on July 25, 2013
Bioshock-this was one of the earlier games of this generation, and having just recently played through it a second time, I can say that it's still one of the best games out there. Here's my review (SPOILER-FREE!):
Your plane crashes into the ocean, resulting in your discovery of the underwater city of Rapture. What first is an attempt at escape from this utopia gone awry soon becomes quite a different tale. Be ready for a wild plot twist (somewhat overrated, in my opinion). This is the plot you play through, but the magic of Bioshock is that there are audio diaries you can collect that give you further insight to this city. These are actually very interesting to listen to, so they're worth your while to find. The characters are also fascinating, featuring highly unique personalities and top-notch voice acting.
This is some of the best gameplay you'll find. There are a vast number of options you can utilize in combat. Hacking healing stations, turrets, and security cameras makes your fights easier in different ways, saving you ammo and reducing the number of resources you consume. Your 7 weapons all have their uses, and each has 3 ammo types for specific opponents and situations. Also at your disposal are Plasmids, powers you equip that can significantly aid in combat. For example, you might find yourself overwhelmed by enemies and blow everyone away with Sonic Boom, or use Enrage to turn one enemy against another. Tonics are passive enhancements that provide various effects, including making your wrench attacks stronger, or making Hacking easier. Lastly, there are usually environmental hazards you can use to your advantage. Oil slicks can be lit up, water can be electrocuted, and explosive tanks/barrels are quick ways to dole out damage. What this all amounts to is a lot of player choice. Assigning the right Tonics and Plasmids, choosing the appropriate weapons and ammo types, and utilizing what's in the environment are what smart players will do, and the game rewards you for it since you end up saving resources.
This is how games should handle their main objectives. In Bioshock, you'll enter open levels that have multiple paths that you'll explore in order to complete your mission. In one level, you'll assemble a bomb, whose components are scattered in each of the paths. In another level, you'll help an artist complete his masterpiece by taking photos in different places. It never feels like the game's giving you a lame reason to explore the levels because it's all so natural. But the truly explorative player will search every nook and cranny of every place they visit. Doing so will yield more resources, making surviving easier. BUT, what I found was that playing this game the "right" way (being smart in combat and searching thoroughly) makes the game almost TOO easy. Playing on the hardest difficulty, my wallet was always full, my ammo was always maxed out, and I always had the maximum number of first aid kits and hypos. Nothing's more frustrating than being rewarded for exploration...but not being rewarded because I couldn't pick up any more resources. This invincible feeling really detracts from the survival aspect of the game (this is coming from a casual FPS player, not a prodigy). One more thing: most levels feature Big Daddies and Little Sisters. Encounters with these enemies are huge undertakings. Defeating the Big Daddy (no small feat) will allow you to obtain Adam from his Little Sister, which you can use to purchase monumental upgrades. The problem is, there are only 3 Little Sisters at most per level, and once you've dealt with them all, Big Daddies roam around by themselves, harmless unless provoked. The game throws Little Sisters at you too closely together, so you might quickly deal with them all and just be left with Big Daddies you'll surely avoid.
The city of Rapture is amazing. This is one of the most immersive game worlds you'll ever find. Don't assume that everything will be underwater-themed. You'll visit a Medical Pavilion, a power core, apartment suites, and a performance venue, just to name a few. Small details are abundant, and you'll never shake the feeling that you're in a place full of citizens gone insane. Congratulations to the developers for crafting a setting this magnificent.
Aside from the gripes I had about poorly regulated Little Sister encounters and the game potentially being too easy, there are also small bugs like objects disappearing into one another, textures looking ugly for a few seconds after loading, and the Telekineses Plasmid not picking up what you want it to sometimes. But in the grand scheme of things, these are very minor complaints. Bioshock is one of the best games of this generation. The storytelling is unique and incredible, the world is as immersive as it gets, the combat is full of choices, and the level and objective designing should be the template for many future games. Simply put, this is one deep, unforgettable experience.