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BioShock

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter


Graphics & Sound:

BioShock does a superb job delivering the visual and audio experience necessary to get you fully involved and sucked into the game. Graphically, the damp city of Rapture is perfectly done. Rapture is an underwater city that reminds me heavily of Gotham. The game does a really good job of showing technology and advancement inspired heavily by the look and style of the 1950's (when Rapture was built). Overall, the visual style of Rapture has a "yesterday's tomorrow" feel to it that just feels right.

The game's looks aren't the only part of its presentation that does its job. The audible aspects of BioShock are also dead on. All of the ambient sound effects (flowing water, random equipment and distant enemy voices) all add to the game's generally creepy feel. The music also does its job to add suspense to the game. While working my way through the pressure-worn halls, it's the game's music that got my blood pumping and wondering what creature would be waiting for me around the next corner.


Gameplay:

BioShock starts off with a bang as the plane you are in crashes into the Atlantic and you are left treading water. Thankfully, there seems to be a large spire close by and as you approach it, you see a door. Thus starts your decent into the strange underwater city of Rapture.

This crumbling and leaky "city of the future" has gone mad and the hundreds of scientists, artists and their families are roaming the hallways looking for something fun to do. The city was founded by a man who believed that humans should explore their creativity and scientific curiosity without government involvement or pesky things like morals getting in the way. Consequently, the inhabitants of the city have made some remarkable breakthroughs.

The biggest of these breakthroughs is known as ADAM. This is a way to manipulate your genetic code in order to increase your strength, endurance, speed and even unlock special powers. The powers that ADAM grants you are called Plasmids, which are a fairly major aspect of the game and because of that, there are quite a few types. The first one you acquire is the ability to shoot electricity from your hands. This will either stun your enemies or, if they are standing in water, kill them. Other abilities include controlling swarms of insects, ice blasts, forcing enemies to turn on each other and marking enemies as targets for the city's security system. The other genetic cocktails that ADAM grants are the stat-modifiers mentioned above called Tonics.

As a result of the invention of ADAM, the enemies found throughout Rapture are not only crazy, but super-powered. Enemies fall into three categories: Splicers, Little Sisters/Big Daddies and the city's security. Each type of foe requires very different strategies. For the most part, the Splicers are your grunts of the game. Some have guns, some have blunt objects, and some have other abilities. One or two of these baddies don't cause much trouble, but if you find yourself in a room full of them, you might have to rethink your strategy.

While the Splicers are encountered very frequently, they are also the least interesting. Throughout the game, you will run into little girls who remove ADAM from fallen bodies. If you take out the girl, you will be rewarded with a large supply of ADAM, but these Little Sisters are protected by large creatures in dive suits called Big Daddies. These guys are tough and always require some out-of-the-box thinking. Thankfully, they are nowhere near as abundant as the Splicers.

The last type of enemy is Rapture's security. This comes in several forms that work together. There are cameras which call out bots and there are also gun-turrets. What is interesting about this type of enemy is that you can hack them and get them to work for you (or more specifically, against the other enemies). Hacking is a mini-game that is similar to that old desktop game Pipes. You have a screen of tiles that hide tube parts. Clicking on a tile uncovers it and clicking on a tube part switches the one in your inventory with the one on the screen. The object is to build a path from the circuit's beginning to its end without tripping alarms or shorting out the system. The security system isn't the only thing you can hack; there are tons of machines found throughout the game that, when hacked, help you in your effort to escape. Ultimately, hacking is a nice diversion and way to take a break from the action of the game.


Difficulty:

BioShock has three difficulty settings: Easy, Medium and Hard. These different settings seem to be pretty dead on. I sampled each of the settings before using Medium to actually progress through the story, and it seemed like the enemies in the Easy Mode went down noticeably quicker than the Medium and Hard ones.

For the most part, BioShock does a good job of pacing the player and introducing new mechanics throughout the game. Because of this, the game's difficulty (no matter the setting) successfully and gradually ramps up through the story. In short, no matter which difficulty setting the game was on, I found my heart pounding with anticipation and excitement every time I turned off the game.


Game Mechanics:

BioShock is jam-packed with a variety of mechanics that really come together to make an overall fun package. Found throughout the game are stations that will help you do everything from shut down security, gain extra Plasmids or even upgrade your weapons, ammo and build tools based on the items you have found laying around. Most of these, including the vending and ammo machines, let you hack them in order to lower the cost of using them.

As I mentioned earlier, hacking is a nice mini-game that you can use as frequently as you want, but there is always a benefit to successfully hacking a machine (typically the previously mentioned lower prices). Because of this, the player's desire and/or ability to hack adds an interesting mechanic to the game (not to mention the actual hacking). If a player doesn't want to go through the mini-game, he can play through most of the story without having to do it once, but this gameplay experience will be pretty different from a person's who tries to hack every machine, camera and bot he comes across.

The last mechanic that can add depth to the game, provided the player chooses to use it, is Research. If and when you find a special camera in your journeys, you can use it to take pictures of different types of enemies and characters in Rapture. The more you research enemies, the easier it is to fight them off because your research will let your character learn weaknesses and possibly even reveal hidden Tonics.

If you are a fan of FPS's, then BioShock is right up your alley. The game is hard enough to keep you interested and the storyline and varied forms of attacks will keep you coming back for more. Like I said in the Difficulty section, every time I walked away from this game, my heart was pounding and I kept wondering why I joined a gym to get my heart-rate up. Simply put, BioShock is a must buy, and if you are still on the fence, then either download the demo or rent the game, but be ready to buy it when you're done.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Windows Instinct Windows Prank TV

 
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