BioShock Gameplay Review

Written by Joe Martin

August 21, 2007 | 09:50

Tags: #2k #360 #atlas #best-ever #best-of #bioshock #boston #evar #irrational #joe #levine #looking-glass #rapture #ryan #story #system-shock

Companies: #take-two

Enraptured in Rapture

The start of the game hasn’t changed much from how it was when I previewed it not long ago, which is good and, if you’ve played the demo on either Xbox 360 or PC, you’ll already be familiar with it. The demo covers pretty much the first fifteen minutes or so of gameplay and barely makes it out of the tutorial stages.

If you haven’t played the demo though, I’ll explain.

There’s a plane crash and you’re left swimming in the ocean. That’s it. There’s very little information to go on other than that initially, apart from a narrating voice-over given which states your father always said you were destined for great things and a glance at a sepia-coloured photo in your wallet.

A prompt kindly informs you that it’s the 1960s, but before you can get your bong out and start enjoying the summer of love, the plane crashes into the ocean and you’re struggling for air. You push to the surface, gasping for air and, as a player, you can already feel the first tingle on your skin as the cold sweat begins.

Every time I see the opening I feel the same strange horror and panic and worry that I’m going to drown.

BioShock Gameplay Review At the start, it's always dark
Rapture has problems with occasional flooding

But every time, I break the surface just in time and look out over the wrecked, burning fuselage of the plane. Seawater clings to the screen in delicious droplets which distort the view, but as they roll off the screen everything starts to clear and I can see the spire in the distance, hulking and massive. It’s an even darker monolith against an already tar-black sky, lit only by the occasional fork of lightening.

Without giving away any spoilers at all, the brief history of the city of Rapture, to which the spire is an entrance, is quickly related to the player. Founded by a man named Andrew Ryan, who decided to forsake normal society and build an idealist city at the bottom of the ocean in a 1920's art deco style. Rapture has since fallen in to chaos.

Descending in a bathysphere (an underwater lift - Ed), this information is fed to the player masterfully through propaganda reports and vistas of the crumbling city. What was once a testament to one man's dream and vision is quickly revealed to be a horrible carnival ride of macabre beauty and monstrous violence. A man named Atlas, who seems to be the only sane man in the city, quickly contacts you as you leave the bathysphere and enlists your help in rescuing him and his family as you struggle to find your way home.

BioShock Gameplay Review At the start, it's always dark BioShock Gameplay Review At the start, it's always dark
Click to enlarge

Your character remains silent throughout the entire game, so it’s Atlas who becomes the player’s voice. He narrates pieces of the city’s history, explains complex plot nuances and gameplay features and functions as an important part of the moral compass.

Still, none of this could prepare anybody for the most important element of BioShock; plasmids. Just a few minutes into the game (thus, hardly a spoiler) the first plasmid becomes available. It’s a glowing, pulsing yellow jar sat between two statues of little girls and, as you pick it up, Atlas explains; “Your genetic code is being re-written.”
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