Past Entertainment Articles.
Article for the week of 12/22/07
Reminiscing about Rapture (Bio Shock Review for
As 2007 nears its end, videogamers everywhere are probably wondering either what goodies will come next year, or looking back at the year that was. The last few months in particular have been truly jam packed with great games, and in between working to get the money for them all, a lot of games have been weighed against one another, a lot of games have been dismissed, and a lot of games were picked up only to be abandoned halfway through for the next monster-seller that arrived. One of those games that was both championed up as the new best thing of all time and then rather promptly forgotten a few weeks later was Ken Levine's and former Irrational Games' first-person awesome Bioshock. Yes, the word “shooter” is replaced with awesome for a fairly good reason. This is not to say that the game was not perhaps a tiny bit over hyped, but it falls about half a million miles short of hitting the Peter Molyneux mark, so I do believe it is all good.
For those of you who somehow managed to completely miss Bioshock, possibly due to drooling over the impending release of Halo 3, which might mean Bioshock simply isn't for you anyway, back in late August/early September, the game takes place in an underwater city in the year 1960. The city is, fittingly enough, named Rapture, which at least strikes me as a bad omen for a Utopia, but then again, Rapture is a city of science. It is a city where the artist need not fear the censor, and where every man is free to do almost whatever they want. Or, that was the general idea, at least. Until the genetic substance known as Adam came into the picture. Adam allowed people to change their genetic structure by using so-called plasmids, and the perfect society more or less tore itself apart.
And of course, in this giant mess comes you, the sole survivor of a plane crash in the middle of the Atlantic.
The opening scenes in Bioshock have an atmosphere so thick if you had a knife you could cut it. Propaganda and signs litter the floor, insinuating just how and what went wrong, and just by looking around, in a game that looks none too shabby even at a low resolution and almost everything set to minimum, you get a pretty good feel of what sort of place Rapture was. Here and there you find little audio-journals, and piece by piece the truth becomes clearer to you, and the atmosphere is so thick that you can almost hit it with your wrench, since there is no knife to cut it with. This suits me just fine, as the wrench is such a brutal weapon, and one can almost feel the weight of the blow as you land a good hit in the face of a splicer attacking you for Adam.
Indeed, the games arsenal contains so many goodies I would hate to spoil them for you, but suffice to say there is not a flame thrower so much as a chemical thrower. Add to this the plasmids, giving you the ability to freeze your enemies, use telekinesis, or throw them up into the air and the different ways to kill people quickly become quite a few.
All of this would of course be rather meaningless if 2k Boston didn't know how to make their combat work. The archives has a review of another old gem by Levine and the boys, namely Tribes: Vengeance. While Bioshock takes a different approach to combat, they do share the most important aspect: it's fun! Imagine this, you hack a flamer turret and every enemy that comes around the corner to attack does so on fire, while you stand there with either a wrench (because the wrench is fantastic!) or a machine gun loaded with anti-personnel rounds you made yourself and mow the poor helpless bastard down. One of the statements about the game is that no two encounters play the same, but this I'm not sure I agree with, In the end, you find a tactic that works and you rather stick to it, although with some slight modifications.
Just the ability to have special powers and hack things (which is done with a fairly clever little minigame that also includes water) was not the main source of the hype, however. No, that rather came with the moral choices Bioshock was to give you. Sadly this is distilled into a fairly easy choice, one you make repeatedly. See, in order to acquire most plasmids, you need Adam, and the easiest way to get Adam is from some of the most adorable characters seen in a videogame meant to be somewhat dark, namely the Little Sisters. These share the looks of young girls, and the choice is to either save them from what they have become and make them healthy again, or harvest them for Adam. I can understand the will for more Adam, as plasmids, health upgrades and gene tonics are quite addictive, but I have yet to lean even close to the darker side in Bioshock. I simply cannot do it, the Little Sisters are just too awesome with their blood-drinking and exclaims of “look. Mr Bubbles!”.
Mr. Bubbles is also known as a Big Daddy, also known as the coolest and scariest thing in Rapture. A Big Daddy exists only to help the Little Sisters in their work, and is one of the last things you want to fight with. Unfortunately, if you want to get to the Little Sister, for whatever reason, you have to go through a Big Daddy. If you stay away from her, however, the Daddy will happily leave you be as long as you don't do anything stupid. As the interaction between everything in Bioshock is dynamic, this can be used as a weapon or a way to plan ahead too. Follow the Daddy to a Little Sister, and then set off your well planned ambush, or have the Daddy think you are a Little Sister, meaning he will drill/shoot/annihilate any splicer that tries to lay a hand on you. I hold a special place in my heart for this pair, and the Daddies feel much like the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus, in a way. There is something special about each one, about each intense fight.
I have rambled on for over a thousand words without really saying half of what I have wanted to say about Bioshock, but I am afraid if I continue I just might spoil it for you, and I would hate to do that. If you have a computer that can handle it, or if you have no qualms about playing FPSs on an Xbox 360, you should give Bioshock a try. About the only issue I have with it is that it feels far too short, and then I know I ran around hours upon hours in Rapture, none of which felt like an annoyance and some of which felt sick and wrong, but at the same time fantastic, and that there are alternate endings in case I ever want to gain more Adam, at which point it hardly feels like an issue anymore. For all of its terrors, Rapture is a place I find myself wanting to return to.
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