Shooters have come and gone over the course of the past many years, many of them slipping by us because the industry has become so overwhelming inflated by them. What I think defines a good shooter game is dependent upon how well the core mechanics of the game play out. Is the game fun? Are the controls in sync with what's happening on the screen, or more importantly, does the action flow or feel fluid? But the question, "does the game tell a good story," almost never crosses my mind.
Most fast paced action oriented shooters pop the player into a hectic firefight, have them pop a few rounds into the enemy and force them onward down a linear, scripted path. While BioShock does contain many of the same elements, ironically I thought the game was disappointing in every aspect that defines its given genre, first-person shooter, but excels in every form outside the "norm."
As I mentioned before, the typical modern day shooter doesn't have a very complex plot to boast about. Typically, players are just there for the multiplayer. But BioShock does things a bit differently and makes significant strides to make players actually feel for the game's many protagonists and the piss-poor events that have befallen them.
Focusing in on a unique blend stealth and role-playing game like elements, the player takes on the role of Jack, who is trying to fight his way through the underwater metropolis of Rapture after his plane crashed in the middle of the ocean.
Your first look at Rapture is cut short by an enemy splicer, of whom you will very quickly become a common foe to you throughout your adventure. A man named Atlas contacts you via radio and offers to help get you out of the city and back to wherever you came from, as long as you promise to help him free his enslaved family from the big man in charge at Rapture, Andrew Ryan.
One goal has now swiftly become two, and two may just as easily become three and four. While the end goal remains the same for every player that goes through the game, to escape Rapture and return home, depending on the choices that you'll make throughout the game, getting home might not be too easy.
For instance, throughout Rapture are wandering Little Sisters and their Big Daddy harvesting ADAM as they go. ADAM is the basically the currency of the game and can be spent at a Gatherer's Garden to gain Gene Tonics and Plasmids to give your character new abilities or upgrades to the ones you already have.
You can choose to kill the Little Sister and harvest her ADAM for yourself, or you can spare the child, provider her with a plasmid that would cure her of her bond to the Big Daddy, thus saving her life in the end. The choices you make will affect which one of the two endings to the game's story you'll get at the end of the game.
But whereas the game succeeded so well in crafting together and extravagantly well told story, I thought BioShock flopped when it came down to the "nitty griity" of things, the gameplay.
I couldn't help but continuously draw comparisons between the game and the original Halo in terms of how the game's combat sequences played out. While you can aim down the sights, vision is severely impaired and it feels like you lose all control of the weapon itself, especially if many of the guns in the game suffer from severe recoil kickback effects that caused me to miss my targets on a frequent and irritating basis. As a result, I would repeatedly default back to shooting only from the hip, of which I thought controlled and "felt" just like combat did in Halo back on the Xbox.
Even though harming the enemies themselves may be tough, they die just like everyone else and when that happens, many of them are stock-full of goodies (ammunition, health kits, money, and other additional equipment) to loot. You may also come across spare parts laying around in the game world that can be used to create new weapons at "U-invent" machines.
Players can also hack a variety of different items such as cameras, which need to be turned off or else they will call in auto-bots to kill you, and turrets, of which can hacked and used to attack the enemy instead of you. You may also come across an assortment of different safes, door locks and vending machines that are hack-able as well.
What I think distinguishes BioShock from many other games in the genre is not just the story the game tells, but the game's 1960's underwater utopia setting itself is unparalleled to anything I'd ever seen in a game before. And the excellent score of classic American music that accompanies the game really helped bring the game to life and made me feel as if I'd jumped into a portal that sent me back in time, even though I was in an underwater city… Simply exploring the city of Rapture itself was an awe-inspiring experience that I consider almost second to none and will relish for years to come, despite the game's clunky controls and poor AI. For anyone who enjoys a good story, BioShock is a great addition to you plethora of games.
Replay Value: Moderate