricity at enemies in water almost always instantly kills them) is completely rewarding and encourages using each plasmid and/or weapon in various situations.
Outside of the innovative combat, Bioshock features some of the best use of sound. Coupled with its eerie atmosphere and creepy aesthetics (the run down and flickering setting of Rapture combined with the spliced out enemies sets a statement tone from the game’s inception), Bioshock’s sound enhances the overall experience. I’m not particularly referring to the game’s soundtrack; what really works in Bioshock is the sound. For example, you can hear the echoing of footsteps from random directions or the insane mumblings of a splicer. Hell, the spider splicers crawl above you, scratching and ranting from the rafters. Imagine turning around after hearing insane giggling and finding nothing… only to spot a shadow above you.
But I believe the biggest ‘shock’ in Bioshock is in its twist, accompanied by the cleverly written Andrew Ryan, father of Rapture and your nemesis. Your confrontation with Ryan three quarters into the game changes your whole perspective. The execution of the twist for first timers to Bioshock is perhaps one of the best sequences in FPS history. What follows is also interesting and based on your decisions to harvest or rescue the Little Sisters you ‘liberate’ from collecting ADAM. In order to harvest or rescue your Little Sisters, you must battle your way through their guardians, or Big Daddies, enormous, armored enemies with large quantities of health and giant weapons.
When I think about Bioshock, I’m treated to waves of nostalgia and goosebumps. Its memorable story, innovative gameplay, excellent sound design, and clever execution have the ability to leave imprints with each gamer lucky enough to experience its tale. For longtime fans of Bioshock, the version that comes with the Bioshock Collection is excellent and incorporates commentary from Ken Levine, as well as a series of challenge rooms that extend value. Its biggest downside is that it no longer features a multiplayer mode (which was added later to the 360 version and was included with the PS3 version). Still, the experience, in tact, is one of the greatest FPS stories ever told, and its gameplay nearly matches that monolith.