Deep beneath the surface of the ocean, at a depth where not even the faintest trace of the sun’s mighty light can be seen, the cold, obdurate blackness holds the future of mankind. It’s here that the underwater metropolis known as Rapture was built with the dream of the top brass of science congregating to build a better tomorrow. As the experiments and theories began to take shape, science defeated common sense, and something went wrong. Something went terribly wrong. As your bathysphere descends toward this revered paradise, you are hit with the sinking fear that mankind may have gone too far. It’s not until you step foot in the ruins of this city that you realize just how real this fear is.
It’s this expedition of discovery, laced heavily with the philosophical undertones of Ayn Rand, that makes BioShock such a uniquely compelling game. It makes you feel like a fish out of water, gasping for air as the world around you takes shape in twisted and horrifying ways. Young girls, who could be no older than 12, scour the city’s dimly lit hallways for corpses to harvest. Lumbering giants, outfitted in scuba suits, emit moans like blue whales and wield a small army’s worth of weaponry. This world is as dangerous as it is wondrous. You want to flee, yet you can’t help but be hopelessly entranced by its strange beauty.
As much as you want to stare at its odd machinations and soaring architecture, the biggest draw in this underwater society is the power you have over it. With the flick of your fingers, you can send an agitated swarm of bees whizzing toward an ill-tempered denizen. Or, with the same motion, lightning could jump off of your fingertips into a pool of water to electrucute a small gathering of mutants. If magical abilities fail, you can always turn to a pistol outfitted with armor-piercing bullets to take out an airborne robotic sentry, or something more unforeseen, like a chemical thrower with your choice of napalm, electrical gel, or liquid nitrogen. And if you just want to mess with the freaks of Rapture, you could always hack into their security systems so that a health station delivers poison, or that a turret targets the people that originally programmed it. This high concept gameplay has variety in spades, and is polished to the point that every battle feels like a small war – you won’t believe how much stress and chaos one ordinary thug can create. The game may sound incredibly complicated, but it couldn’t be easier to control. Your character’s movements are remarkably smooth, the targeting system functions perfectly, and weapon/power switching is effortless.
BioShock also may seem like a game driven by its setting and the atmosphere it creates. While delivering a level of intrigue you rarely see in games, its most captivating element is its gameplay – which I can easily say delivers the most rewarding and adrenaline-filled experience I have ever had with an FPS.
Everything about this game screams perfection, but there’s one element that might not sit well with you. Rather than dying in battle, players simply respawn at a vita-chamber. The damage dealt to an adversary remains even though the player didn’t succeed. You simply have to go back and clean up your mess to continue on. As intense as the gameplay is, knowing you really can’t fail takes some of the bite out of it. Yes, this system will allow gamers of all skill levels to complete the game – which is a developer’s dream – but it may alienate gamers who only turn to games for a challenge.
Of course, even if you play games strictly for the difficulty that they bring, BioShock is a title that needs to be played, simply because you will never look at an FPS the same way again. Of the 15 to 20 hours of gameplay that it delivers, there isn’t a second wasted. Once you finish the game, there’s little chance that you’ll take it out before playing it again to see the second ending.
It’s ingenious, enthralling, and a masterpiece of the most epic proportions. So without further delay, would you kindly enter Rapture so that you too can experience the best that video games have to offer?