In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

BioShock

Moby ID: 29886
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

In the year 1960, a plane crashes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a man named Jack as the only survivor. He has the apparent luck of resurfacing in front of what looks like a door to an underwater complex. Without hesitating, Jack enters the door and is greeted by slogans that praise the city of Rapture, a paradise of free will built in the 1940s by a business magnate named Andrew Ryan. However, even before he assimilates all this new information, the descent to this supposed paradise ends and he can only see ruins and chaos. Learning about the destiny of Rapture will be now Jack's main motivation while he tries to survive the horrors that free will can create.

BioShock is a first-person shooter with gameplay elements and storytelling technique reminiscent of System Shock games. Rapture, the once-proud social experiment inspired by the real-world objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, has been nearly destroyed, its inhabitants either dead or fallen victims to bizarre scientific experiments. The retro-futuristic setting incorporates elements of sci-fi with art deco and steampunk influences, featuring interior design and propaganda posters reminiscent of 1950s.

The game's plot is largely revealed through recorded messages left by Rapture's inhabitants before they were killed or mutated. Much of the plot development is therefore dedicated to reconstructing the events of the past, similarly to System Shock games. Limited usage of stealth, the possibility to hack security cameras and other devices, and character customization are the gameplay elements that further tie BioShock to its spiritual predecessors.

At its core, however, the game is more action-oriented, restricting the role-playing mechanics of System Shock 2 to abilities and upgrades that can be acquired and equipped by the main character. Most of the enemies in the game are Splicers, the deformed and insane citizens of Rapture. The protagonist has an arsenal of firearms to combat them but is also able to use plasmids, which act similarly to magic and deplete a special energy called EVE. Various types of plasmids may directly hurt enemies, sabotage their movements, or enhance the player character's defense. Combat tactics often rely on successive usage of different types of weapons and plasmids. For example, encasing an enemy in ice with a plasmid makes it possible to shatter it to pieces with a single shot; protecting himself with an electric shield, the protagonist can electrocute enemies and strike them with melee weapons, etc.

The player can only equip a limited number of active and passive plasmids, and also has an inventory limit for every type of item. Restoring and enhancing items can be found by exploring the environment or purchased from vending machines. These can also be hacked, similar to turrets, cameras, safes, and other types of locks. Hacking is presented as a Pipe Mania-like mini-game.

Plasmids, on the other hand, are mostly purchased by spending certain amounts of a mutagen known as ADAM. This mutagen can be obtained from mysterious creatures called "Little Sisters" - little girls that can be seen in most of the game's locations, accompanied and protected by very strong, genetically enhanced humans grafted to armored diving suits and nicknamed "Big Daddies". In order to capture a Little Sister the player normally has to defeat her Big Daddy. Afterward, the player has the choice of killing the girl, harvesting large amounts of ADAM in the process, or sparing her life. Depending on the player's moral decisions concerning the Little Sisters, the game's story will be concluded with different endings.

The Playstation 3 version adds a harder difficulty level called "Survivor Mode" to the game.

Spellings

  • バイオショック - Japanese spelling
  • 바이오쇼크 - Korean spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

464 People (423 developers, 41 thanks) · View all

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Average score: 94% (based on 194 ratings)

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Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 420 ratings with 17 reviews)

An Artful Spiritual Successor To System Shock 2

The Good
The moment that the game's undersea city, Rapture is revealed to an intense orchestral flourish, shining like a retro-styled future dream in the vibrant depths, the player is drawn into an experience. That is indeed what Bioshock is - an experience. The game has an atmosphere of terrific substance, a triumph of design.

Graphically, there is no doubt that the technology is incredible. Most especially, lighting and water effects will cause jaws to drop in awe. Early in the game, I witnessed a cascade of water and could not believe the realistic look of it. And in a game set under the waves, this is used to wonderful effect.

Yet graphics are really only a means to express the visual experience. As we found with Oblivion, no matter how pretty a game is, a poorly designed world becomes tedious and boring. Bioshock succeeds in avoiding such problems. Every location is distinct and meaningful. It is not simply a matter of individual levels, but individual districts and rooms which have a sense of...well.. place. And, further, they have a sense of the people who had inhabited them. Everywhere, the player who looks will find tiny stories being told of someone who was there before them. Many of these are quite chilling. All of them are seamlessly expressed within the game's world.

Sound effects are a big part of any game, but in the survival horror genre they serve the essential purposes of causing tension and indicating the presence of nearby enemies. Bioshock's sound is of a quality beyond reproach. Although voice tends to be well done, it is in the combination of lush environmental effects with haunting 30's and 40's style music coming from sources in the world itself that the player is truly drawn into the game.

Combat is creative and enjoyable. There are a great many combat encounters, yet one can avoid them entirely or choose to use indirect means to take down their foes.

One highly touted aspect of the game is the use of the environment in fighting. For instance, hacking a health machine will cause enemies to be poisoned when they try to use it. New dimensions certainly open up in Bioshock for those with the creativity and presence of mind to use them.

Much like its spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2, Bioshock's intense atmosphere and randomly spawning enemies succeeds in creating that essential "never really safe" feeling I love in these games. This, combined with the descent into a world of madness and terror in Rapture, creates an unforgettable experience.

The Bad
While Bioshock is the spiritual successor to the game which I consider to be one of the greatest of all time - System Shock 2 - it does not quite live up to the older product. Certainly, technology has been upgraded. And there is no doubt that the AI and the use of environment are substantially improved. However, beyond this, I find that Bioshock consistently falls short of System Shock 2.

While I do praise the sound and also the quality of the voice acting, the range of script and casting is far too limited. It seems as if I am constantly encountering the same people who are saying the same things over and over. Yes, in System Shock 2, there were similar limitations. But it does not bother me there, perhaps because of the "uncanny valley" effect. In other words, I do not have an issue with worm zombies moaning out repetitious lines because they are so inhuman. When a very human seeming splicer rants the same lines as five other splicers in the last half hour, it is so close to human that it becomes very noticeable to me.

The AI is better than in System Shock 2, but it is still pretty poor compared to what is available. In a world after F.E.A.R.'s incredible tactical combat, the bar has been raised so that it is no longer acceptable for AI to charge at me with guns. I want them to try to flank, to be aware of what weapon I am using and when I am reloading it. Certainly, I would like a bit better than what Bioshock provided.

System Shock 2 was a PC only release, while Bioshock was developed for multiple platforms at the same time. Many people suggest that this caused Bioshock to be "dumbed down" for the more casual console market. Whether this was the reasoning or not, there is little doubt that this is a far easier game and one with much less complexity.

First, the roleplaying game aspect has pretty much disappeared here. In System Shock 2, the player had to assign points to upgrade both their attributes and their skills. You were not automatically able to hack any computer, use any gun, and project psionic blasts. In order to do any of that, the player had to make choices. So you could never be a super-soldier, master hacker, and psionic wizard at the same time. That made for true gameplay choices. Meanwhile, all skill and stat points are now gone from Bioshock. Now your character automatically is capable of any hacking, plasmid usage, or weapon usage with perfect skill.

One of the key aspects of survival horror is the need to survive. These are taken separately from other action games because they impose difficult restrictions which force a careful, thoughtful style of play amidst a chaotic, dangerous environment. Generally, this is achieved through a combination of limited health and limited resources.

System Shock 2 truly put the survival in survival horror. On the first play-through, most will find the game's difficulty to be incredible. You begin to hoard every resource you can, avoid combat when possible, and rejoice at finding even one more bullet. Every action you take is a calculated risk of your chances to survive. By contrast, I found that even on Hard, I was overflowing with resources by mid-game in Bioshock. There was never any desire to avoid combat except in the very beginning. I had so much stuff that I was often unable to pick up more of it. My ammunition and money was constantly full. All of this served to decrease my sense of truly surviving.

Much was made before release about the supposed choices made in Bioshock. However, in reality, there was only one line of choices being made - whether to harvest the "Adam" (money to spend on genetic powers) fully from the zombie little girls who ran about gathering it, thus killing them, or whether to save them for a much lesser amount of Adam. Not only was this rather black and white question the only moral issue to solve, but if you chose the "good" path then you would receive repeated large gifts for doing so - thus making the Adam difference between the two paths very little. I would have been happier if being the good guy meant you had to work harder.

Combat could be a bit unsatisfying at times in Bioshock. The problem was balance. Near the end of the game, enemies became superpeople who could laugh off your plasmid abilities. Being engulfed in flames seemed to have little effect on them, for instance. Yet some weapons proved to be so overpowered that it felt like cheating to use them. So the creativity of the environmental style of combat ended up being lost in the shuffle.

The Bottom Line
I would recommend Bioshock for its atmosphere alone, but there is a lot more to love about it. There is no doubt that this game is a 5 star title. However, those expecting a real return to the brilliance of System Shock 2 should be aware that it is not to be found here - only a shadow of that glory.

Windows · by Steelysama (82) · 2008

Bioshock, y u no work properly?

The Good
Areas are nicely designed and especially looking out of a window is cool.

Enemies have very fascinating dialogue lines.

Able to hack machines.

The Bad
Confusing inventory and interface.

Visuals get really messy.

Controls are awkward.

Standing still to listen to taped messages is kind of lame.

You have very little health.

The Bottom Line
Story

Bioshock reminds me a lot of Half-Life in some ways: both games heavily emphasize a story told as you play, some gameplay elements are also similar and both titles start off with gameplay instead of cut-scene. After hitting “New game” you witness your airliner crashing into the ocean and are then forced to swim to a lighthouse. As you look for shelter, you come upon a pod that, once entered, sinks into the deep and brings you to the remains of an underwater utopia called “Rapture”. I would go into a bit more detail about what happens after, but that’s where our first problem arises: I simply can’t follow it. This might have been letdown, but it seems like climbing up the lighthouse and lighting it or maybe just staying put would have been a better choice, as a rescue team would probably be very interested in the huge fire in the middle of the ocean. I suppose you could say the goal is to save Rapture, but we have no personal connection with the location or the characters within it, so why should we care?

The game seeks to flesh out the story some more through ways that Half-Life also used, but things tend to get a little too busy. There are environmental hints, but at the same time there are characters speaking to you directly, enemies taunting you, people ordering you around through the radio, commercials been played through the intercom and if you aren’t getting enough of a headache already, then you can also find recorded tapes. I like to see games that don’t throw you to death with cut-scenes, but this is still obnoxious in a different way and even harder to follow. I gave up on it pretty soon and just played through the game in a trance instead. The recorded messages are especially annoying because everything just keeps going while you are trying to listen, that includes enemies and other characters talking.

Gameplay

Bioshock has some very obvious tells that reveal that this is a new IP, but it also has some capable people working on it. The game mixes RPG elements with a first-person shooter, this means you can upgrade your weapons and also choose between a number of upgrades to change the way you play. It sounds good on paper, but in practice the menu used for picking these upgrades is very clunky and confusing. I ran into a number of improvements as I played, but every time I found and installed one, the previous options I picked were gone. Eventually I found out the game has sub-categories for these things, but that still didn’t make it any more clear. You can also use Plasmids, which are special augmentations that you can inject into yourself and use as some sort of spell. There is a great deal of these and they certainly make for more diverse tactics, but switching between shooting stance and plasmid stance is annoying as all hell and some don’t even seem to work (such as enrage which should make enemies fight each other).

Levels are also designed in a way that I don’t like. The progression is linear, but there are branched paths that result in neat goodies. I do like that the game points out the way you need to go with an arrow on the HUD, but it’s still irritating to have to comb a dozen random rooms every time you get somewhere new. Levels mostly consist of dynamic goals that change as you accumulate information or get your path blocked, which I do actually like, but as stated before it was hard to figure out why stuff happens in this game. Most of the time you will be harassed by the former residents of Rapture and defense systems as you try to make it through the level, admittedly there is a lot of freedom and you can make it past enemies in many different ways. However, the actions fails to engage because the story is too hard to follow, making the gameplay a very dull affair overall.

Presentation

During that opening sequence in which we see the whole of Rapture while been transported in a pod I became really excited to see more of the city. However, when gameplay finally took over it was rather shallow and standard. I can imagine Rapture used to have a lot of color to it, but they went with such dark lighting and so much of it is destroyed that little is left of it. This results in a very inconsistent presentation where some parts look really scary, but are accompanied by cheerful music or advertisements on the intercom. To make the situation work either the area would have had to be intact or maybe they could have made the machines and speaker distorted, so that they would sound disturbing. As it stands now these areas just feel very mediocre: the design is too dark to be fun, but the sound is too cheerful to be scary.

Trying to get this game to run was also very difficult, something that I feel should not be the case for a game from 2009. On Windows 7 the game simply wouldn’t run, not at all in fact. If I launched the game in Steam it crashed instantly. It took me a while to figure out that I had to run the game in compatibility mode, because I assumed it had something to do with my drivers and I ran some updates instead. There’s our first problem: Windows 7 was launched in 2009 as well, so there is no excuse to not support it. Even if the game came first, there should have been an update to make it compatible long ago. It gets better though! The game would run in Windows Vista, but with NO SOUND. To get the sound working I had to run it in Windows XP (service pack 2). Let me get this straight… To get this game from 3 years ago working, you have to run it with an Operating System from 8 years ago? FUCK LOGIC.

Replay value and extras

Normally I would handle these two aspects separately, but for the first time I can group them together, just because there is not much to say. The game can hardly be considered very good for another playthrough, simply because it’s already a drag on the first run. Normally the fast-paced nature of linear first-person shooters is enough to keep it at least entertaining, but Bioshock dabbles in so much backtracking and other slow elements that it loses this advantage. You also tend to fall into a routine, which renders the option to try out different plasmids and tactics worthless, especially when you keep in mind that buying new plasmids and upgrades costs valuable Adam.

On the subject of Adam, that is also the main thing you’ll be going after. The game has a running moral-choice system in which you occasionally run into creatures known as “Little Sisters”. The idea is that you have to fight their guardian, a hulking machine known as a “Big Daddy”, and then either kill or cure the child. Killing them grants you a lot of Adam, which you can use to buy (passive) upgrades or new plasmid powers, and curing them grants you random presents and a lot less Adam. This choice also changes the ending you get. It works to a certain extent, but fighting the Big Daddies becomes, just like the rest of the game, a chore. The things are so powerful that they seem to me like a way to balance for the stupid amounts of money and ammo the game gives you every chance it gets. Besides that you can also gather the various upgrades and recorded messages if you really want a 100%, but frankly I don’t see the appeal and some levels won’t let you backtrack (by means of shut doors).

Verdict

The main problem I have with this game is the story, which may sound odd for an FPS, but hear me out. Even Call of Duty has a little story that adds context to what you are doing, without that little B-movie plot about Russians invading, the game would just be four hours of psychotic violence. Without the context there is no meaning to what you do and this will almost always result in the game failing to engage you. Bioshock however has so much plot that the player can’t keep up with it, there might be a context, but the player won’t experience it that way, thus giving the same result as having none at all. This affects every aspect of the game: the gameplay is boring because we don’t know what we’re doing, the presentation is dull because it always seems inconsistent in tone and there is no reason to replay it because who wants to go for a second round of random murdering?

Most of the people who seem to like this game are former fans of the “System Shock” franchise, so if you are part of that group and still haven’t tried it, then go ahead. If you’re dying for a new IP in the shooter market then Bioshock is again a pretty good choice. Veterans of the genre however will find Bioshock to be too slow and too story-heavy to entertain, so for everybody else I recommend skipping out on this game.

Windows · by Asinine (956) · 2012

Wow!

The Good
I confess that I bought an X-box 360 for this game. After 2 years of hearing how wonderful it was, I broke down and tried it. I hooked up the unit to my HD TV and experienced something remarkable.

2k studios spent a great deal of effort designing this game. They designed an entire city, sculpted and shaped in the Art Nuevo of the preceding decades. Then they smashed it with blunt objects of war and destruction. The details are astounding, portraying a beautiful gleaming city in the process of an ugly death. Everywhere you look, you see what it was and what it is. Rubble and debris. Surprisingly creepy…

Using the Unreal 2.5 engine, The graphics are detailed, revealing textures and dimensions that add to the feeling of being in a real environment. The sound is equally well done, with subtle music cues. You won’t forget the first time you hear someone sing a gospel in a weary, lost voice. The random pieces of dialogue you hear from the NPCs wandering around only contribute to the sense of madness that has possessed Rapture.

Gameplay is an elaborate gun and run mix up, enhanced by weapon choice, weapon improvement and general collection of supplies. I really like how you can use different approaches to killing your enemies.

One of the biggest points of the game is the story. It’s told through old tapes, ghosts, NPC narrations, and settings in the environment. Its not your run of the mill tacked on adventure. Its critical to the game and how it is played. I was taken by surprise when I saw the rooms that the little sisters were kept in. It was reminiscent of the brutal experimentations that were done by behaviorist in the early 20th century. B.F. Skinner is even mentioned in passing.

Voice acting was pretty good, if not slightly over the top. The accents were heavy and seemed to be coming from a b-movie cast.

It was very cool, how you had a few methods for turning enemies in to allies against their will. It was even cooler, how you could rack up achievement points for Xbox live.

The Bad
For a game based on self-determination, this game is pretty linear. You can find a lot of cool stuff by wandering off the path, but to progress, you have to pretty much follow the directions put before you. The game even alludes to it about 2/3 of the way. You end up normally using 2-3 plasmids for most of the game and the same goes for the weapons.

And its short and a little on the easy side. Replay value is not its strongest point.

The Bottom Line
This game is proof that games can be art and have a meaning to them. And yes, it was worth buying the Xbox 360.

Xbox 360 · by Scott Monster (986) · 2010

[ View all 17 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
initial Mac releases Cantillon (79242) Feb 7, 2022
Gameplay feature: New Game+ Cantillon (79242) Jun 22, 2021
German PEGI (uncut) Steelbook Cover Art Zerobrain (3052) Oct 15, 2010
Yikes. Indra was here (20750) May 16, 2009
They're doin' it for themselves Slug Camargo (583) Mar 21, 2009

Trivia

1001 Video Games

BioShock appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

German version

To ensure that the game wouldn't be put on the infamous list of BPjS/BPjM indexed games, 2k Games released a slightly modified version of the game and the Collector's Edition with only the German language on the disc in Germany. The changes include less blood, some changed cutscenes and no wounds on burned bodies. This version got rated "Not free for minors" by the German rating organisation USK.

Hacking

The hacking mini-game (which can be performed on a variety of devices including safes, security cameras, item dispensers, robots, etc.) is basically a slightly altered version of Pipe Dream.

Reception

According to Wall Street Journal Take Two's shares increased by nearly 20% after early favorable reviews of BioShock.

References

In Farmer's Market cantina, you can find a piece of cheese that resembles Pac-Man, even with the dots!

References to the game

BioShock was parodied in an episode of "Die Redaktion" (The Editorial Team), a monthly comedy video produced by the German gaming magazine GameStar. It was published on the DVD of issue 12/2007.

Soundtrack

On August 24, 2007 2K Games released a 12 track compilation with songs from the orchestral score composed by Garry Schyman. The compilation can be downloaded for free here: http://downloads.2kgames.com/bioshock/BioShock_Score.zip

One of the songs that were included on the Bonus EP in the Collector's Edition, was made by Moby. It's a remix of "Below the sea".

Water

2K Games had to hire a water programmer and a water artist to implement the pools and the pouring water around Rapture. This involved modifying the Unreal 3.0 engine to create realistic water effects.

Awards

  • Games for Windows Magazine
    • March 2008 - #4 Game of the Year 2007
  • GameSpy
    • 2007 – #2 Console Game of the Year
    • 2007 – #2 Xbox 360 Game of the Year
    • 2007 – #3 Game of the Year
    • 2007 – #3 PC Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Best Art Direction of the Year
    • 2007 – Best Sound of the Year
    • 2007 – Best Story of the Year
    • 2011 – #2 Top PC Game of the 2000s
    • 2012 – #2 Top PC Gaming Intro
  • Mac|Life
    • December 2009 - Editor's Choice Award

Information also contributed by Agent 5, Apogee IV, [bakkelun](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,70962/), [Emepol](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,12364/), [PCGamer77](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,1717/), [Scott Monster](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,35225/), [Sicarius](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,70866/) and [WildKard](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,16566/)

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by MichaelPalin.

OnLive added by firefang9212. iPad, PlayStation 3, iPhone added by Sciere. Macintosh added by Zeppin.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Maw, Zeppin, Jason Strautman, Patrick Bregger, Starbuck the Third, FatherJack, firefang9212, Zhuzha.

Game added August 23, 2007. Last modified May 24, 2024.