Developer: Blind Squirrel
Format: PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Copy obtained via GameFly
Although I’ve played the original release of BioShock a dozen or so times since its 2007 release, there’s still something special about returning to Rapture. The dark and oppressive atmosphere, the excellent use of ambient noise, and the expertly crafted narrative that won over the hearts of gamers almost 10 years ago is still sublime in 2016 with the new BioShock: Remastered.
BioShock opens with a plane crash in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
As the plane slams into the dark waters, you somehow manage to escape unscathed. You’re the only survivor, debris from the plane is burning and sinking all around you, and a mysterious lighthouse beckons in the distance. Upon entering, you discover a small submersible which takes you to the ocean floor, where the majestic city of Rapture awaits. However, it becomes immediately clear that not all is what it seems. The beautiful homes, exquisite businesses, and inviting recreational areas have all been marred by flames, erosion, and war. Something has happened here, and it’s up to you discover what led to this once mighty city becoming a world of anarchy.
While the game is a first-person shooter, it’s undoubtedly the piecing together of Rapture’s lore that is the highlight of the game. BioShock uses a combination of visual storytelling and audio diaries to reveal itself to you. Walking into a new area and seeing a corpse strung up with a sign around its neck is both chilling and insightful as to what this society became. Listening to the audio diaries of scared citizens, frustrated officials, and drug-addicted individuals paints a wide picture of the events leading up to the fall of Rapture.
Tying all of these events together is the founder of Rapture, Andrew Ryan.
Like all great stories of fallen empires, there’s always one man at the center of it. Frustrated with the overreaching hand of the government, Ryan decides to make an underwater utopia. One free from limitations on art and science, one where religion is outlawed, and one where everybody has a chance to succeed, as long as they’re willing to fight for it. No government, no God, just man.
A majority of the game is spent uncovering the ideals behind the city, how they were implemented, how the citizens reacted, and the conflict that arises. It’s a dark and mysterious tale full of intrigue, tension, and corrupt ideology. What makes it stand out is that it’s surprisingly mature and intellectual, which are two words not often used to describe video game stories.
Unfortunately, Rapture isn’t a walk in the park.
Genetic splicing became all the rage in Rapture, resulting in the majority of inhabitants becoming violent sociopaths. This genetic splicing is done via Plasmids, injections that give the user incredible power. From shooting electricity out of your hand, using telekinesis to catch and throw objects in the environment, and brainwashing others to fight for you, these Plasmids grant immense power. Thankfully, they’re fun to use as well. Each power serves a purpose and learning how to use them effectively to survive is a huge part of BioShock. It also adds to the variety in combat, giving you several options to choose from when dispatching your foes.
Of course, there’s also a healthy assortment of guns to utilize as well.
Everything from pistols and shotguns to grenade launchers and crossbows make an appearance. Over the course of the game you can even find special machines that will let you add an upgrade to your weapon, but you can only add one upgrade per machine. This allows you to beef up your arsenal to make it more effective. It’s also fun to experiment with mixing Plasmids and firearms together. Stunning someone with electricity to keep them in place and then running up and blasting them with a shotgun or bludgeoning them with a wrench is a fun little combo, albeit a twisted one.
Walking into a fight with bullets, fireballs, and arcs of electricity flying every which way is a sight to behold. It’s great to have so many possibilities in combat, but it’s awesome to see the same possibility extend to your enemies. This keeps fights continuously tense and forces you to constantly adapt your gameplan on the fly.
There’s also a large handful of Tonics, which allow you to alter your abilities further.
Some help reduce the damage you take, some affect your abilities with certain Plasmid elements, and others grant you an easier time with hacking safes, turrets, and cameras, which can grant you more supplies or lend a hand in combat.
You can also find crafting materials throughout the environment.
You tend to use a lot of ammo in gunfights, so you’re constantly on the lookout for more. Thankfully, you can find components to craft more ammo all over the place. Item crafting isn’t just limited to ammunition though, you can also craft health packs, EVE hypos (which restore your ability to use Plasmids), and even a few Tonics.
While you’ll be spending the majority of your time in combat fighting the citizens who have become addicted to Plasmid use, there’s a bigger terror to be weary of. There’s a group of small genetically modified girls called Little Sisters who roam the abandoned halls of Rapture and “receive” a chemical called ADAM from corpses, which is used to create Plasmids. The Little Sisters are nothing to be concerned with, but their protectors, the Big Daddies, are. These hulking beasts are dressed to kill, which is a highly likely outcome if you face them unprepared. They’re fast, powerful, and have a large amount of health. Fights with them are always chaotic and demand that you create a solid strategy if you wish to survive them. If you do manage to defeat one of these behemoths, you’ll be able to apprehend their Little Sister. You can then choose to harvest them and receive a large amount of ADAM (which can be used to either purchase new Plasmids or upgrade existing ones), or rescue them, returning them back to a state of pure childhood, which also results in less ADAM. However, while rescuing them may grant you less ADAM, it also opens the door to other bonuses down the road…
I also greatly appreciated the use of the research camera, which is a fundamental part of combat. Early on in the game you gain the ability to take photos of your enemies. Depending on shot composition, your photos will receive grades. A higher grade means more points, and when you get enough points you gain bonuses against your foes. The ability to deal more damage, discover their weaknesses, and unlock new Tonics are rewarded as you take more and more photos. This feature becomes exceptionally useful for getting an upper hand on the Big Daddies.
Last but not least, the visual upgrades to the game are excellent.
Not only is the game touched up with new textures and a higher resolution, it’s now running at a consistent 60fps, resulting in a much smoother experience than the original. While I don’t typically consider visuals the most important part of a game, they serve a huge role in furthering your immersion in BioShock. The way lights flicker and cast shadows, the way the actual design of Rapture looks, and all the other little bells and whistles I don’t know the technical names for, all come together to make an already established masterpiece even better.
BioShock is an absolute must play.
Rapture is one of gaming’s most interesting locales, one that’s just reeking of mystery. There’s a great sense of shock and awe while roaming Rapture’s halls, and piecing together the story behind the city’s rise and fall is captivating. Along with incredibly tense combat that’s full of choice and possibility, BioShock is truly something special. If you missed BioShock the first time around (shame on you!), then you it owe it to yourself to try it out now.
– Zack Burrows