Bioshock Ends Summer Game Drought with a Splash

I hope this review reaches everyone okay – I mean, it did have to find its way to the surface from nearly six miles beneath the waves, and then all the way to Tampa, which is no small feat in and of itself.

I’ve spent the past week as a citizen of Rapture, ever since my trans-Atlantic flight crashed in the middle of the ocean, luckily near a lighthouse docking station where a bathysphere transport waited to take me down to my fate. Shortly thereafter, I injected myself with my first Plasmid and found that I could shoot bolts of lightning from my fingertips. This, combined with my newfound pipe wrench, made for a wonderful weekend of splicer smashing.

This is the premise of Bioshock, 2K’s new first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and PC. As the first major release following a dull summer barren of new titles, Bioshock had a lot of hype to live up to, and it delivers on all levels.

Bioshock’s players are thrust into Rapture, an underwater city constructed on the Atlantic’s floor by entrepreneur (and would-be dictator) Andrew Ryan during the mid-forties. Ryan’s dream was to make a place where “the artist would not fear the censor, nor the scientist be bound by petty morality.” By the time the player arrives in 1960, the city has dissolved into a civil war between the forces of Atlas, a rebel leader, and Andrew Ryan. The story, while immense and complex, is not something you won’t be able to piece together on your own as you explore Rapture.

Plasmids, like the lightning mentioned earlier, are purchased using Adam, which is harvested by Little Sisters, who are protected from the splicers by Big Daddies, who will never think twice about boring a hole through your guts. It seems like a lot to take in, but by the time you’ve cleared the Medical compound, this cycle will become second nature.

The counterpart to Adam is, perhaps not surprisingly, Eve, a substance which once injected into the body allows the player to use their Plasmids to fight the splicers and Big Daddies.

There are more conventional weapons in the game as well, including a shotgun, a revolver and a Tommy gun. All of these can be upgraded at various stations throughout Rapture. Combat is fast-paced and brutal, and players would be wise to use a combination of Plasmids and normal weapons in order to annihilate enemies.

The sound in Bioshock is outstanding. The ambience of water constantly trickling down the walls, the sound of dust and debris falling to the ground as splicers crawl around the ceiling and even the loud noises and catcalls of the innumerable vending machines around the city all combine to make you feel like you really are stranded in a hellish, chaotic dystopia six miles beneath the ocean’s surface. Another element that adds to this ambience is the game’s soundtrack, comprised of oldies-type tunes that blare from the speakers dotted all over the city.

One last thing to note are the water effects. This might sound silly, but in a game where water is pretty much a central theme, all those little details and ripples and mists make a huge difference, and make the experience just that much more realistic.

If you own a 360 or have a PC with the capacity to handle this game, you owe it to yourself to check out Bioshock. The action, story, sound and visual zing are unlike anything I’ve seen since Half Life 2 or Gears of War.

Besides, how can you say no to an action game whose advertisements showcase music by Bobby Darin?

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