Bioshock – Xbox 360 review

Every gamer out there can’t have failed to hear all about Bioshock. Billed as an FPS set in a mysterious underground art-deco dwelling known as Rapture, the hype has been building for an incredible amount of time. But can it really be even half as good as we’ve been anticipating?

To call Bioshock a simple FPS is doing the work of Irrational Games – now known as 2K Boston – a massive disservice. Right from the initial swim through the burning debris of the airplane that you’d been happily riding towards a small murky island, you just know that Bioshock is something quite special.

Taking refuge in the decaying Rapture, it’s only a matter of moments before it all becomes blatantly obvious that something down in this glorious utopia isn’t quite right. Even in the lift down to the first levels of Rapture, you spot a human being ripped to shreds in front of your eyes. Rapture isn’t a place for the faint of heart.

Once an idyllic city created by one Andrew Ryan for the great minds who didn’t enjoy being constrained by the shallow thoughts that the "real world" could offer, Rapture has become a city descended into anarchy. The decay and rubble are everywhere you look, and the citizens of this underwater world have certainly changed along with their surroundings.

Splicers, that are your meat and drink enemies, jump out from almost every corner, attacking you with astonishing venom with absolutely anything they can lay their hands on. But it’s the famed Big Daddies that provide the real tests. Their huge hulking bodies withstanding almost any kind of attack you can muster. But you can’t simply avoid them, since every Big Daddy is protecting a Little Sister, who you can either save or kill, in the game's big moral choice.

The first Big Daddy/Little Sister combo will come with chatter from both your Irish compatriot who talks to you consistently via the radio, and a mysterious woman, apparently the one who made these little sisters the beasts that they currently are. The former pushes you to "harvest" the Little Sister in order to take the fullest amount of Adam – which you can use to upgrade your abilities – and the latter claiming that they are merely tortured souls who simply need to be saved.

It’s this kind of choice that sets Bioshock apart from most games. While seemingly a simple choice between right and wrong, you realise that you don’t know exactly what’s been going on here, and just who might be telling the truth. The man who initially helped save you claims you need to kill and take the Little Sisters Adam, and what reason would you have to not believe him?

Instead of stopping and starting the game with cutscenes, the narrative is spoken out in real time via discarded tapes, and your Irish neighbour. It’s via these tapes that you’ll start to piece together just what has been happening, and how this seemingly idyllic world fell to pieces.

Speaking of the world of Rapture, it’s packed with so much detail that it’s even difficult to believe it’s running on a mere Xbox 360. Equally as impressive is the period music and voice acting, both of which draw you ever deeper into this underwater world.

The plasmid system is much more complex than the demo hinted towards, with masses of choice for you to contend with. While the game could’ve stumbled into the trap of using each plasmid as merely a key to unlock a door, they’re so much more. Enemies can be despatched, and barriers can be removed via numerous means using each plasmid. I don’t want to go and spoil your journey of discovery, so I’ll leave you with the knowledge that the plasmid system is more complex and thoughtful than even most RPG’s can offer.

Verdict

A handful of games come along that simply need to be played. Bioshock is the latest of these titles. Sumptuous graphics, stunning gameplay, and a story that will do nothing but enthral, makes for a game that needs to be played.

Just go out, buy it, and enjoy the best Xbox 360 gaming experience so far.