Released in 2008, BioShock is a modern day classic. The story is gripping and the world is immersive. Although the gameplay has aged, it remains fun. Plus, the underwater city setting of Rapture is unforgettable.
BioShock features a great cast of characters. Well-written, varied, and memorable friends and foes populate Rapture. The player interacts with these people while they charge towards a shocking twist that is openly discussed to this day.
Simply put, BioShock is a perfect example of just how great storytelling in the interactive medium can be.
At the beginning of BioShock, you find yourself playing as the quiet character, Jack. The story to be found in the game is not exactly about Jack, however. The action focuses more on the character of the ambitious Andrew Ryan and the characters that surround the man.
As the sole survivor of an accident, you seek shelter in a mysterious lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. Upon investigation, the player finds themselves whisked away to the gorgeous undersea city of Rapture.
However, you soon find out that this ambitious dream is far from a perfect place. Rapture is in chaos and its corridors are prowled by splicers. Splicers are crazed, violent, and desperate addicts always on the hunt for a substance known as Adam. Even worse, a bloody civil war is being waged within the lonely halls of the city, as well.
In the end, BioShock’s story and setting are the factors that push it into the category of classic. The characters are varied, interesting, and compelling in their personal stories and motivations. These little side-stories often play into the larger narrative in a seamless way. This gives off the illusion that the world is alive and populated with characters whose actions affect the story.
As wonderful as the cast of BioShock is, none of them can ever hold a candle to the city of Rapture itself. The once-classy city under the sea has now become a dark, unsettling nightmare. While inching through the city, the sounds of enemies moving about keep the player on alert. The creaking of interiors remind you that Jack is truly trapped far beneath the ocean with an army of lunatics.
Then, the sudden violence of powerful gunshots will shatter any small amount of peace you are enjoying. The sounds of BioShock essentially add life to the city of Rapture. So much that it may have been a very different, possibly lesser game without them. Although a few audio glitches can still be found, the quality is still high today.
Art Deco Nightmare
A large chunk of BioShock’s charm comes from the visuals on display. Neon advertisements burn in the foggy seawater distance through cracked windows. Evidence of ruin and tragedy scatter the rooms of Rapture. Plus, the environments are surprisingly varied despite the fact that the entire game takes place in a single location.
Rapture offers players the chance to check out many locations. These include a medical ward littered with victims of a plastic surgeon gone mad. A lush forested area features welcoming colors and a break from the grimy scenery. Plus, there is a former entertainment district, now home to a twisted artist’s sick interpretation of beauty. No matter where you go, Rapture will be prepared to show you something new and interesting.
The first-person shooter that is BioShock definitely reaches the goals it needs to. The gameplay experience is tight and tense when taking on enemies. Combat options are plentiful and varied. Upgrades and crafting are possible. Also, foes range from mild threats to seriously dangerous.
However, even the more serious threats can be handled with the right equipment. Rapture offers said equipment up to the player naturally. Upon entering the city, Jack is granted the ability to use powers known as “Plasmids.” These powers give an extra boost to the gameplay. It’s good fun to cover an enemy with bees in the heat of battle.
As fun as BioShock is to play, the gameplay mechanics of 2008 are showing a bit of age. This is more noticeable when compared to shooters of today. It still plays just fine and does not really hamper your time with the game much at all.
That being said, the gameplay is average. It feels good to play and the controls and movement flow well. That simply is not what makes the game special or unique, though.
Big Daddies, Little Sisters
BioShock features an interesting relationship between certain non-player characters. Namely, the creatures known as the “big daddies” and the disturbing “little sisters.”
The big daddies are huge, threatening maintainers of Rapture, often outfitted with tools such as massive drills. The little sisters are the source of the substance known as Adam. Adam works as fuel for Plasmids, hence the reason that splicers are so keen on obtaining it. The player also benefits from receiving Adam, as well. This is why the big daddies are so vital to the protection of little sisters.
The way that the relationships between Adam, big daddies, little sisters, and Jack work in the game presents many decisions for the player to make. In order to get access to a little sister and her Adam by extension, you have to go through her protector, a big daddy. Big daddies are not exactly pushovers when it comes to combat.
This forces players to weigh their options whenever approaching conflict with a big daddy. Luckily, big daddies are not hostile until the player makes a move on them.
Harvest or Rescue?
Big daddies are certainly able to be conquered, though. Upon victory, you are offered a decision to make. Do you harvest a little sister for more Adam, leaving the girl in a terrible state? Or do you rescue her for less reward, which returns her to a healthy, human state?
The decisions you make regarding saving or using the little sisters has an effect on the story of BioShock. These story effects might seem minimal in today’s gaming landscape. Be that as it may, this game is one of the reasons why player choice is so common these days. It is interesting to go back and take a look at the pioneering mechanics of this, both in the story and executed within gameplay.
BioShock offers a fantastic story that explores many themes. Ideals such as politics, art, philosophy, and even player agency and the illusion of choice are called into question. The gameplay reflects these themes in an impressive, albeit not immediately clear way.
The atmosphere and setting of Rapture is easily able to keep the player invested in the game at hand, however. At least until the revelations of the story begin unfolding.
Any newcomers to the BioShock franchise have ample opportunity to take a dive into Rapture any time they wish. All in all, BioShock is a fantastic experience that plays well and offers a story worth surviving.