“Welcome to Rapture”
Never before have I seen a tagline to anything emanate more truth than BIOSHOCK’s. Rapture, an underwater city of the genetically damned with a chilling sensation that never relents with every single crafted item enforces the sensation and I mean everything. BIOSHOCK may have the most engrossing and immersive world that I have ever been privy to.
The story kicks off with Jack surviving a plane crash in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. With all coincidence, Jack’s plane crashes near the entrance to Rapture. Seeking aid, Jack transcends the entrance and immediately receives a distress call from a man named Atlas, a survivor of the ravaged utopia. He pleads to Jack for aid as his wife and daughter are being held at the mercy of the insane ruler of the city, Andrew Ryan.
As you traverse more of Rapture Atlas explains how Rapture fell into hell and why Andrew Ryan built Rapture as a way to carry on his scientific experiments away from the judgmental eyes of the public and the laws of governmental rule. Ryan’s goals were all in the name of science as one cannot have a conscience if they wish to achieve the total understanding of the human limit. As Ryan needed live experiments, he offered safe haven for all who wished to live in his truly free city.
It may seem convoluted but the story progresses fairly quickly in the beginning in an attempt to thrust the player into the world and Jack’s story and it works almost flawlessly. I’ve mentioned before my love of first person shooters that take place entirely through the character’s eyes and BIOSHOCK is no exception. Most of the game has a distinct feeling of Half-Life in terms of playability and immersion. Your first weapon in the game is even a monkey wrench which seems like a slight homage to Gordon Freeman’s crowbar.
Ryan’s experiments consisted of modifying and changing the physical appearances of citizens however they wished. Along with plastic surgery, DNA modification substances called plasmids were invented. These plasmids have the ability to give the consumer several different types of abilities from telekinesis to pyrokinesis.
Along with the offensive ability of the plasmids, passive ability tonics are featured throughout BIOSHOCK. These tonics offer a large amount of beneficial passive abilities such as the length of time to solve a hacking puzzle or give your melee swings more power. With three categories for tonics each with forty different kinds as wells as forty different plasmids the combat system is incredibly in depth and offers a near endless amount of combinations.
Plasmids are not your only form of defense. There are a fair amount of other upgradeable weapons at your disposal although nothing is very special or unique. You can obtain a pistol, shotgun, machine gun and a few others but nothing you haven’t seen before. The other weapons feel as more of an afterthought as the plasmids are at the epicenter of combat.
BIOSHOCK effectively uses several minigames to provide more backstory and depth but add to the overall experience. The first is that the player is given a camera and when you take pictures of enemies you successfully gather more information on that specific one, which allows you to do more damage to them. It’s not mandatory at all and the game can easily be completed without taking a single extra picture; but it does add a nice little feature that can be used to lengthen your visit to Rapture.
The second is the hacking minigame. You are given a square grid with Point A at the left and Point B on the right. A substance will start to flow and it’s your job to re-arrange a pipe system to get the substance to flow from Point A to Point B. It’s not very complicated and the puzzles seem to perfectly increase with difficulty as the game progresses. These hacking puzzles are scattered throughout the entirety of Rapture so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the concept as early as you can.
During your time in Rapture you will run across the Little Sisters. These freakish looking little girls wander the city looking for any traces of ADAM left. ADAM is a highly addictive substance that’s creation and usage lead to the city’s destruction. The Little Sisters are escorted by a Big Daddy, a huge low-intelligence creature with just one thought: protect the Little Sisters. As well as being on one of the best box covers for a game, they will dish out massive amounts of damage to ensure that they are protected. If you manage to defeat them you will be given a choice to harvest all of the ADAM from the Little Sister (leading to the “bad” ending) or take away just enough so they regain their humanity (leading to the ‘good’ ending.)
I must admit, the design and presence of the Big Daddy rivals anything I have seen out of a game in a very long time. From the first time I saw one until the last they had such a commanding presence over me that gave me the chills and told me to beware. With the sequel approaching fast I am captivated about what new creature(s) that Rapture may show me on my second visit.
One reoccurring object that makes the destruction of the Big Daddies are the vita chambers. They are instant resurrection chambers that will throw you right back into the fray and they are utilized in every level of BIOSHOCK (sans the final encounter.) It makes BIOSHOCK seem easier than it should as dying becomes a minor inconvenience. The silver lining to this is that they can be deactivated at will via the options menu.
Ever since Fallout first introduced the 1920’s theme to the gaming genre, I have fallen in love with it. I still love watching old gangster movies and I honest to God love some of the old songs used for Fallout introductions (and most of the entire soundtrack to Fallout 3.)
BIOSHOCK takes this theme and successfully runs with it. With respect to the music, it uses over forty songs from the era and can be accessed when you come across a phonograph. Visually, nothing seems generic. Minute items such as vent grate, handrails and floor tiles seem to have been meticulously designed so it will fit and stand out and even enhance the atmosphere. I truly believe the environment as a whole could not have been approved upon.
BIOSHOCK’s visuals (in terms of quality) are not mind blowing and they physics engine will not drop any jaws but that doesn’t stop it from being very appealing to the eye. Utilizing a heavily modified version of the Unreal 2.5 engine, it may not stand out in any one facet but the parts are greater than the sum. It may not look the best but how every little detail is correctly assembled, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
The 2007 Game of the Year effectively mixes horror, science fiction and action together in a game that has me instantly salivating at the concept of a sequel. The overall pacing is almost perfect with the only real downside I can think of are the lack of enemy varieties. Aside from the Big Daddies, there are only about four regular types of enemies you face. This makes the end game combat start to feel a bit repetitive near the finale. The worst part about BIOSHOCK is that the experience ends.