Game Review: BioShock

Game Review: BioShock


2K Games

At a time when most games are sequels or incremental improvements (Final Fantasy or Madden, anyone?), Irrational Games' BioShock is a uniquely original and wonderful experience. While still a first-person shooter at its core, this game puts more intrigue, ambience, and depth on the small screen than many recent Hollywood blockbusters do on the big screen.

After a mysterious plane crash leaves your character stranded in the middle of the ocean, you take shelter in what turns out to be a hidden underwater city on the ocean floor. In an almost direct homage to Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, the city of Rapture is a free-market enclave where geniuses have escaped to live without the burden of government or the "parasites" that feed off their labor. But something has gone terribly wrong, and determining the fate of Rapture is the main thrust of the game.

The visuals are stunning – anything less would have made such an absurd setting simply unbelievable. The ubiquitous pools of water slosh beautifully, and the psychopathic occupants of Rapture bang on doors and rummage through trash realistically. The sound design is simply phenomenal. Tape-recorded messages provide most of the backstory, and the voice-acting is rich and engaging throughout. The city's decay is evident in the labored squeals of machinery, and the echoes of an aquatic world remind you just how far underwater you are.

For a first-person shooter, the artificial intelligence is quite capable. Set an enemy on fire, and he'll jump in the nearest body of water; run out of ammo, and he'll dive right at you. Some enemies are particularly difficult, and the highly interactive environment rewards creativity with some humorous and inventive ways to dispatch them. BioShock lacks any kind of multiplayer gameplay, which will irk some people, but with various ways to overcome obstacles and some difficult moral choices to make, expect it to demand a second outing once you get to the credits screen.

Gorgeous visuals, immersive audio, challenging AI, intuitive controls, or an intriguing narrative can each make for a good game. But it is a rare day when they all come together in such harmony as they do in BioShock, creating a solid, engaging, thoroughly enjoyable game.

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