Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Would You Kindly?

Yes, it is an inevitable title, but to someone who has not long completed Bioshock for the very first time, who has avoided gameplay footage, story details and spoilers for over a year to fully experience the game, unspoiled, himself when it finally arrived on PS3, it is by far the most relevant.

And it’s not platform loyalty that has stopped me getting the game thus far, more a lack of appropriate playing machine, and Bioshock was in fact one of the couple of games I would’ve bought a 360 for. The truth is though, that the game was easily worth the wait.
Bioshock is an absolutely fantastic game. There is no denying that. Wherever you play it (PS3, 360 or PC), you are getting possibly one of the best gaming experiences ever. From the compulsive storyline, via the spectacular graphics, to the perfect gameplay and tight controls, it is obvious that Bioshock has been a labour of love for its developers. But let’s not waste any more time with vague overviews, time to get on with the actual, y’know, reviewing. One last thing though, this will be as spoiler-free as possible, as there are still a whole lotta people who haven’t played the game (Fryingpan included).

So lets start with the best bit about the game: the story. Bioshock (quite controversially beating Metal Gear Solid 4 and GTAIV) won our Best Story award for last year, and that is for very fair reason. From the moment your plane goes down right at the beginning of the game and the fantastically scary introduction and sorta-tutorial, through to the brilliant (if maybe a tad obvious) conclusion, with tons of twists and turns along the way. All the time, you are guided through the twisted underwater world of Rapture by the slightly-sinister Atlas over a radio you pick up at the start. As you travel through the city, you meet a number of bizarre main characters including the crazy Doctor Steinman, the self-obsessed Sander Cohen, and the original mastermind behind Rapture, Andrew Ryan, along with a whole bunch of 'Splicers': residents of Rapture who are now so drugged up on Plasmids that they've completely lost it. Brilliantly, a lot of these Splicers also have their own little stories to tell, should you be out of sight.

Bioshock is a shooter at heart, that is not even up for debate, but it is the previously mentioned Plasmids that add variety to the game that you can't find in Resistance or Call of Duty. Plasmids are collectible throughout the game and are effective special attacks that operate independently to your main weapons (meaning that should you run out of ammo, or not have time to reload, you could use Plasmids to survive). The basics are Electro Bolt and Incinerate which do exactly as they sound, but some of the later more exotic ones incude Insect Swarm (with hilarious effects), Telekenisis, the incredibly useful Target Dummy that draws attacks away from you, and Hypnotize Big Daddy, which when used in a room full of enemies in conjuction with Enrage (which makes enemies attack each other) creates a pretty impressive spectacle. The ability to mix up gameplay between weapons and Plasmids makes every enemy encounter an oppertunity to try something new, and is a feature that has been lovingly ripped-off ever since it was first shown off (*cough*Legendary*cough*).

Besides the story and perfect gameplay, there is one other quality that really makes Bioshock a unique game, and that is the art style. The game is based on Unreal Engine 3, which is pretty much everywhere nowadays, but the character in Bioshock comes from its setting and graphical design, which is most definitely not the futuristic gun-ho style found in shitloads of other UE3 games. Instead Bioshock is based in the underwater city of Rapture, designed as a place of retreat for intellectual individuals who want to escape the corruption of the world on the surface. The genius lies in the timing though - Rapture was built in the early 30s, leading to a beautiful art deco style that runs throughout the entire game. The musical accompaniment (where it appears) reflects this, with piano flourishes everwhere, and even the beeps and whirrs of the numerous vending machines and Gatherer's Gardens (where you buy and upgrade Plasmids) seem to fit in.

The beauty of Bioshock lies in how perfectly all three of these elements (story, gameplay and art) work together to weave the most intricate game world possibly ever seen. If you've never had the oppertunity to play the game before, here's your chance, because you sure as hell wont want to miss it.



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