Video game review: Bioshock

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Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

When addiction to an ideal erodes humanity, relentless pursuit will kill it. And when ambition drives you to build an underwater monument to that ideal, everything starts to crumble. It’s said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Welcome to hell, welcome to Rapture.

2K Boston takes us to the underwater city of Rapture; a city built on the idea that humanity could flourish without the restrictions of government, religion or mediocrity. Rapture is the ambitious brain-child of Andrew Ryan, the prototypical villain of Bioshock, and it serves as a breeding ground for “artistic brilliance” – the holy grail of Andrew Ryan’s pursuit.

But something has gone catastrophically wrong.

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Portrait of Andrew Ryan

Bioshock is a brilliant example of exceptional gameplay fused with extraordinary narrative. The level of immersion in this game forces you to consider all your decisions and how they might affect you later. As you progress through Rapture, you find audio diaries that slowly tell the story of how the city failed.

Andrew Ryan is a visionary and you can sense his unyielding passion to construct a new society. However, he fails to consider the human element. Gene splicing and genetic alteration drive the citizens of Rapture into a state that parallels drug addiction and misguided power, especially inside a social environment that rewards unchallenged greatness and punishes anything less.

Splicers are the citizens of Rapture who’ve fallen victim to Andrew Ryan’s god complex. Their addiction and self-loathing are strong themes as they appear to understand what they’ve become to a point they wear masks to hide their shame. It can take a number of shots to kill the stronger ones, and that’s exactly where choice comes in to play.

Standard weapons are a small part of what makes this such a unique experience. Along with your pistol, shotgun, and grenade launcher, there’s a variety of ammunition that will increase damage against an enemy. Electric buck, exploding buck, amour piercing bullets and anti-personnel bullets are a small sample of what’s available. You can also collect material to use at U-invent machines to upgrade each weapon.

You can purchase ammunition, health kit and EVE hypos from vending machines using money you collect around Rapture. You can also hack vending machines to get price reductions and unlock various items.

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Security camera

Hacking plays a significant role in the game and was the only part I found repetitive. Although it was relatively simple, I was compelled to hack as many machines as possible to increase the value of my dollar. You can also hack security cameras, gun turrets and security bots. A hacked camera will alarm the system and send a bot to attack a Splicer. It proves quite helpful in certain situations.

The standard weapons are fun, but what makes this game so amazing, are plasmids and tonics. Plasmids are the genetic upgrades you can get from collecting ADAM – the material that is cherished and sought after by everyone in Rapture. It’s what caused the meltdown of the entire society.

You can only get ADAM from a Little Sister and they have body guards called Big Daddies; they’re tough.  You must defeat the Big Daddy in order to collect ADAM from the Little Sister. This is where Bioshock comes together, not only as a video game but a piece of art. Big Daddies take persistence and weapon experimentation to defeat. You will die.

However, I love how Bioshock deals with death. it’s not easy on you, but it’s fair. You can respawn at vita chambers around Rapture, which could mean some back-tracking and a build-up of ammunition, but it’s never impossible. You can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

During your first encounter with a Little Sister, you’re forced to make a big decision; receive more ADAM and therefore more power by harvesting, and ultimately killing them. Or receive less ADAM by saving them. I can’t go into more detail without spoiling the story, but it’s conflicting up until the end. Especially because the more ADAM you get, they more plasmids you can buy.

Your plasmids are your second set of weapons. You can freeze an enemy with winter frost, enrage them so they attack each other, or set up a decoy so they attack a ghost; the possibilities are endless. And there lots to choose from. You can upgrade each one as you progress through the game, making them more effective.

Certain combinations of plasmids and weapons are stronger than others, but experimentation is the name of the game. You’ll have more fun if you try each one out: Set a Splicer on fire, then send a swarm of bees after him; enrage five at a time and sit back and watch the show. It’s really the point where quality of gameplay lives up to the story.

Bioshock is more than a game, it’s an experience. It’s been out since 2007 and still stands as a game that others need to live up to. If you haven’t played it, buy it today and you won’t regret it.

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