BioShockBioShock is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games , and published by 2K Games. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 platforms in August 2007; a PlayStation 3 port by Irrational, 2K Marin, 2K Australia and Digital Extremes was released in October 2008, and an OS X port by Feral Interactive in October 2009. A mobile version was developed by IG Fun. The game's concept was developed by Irrational's creative lead, Ken Levine, and was based on the ideas of Objectivism as highlighted by Ayn Rand, while incorporating influences from other authors such as George Orwell. The game is considered a spiritual successor to the System Shock series, which many of Irrational's team including Levine had worked on previously.
BioShock is set in 1960, in which the player guides the protagonist, Jack, after his airplane crashes in the ocean near the bathysphere terminus that leads to the underwater city of Rapture. Built by the business magnate Andrew Ryan, the city was intended to be an isolated utopia, but the discovery of ADAM, a plasmid which grants superhuman powers, initiated the city's turbulent decline. Jack tries to find a way to escape, fighting through hordes of ADAM-obsessed enemies such as the deadly Big Daddies, while engaging with the few sane humans that remain and eventually learning of Rapture's past. The player, as Jack, is able to defeat foes in a number of ways by using weapons, utilizing plasmids that give unique powers and by turning Rapture's own defenses against them. BioShock includes elements of role-playing games, giving the player different approaches in engaging enemies such as by stealth, as well as moral choices of saving or killing characters.
BioShock received critical acclaim and was particularly praised by critics for its morality-based storyline, immersive environment and its unique setting. It received several Game of the Year awards from different media outlets, including from BAFTA, Game Informer, Spike TV, and X-Play. Since its release a direct sequel has been released, BioShock 2 by 2K Marin, as well a third game titled BioShock Infinite by Irrational Games.
BioShock GameplayBioShock is a first-person shooter with role-playing game customization and stealth elements, and is similar to System Shock 2. The player takes the role of Jack, who aims to fight his way through Rapture using weapons and plasmids (genetic alterations) in order to complete objectives. At times, the player may opt to use stealth tactics to avoid detection by security cameras and automated turrets. While exploring Rapture, the player collects money which can be used at various vending machines to gain ammunition, health, and additional equipment. The player also comes across spare parts that can be used at "U-Invent" machines to create new weapons or usable items. Cameras, turrets, safes, door locks, and vending machines can all be hacked to the player's advantage, providing benefits such as attacking the player's foes, revealing their contents to the player, allowing entry to locked areas, or allowing the player to purchase items at a discount. Hacking requires the player to complete a mini-game similar to Pipe Mania in a limited amount of time. The player is given a "research camera" early in the game, allowing Jack to take photographs of enemies to help analyze them, with better quality photographs providing more beneficial analysis. After performing enough analysis of an enemy, the player is granted increased damage, gene tonics, and other bonuses when facing that type of enemy in future battles. Glass-walled "Vita-Chambers" can also be found throughout the game, which the player does not use directly. Instead, should Jack die, his body is reconstituted at the nearest one, retaining all of his possessions, but only a portion of his full health. In a patch for the game, the player has the option to disable the use of these Vita-Chambers, such that if Jack dies, the player will need to restart from a saved game.
The player can collect and assign a number of plasmids and gene tonics which grant Jack the ability to unleash special attacks or confer passive benefits such as improved health or hacking skills. "Active" plasmids—those that are triggered by the player such as most offensive plasmids— require serum (known as EVE) to be used in a manner similar to magic points; EVE can be replenished via syringes. These plasmids also alter the player's appearance to reflect "sacrificing one's humanity". "Tonics" are passive plasmids and require no EVE to gain their benefit; the player can only equip a limited number of plasmids and tonics at any time. Tonics offer a variety of passive benefits. These include an increase in Jack's strength, more efficient use of EVE, resistance to damage or facilitation of hacking machines. The game encourages creative combinations of plasmids, weapons, and the use of the environment.
Plasmids can be collected at certain specific points around the city throughout the storyline, but can also purchased by the player at "Gatherer's Gardens" using the ADAM mutagen from Little Sisters. In order to collect the ADAM, the player must first defeat the "Big Daddy"—genetically enhanced humans grafted to an armored diving suit—that accompanies and guards each Little Sister. After this, the player is faced with a moral dilemma: either to kill the Little Sister to harvest a great deal of ADAM, or to save the Little Sister and gain a smaller amount (though for every three Sisters spared, a gift of a large amount of ADAM is given to the player).[27
ReceptionBioShock has received universal acclaim. Mainstream press reviews have praised the immersive qualities of the game and its political dimension. The Boston Globe described it as "a beautiful, brutal, and disquieting computer game ... one of the best in years," and compared the game to Whittaker Chambers' 1957 riposte to Atlas Shrugged, Big Sister Is Watching You. Wired also mentioned the Ayn Rand connection (a partial anagram of Andrew Ryan) in a report on the game which featured a brief interview with Levine. The Chicago Sun-Times review said "I never once thought anyone would be able to create an engaging and entertaining video game around the fiction and philosophy of Ayn Rand, but that is essentially what 2K Games has done ... the rare, mature video game that succeeds in making you think while you play".
The Los Angeles Times review concluded, "Sure, it's fun to play, looks spectacular and is easy to control. But it also does something no other game has done to date: It really makes you feel." The New York Times reviewer described it as: "intelligent, gorgeous, occasionally frightening" and added, "Anchored by its provocative, morality-based story line, sumptuous art direction and superb voice acting, BioShock can also hold its head high among the best games ever made."
At GameRankings, BioShock holds an average review score of 95.07% for the Xbox 360, making it the fifth highest rated Xbox 360 game released to date, behind The Orange Box, Grand Theft Auto IV, Mass Effect 2, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, this means when the game was released it was the highest. In the PlayStation 3 ratings it holds 93.66%, making it the ninth highest rated PlayStation 3 game. In the PC ratings it achieved 94.58%, making it the fourth highest rated PC game released to date, behind Portal 2, Half-Life 2 and The Orange Box, and the 22nd highest ranked game of all time. Also, BioShock has a rating of 96 on Metacritic, making it their Best Xbox 360 Game of 2007. GameSpy praised BioShock's "inescapable atmosphere," and Official Xbox Magazine lauded its "inconceivably great plot" and "stunning soundtrack and audio effects." The gameplay and combat system have been praised for being smooth and open-ended, and elements of the graphics, such as the water, were praised for their quality. It has been noted that the combination of the game's elements "straddles so many entertainment art forms so expertly that it's the best demonstration yet how flexible this medium can be. It's no longer just another shooter wrapped up in a pretty game engine, but a story that exists and unfolds inside the most convincing and elaborate and artistic game world ever conceived."
Reviewers did highlight a few negative issues in BioShock, however. The recovery system involving "Vita-Chambers," which revive a defeated player at half life, but do not alter the enemies' health, makes it possible to wear down enemies through sheer perseverance, and was criticised as one of the biggest flaws in the gameplay. IGN noted that both the controls and graphics of the Xbox 360 version are inferior to those of the PC version, in that switching between weapons or plasmids is easier using the PC's mouse than the 360's radial menu, as well as the graphics being slightly better with higher resolutions. The game has been touted as a hybrid first-person shooter, but two reviewers found advances from comparable games lacking, both in the protagonist and in the challenges he faces. Some reviewers also found the combat behavior of the splicers lacking in diversity (and their A.I. behavior not very well done), and the moral choice too much "black and white" to be really interesting. Some reviewers and essayists such as Jonathan Blow also found that the "moral choice" the game offered to the player (saving or harvesting the little sisters) was flawed because it had no real impact on the game, which ultimately leads the player to think that the sisters were just mechanics of no real importance.
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