I have been aware of the Bioshock games for quite sometime and had been keeping my eyes open for an opportunity to get hold of them. I was aware that all three games in the series had been remastered and released for PS4 so I was keen to get hold of them. Recently the Playstation Network had The Bioshock Collection for £10.49 so I decided that the time had come to get them and play them through.
Now I have to admit that as far as the first game was concerned I knew about the whole trigger phrase thing but I had heard good things about the game so even knowing that major spoiler it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the game. Thus far I have only played Bioshock, but I intend to play through them all and do complete reviews of all three.
Below you will find the reviews for the ones I have done so far:
Bioshock 2 – coming soon
Bioshock Infinite – coming soon after Bioshock 2
The original Bioshock game was released in 2007 for Windows and Xbox 360 with a PS3 port arriving in 2008. The game was considered the spiritual successor to the System Shock games but having never played them I have no idea how much it emulates those or moves away from them. It incorporates elements of a first-person shooter, and gives the player some control over how they go about playing the game.
Like I said because the game is over 10 years old I knew of the phrase spoiler and whilst the shock of learning that for the first time was naturally lost on me, I was smiling as I realised how often your protagonist is politely asked to undertake something.
I am going to try not to spoil anything, in case you are also new to this franchise, and instead will dive straight into the world of Bioshock
The year is 1960 and protagonist Jack is sitting on an airplane smoking (which you could do on planes in the 1960s) The plane suddenly crashes into the Atlantic Ocean leaving Jack as the only survivor, who makes his way to a nearby lighthouse. Inside he finds a bathysphere terminal, which takes him far below the waves to the underwater city of Rapture.
Once he arrives he witnesses a man begging for his life as a twisted creature known as a “Splicer” kills him. Jack is contacted by a man named Atlas who informs him that the city of Rapture is a dangerous place. Men and women have used a substance called Adam to enhance their own bodies and most have gone insane. Atlas is cut off from his family and requests Jack’s help in rescuing them from the armies of splicers roaming Rapture.
Atlas tells Jack that Rapture went to hell courtesy of its creator Andrew Ryan, and if he wants to make it out of the city alive then he will need to track Ryan down and end him once and for all.
Along the way Jack must battle the splicers, Ryan’s allies that have become deranged due to their dependency on Adam, plus if Jack wants to become powerful enough to survive he will need to take on the Little Sisters and their fearsome Big Daddy protectors…
Bioshock has been called one of the best games of all time and demonstrated that video games can have a deeper narrative. The player directly effects the world around them and can to a degree decide how they want to proceed through the story, but, considering this game is 10 years old most of its features I have encountered in many other games over the years. But this might have been the genesis of them so I have been trying to keep that in mind as I played.
In all honesty I did for the most part enjoy the game, and as I have said more than once I love games in which you receive powers that you can upgrade and enhance to the point where enemies are little more than bugs to be squashed beneath your mighty boot.
Bioshock gives you access to various Plasmids, which grant you abilities like telekinesis, shooting bolts of electricity out of your hands, and setting people and objects on fire with a snap of your fingers. Using these abilities drains EVE from you, which can be replaced by injecting yourself with EVE syringes that are dotted around the levels. However, you aren’t just limited to using plasmids, you pick up different weapons that include pistols, grenade launchers, a machine gun plus a flamethrower.
Throughout most of the game I was honestly unsure whether I should be relying on my plasmids or my firearms. Having the ability to snap your fingers and set someone on fire from across the room did not get any less fun as the game wore on. The thing is that wherever I went I was tripping over ammo, and bizarrely Splicers that I set on fire would often continue to shoot at me even as they burned alive. When a game gives me access to super abilities, I am not going to decide to limit my usage of them. The guns in Saints Row IV were forgotten about most of the time, because who needs a pistol when you can drop kick an enemy over the nearest skyscraper?
I died early into the game because I was trying to use my Electro-Bolt to zap some attacking splicers and one of them just gunned me down. If the plasmids are only supposed to act as back-ups to your traditional weapons then why does the game place so much emphasis on acquiring Adam?
Some of the plasmids effects also seem to be a little limiting, for example whilst you can electrocute enemies, the moment you attack them with a gun or wrench, they can move again. If you whack some of them with your default wrench you can one-hit kill them but for tougher enemies like the Big Daddies the moment you touch them, they spring back to life and proceed to paint the walls with you.
In less than an hour from beginning the game you will encounter your first Little Sister, her Big Daddy is already dead, and you are given the opportunity to either save her or harvest her for the Adam she has (which will kill her). Which ever option you chose will lead to one of two possible endings, Atlas urges you to kill her and take as much Adam as possible, whilst the creator of the Little Sisters, Dr Tenenbaum, urges you to purge the child of the sea slug that turned them into Adam-harvesting monsters in the first place which will restore their humanity and their lives to them.
During my first playthrough I opted to go for the good option and chose to save every Little Sister that I came across, and was rewarded with 80 units of Adam per Little Sister. When you have rescued three you are given a reward for your compassion by Tenenbaum of 200 further Adam units. So for every three Little Sisters saved I had 440 Units of Adam to spend on plasmids and enhancements. I already knew that there were two possibly endings which resulted from you either Saving or Harvesting the Little Sisters and I wanted the good ending.
I am now on my second playthrough and am going for the bad ending so am Harvesting every Little Sister I come across. Harvesting them gives you 200 Units of Adam per Little Sister so it is way more profitable to you to harvest rather than save. But that being said, I had never played Bioshock before, didn’t really know what I was doing, and even using the more limited supplies of Adam I had using the Save option every time I was still able to upgrade the core plasmids that I wanted.
Whenever you encounter a bathysphere you will travel to the next location you need to go, however there is nothing to stop you jumping back into one and travelling back to any location you have previously visited. Although if you enter a new area and immediately turn around to go somewhere else, the game warns you that there are still Little Sisters on the level that you need the Adam from otherwise you will not survive. I think the game itself put much more emphasis on the Adam because you are basically armed to the teeth anyway. I honestly think you could get through the game only using a couple of required-to-proceed plasmids
I must admit that I took immense delight in setting splicers on fire and was impressed by the AI of the occasional one that would jump into water to put the flames out, at which point I’d electrocute them instead. So they were still dead but I gave them points for trying to save themselves. However, if a splicer is standing ankle deep in water you cannot set them on fire, and the moment any part of their body touches water the flames go out. I am not really expecting them to stop, drop and roll, but how does it make any sense that if they dip a toe in water the fire everywhere on their body goes out?
Throughout the game you encounter numerous hack-able objects from gun turrets, to security cameras, to safes and vending machines. If you hack vending machines you get a discount from the items you can buy (or some that are unavailable unless you have hacked the machine) but as you basically pull money off every enemy you kill, you’ll never really be hurting for cash to buy stuff.
Plus the hacking mini-game is always the same, water travels slowly down a series of pipes and you must connect them up before the water has nowhere to go. If you hack gun turrets they will be loyal to you and fire on enemies, hack security cameras and they will send robot drones to kill any splicers that have set them off. The hacking mini-game is pretty uninteresting and as the game goes on the number of bad circuits or security nodes in the system increases making it harder. Your plasmids can come to the rescue as you can equip ones to help with hacking, such as slowing the speed of the water to a crawl so you have more time to plan your route. Sadly some of them are un-hack-able. When you start the hacking process, the pipes are hidden and you need to remove panels to see what connectors you have to work with. But with increasing frequency later in the game if you didn’t immediately change the direction of the flow the moment the hack started you get stuck in an un-win-able scenario. As you have no idea what lurks under the panels and it takes a few precious seconds to uncover them all you can do is see the same hack fail time after time after time. You can buy out hacks or use automatic hacking tools to do these impossible hacks, although I find no win scenarios a very cheap way to fail something, I don’t mind a challenge but making it impossible to win doesn’t challenge me, it annoys me. I also quickly realised that although failing to hack something results in a shock that damages you, Jack cannot actually die for failing to hack something, so if I failed and my health went down to literally nothing I’d just keep trying until I got it right. I had found a plasmid which granted me health for every successful hack so I had even less incentive to buy out machines or use my hacking tools to bypass their security measures because once they were hacked I got my health back anyway.
Also I have no idea how to escape an alarm, if you get spotted by a security camera flying machine gun bots will be sent after you, and you have to evade them for 60 seconds. But there were times when there wasn’t anywhere I could go to escape them so would end up being gunned down. If you destroy the bots more appear. You can turn off the alarms for a small cash penalty if you find a shut-down station but turning around a corner and hearing a camera warning sound, then making a split second decision on whether to back away from it, or try and hack it before it goes off, meant that I was running in circles trying to avoid the security bots a lot in the latter levels.
Non-hacked gun turrets immediately open fire on you, and again the amount of times I walked into a room only to find my health shredded by some automated weapon resulted in me getting killed time and again. Whilst the cameras have a distinctive sound as they move back and forth, there is no way to tell if a turret is around the next corner without going round it and potentially getting a grenade to the face.
The thing is that if you do die the Resurrection booths have your back. Basically throughout the various levels are pods that restore you to life (they are called something in game…Vita-Chambers I think but I am not sure). Anyway, when you die you immediately re-spawn in one of theses booths without any hit to health-packs, EVE, Adam or even money. I very quickly realised that death was something of a minor inconvenience rather than something to avoid. If you die then an alarm is also immediately cancelled so I rarely bothered trying to escape the bots because once they killed me I could resume without delay. My first few battles with Big Daddies resulted in me getting killed over and over again, but within seconds I was alive again, and resuming my attack on the monstrous guardians of the Little Sisters. Once I worked out that I had basically unlimited lives any threat that any of the enemies posed to me in game was immediately lost. If you die, you pop back to life in a booth somewhere on the level and it is generally just a quick run down a corridor or two to get back to where you were. The booths get a little bit fewer and further between in later levels but by and large one is only a short distance away from where you perished.
In tough fights I didn’t often use med-packs because there was a booth that would resurrect me three feet away so why bother using a med-pack when you will be restored to life punishment free anyway?
If the Resurrection booths could only be used a couple of times, if they took money, if there was a penalty to EVE, or you lost a plasmid, maybe a full med-kit, but something, then there would have been some negative that goes along with being killed, but there isn’t one. There is no threat that if you die your death is permanent and whilst there are trophies awarded for players who get through the game on Hard or Survival mode without using a booth there is no in-game incentive to not use them.
You have a wallet that can hold $500, which can be used to buy various items from the vending machines, yet there is not really any reason to buy stuff. I was rarely hurting for ammo, med packs or even EVE syringes as the levels are littered with them. I started paying to hack things just for the sake of it because otherwise I was constantly searching enemies and being told I couldn’t carry any more dollars
In addition to buying stuff, you can also invent numerous items by combining various parts you have found. Strangely though whilst you can invent stuff to your hearts content providing you have the parts, the game lets you do it even if you don’t have the inventory space to actually carry what you have made. I lost track of how many hacking tools I had so crafted a couple, turns out my inventory was already full of the five I could carry so they were dropped out of the machine and I was unable to pick them up. I don’t know why the game doesn’t only let you craft what you have space to carry so you don’t end up wasting parts on tools you don’t need.
As I have mentioned above there are two endings: a good one for saving the Little Sisters (apparently you can harvest one and still get this ending), and a bad one for harvesting two or more Little Sisters. I haven’t finished my second playthrough of the game so haven’t seen the bad ending yet but from what I have been told the differences between them are quite jarring. I won’t spoil but as I have said many times in games that give you the so-called moral choices (like Infamous) there need to be shades of grey as well as the black and white, good or evil endings. People are rarely all the way good or bad beyond reason or redemption…it would have been nice if the game could have reflected this. But then considering it was first released in 2007 it may have been the first kind of game to give you moral choices in the first place. Perhaps I cannot be too critical if it was the first game to give you the choice to do one of two options and give you different endings depending on your decisions.
Without wishing to spoil the significance of a certain phrase, it was never-the-less an aspect of the story that I didn’t really get. In games you are given tasks to do by supporting characters, that is basically their bread and butter, some bossy support character sits somewhere in total safety whilst ordering you to complete objectives in dangerous locations. The significance of the phrase didn’t make much sense because if Jack had been told to do the things that were morally questionable, he would have done them anyway, or the game could not have proceeded. We are, after all, playing a computer game. A game that would not be able to proceed if you, as the player, sat down folded your arms and refused to do what the support character was asking of you. I did like where the phrase idea went later on in the game but it seemed a little strange as most of the times it cropped up Jack was doing something that he probably would have been doing anyway.
I am aware that I have basically done nothing but pick holes in the game up to this point, but I have to say that for the most part I really enjoyed playing it. The 1960-era style, the black and white videos of what the plasmids do, and design of not just the city of Rapture itself but some of the inhabitants were very impressive. The Big Daddies were amongst my favourite creations, they stomp around fiercely protecting their Little Sisters, but the can also be encountered just roaming levels on their own and if you leave them alone they will leave you alone (or push you out of the way if you block their path). There is a plasmid that you get later than can hypnotise a Big Daddy into thinking you are a Little Sister so they will fiercely protect you from any and all threats.
I have other niggles that I could talk about like the camera you use to research splicers and the fact that if you set a splicer on fire and they run into a Big Daddy, the Big Daddy attacks you directly as though you set them on fire or attacked them first. But all of my complaints are just minor issues surrounding a game that is visually impressive, and has a lot of decent characters that are not just two-dimensional heroes or villains, or tired stereotypes.
The story is great and is not just there for the sake of having a background narrate to give you justification for wandering around shooting things.
The design of the city is flawless and apparently the HD re-mastering improved on the original graphics (I have only played the remastered version and it looks amazing). You really believe that Rapture is a city that people lived in, it has schools, orphanages, business and until rivals to Ryan attempted to take control of the city from him it might have been a nice place to live. When you are in tunnels you can look out and see other areas of the city, whales will often swim by, and you can quite easily just admire how pretty everything looks.
I was always intending to play this game twice in order to see both endings, and as I had beefed by Jack with my favourite plasmids I was hoping that the game would have the option of a plus game. After I finished I tried to continue but ended up about to face the final boss again, so with no other options other than to start a New Game I hit the button, and the game asked me if I wanted to do a plus game or not.
Oh yes, Bioshock allows you the opportunity to play through it again with all of your unlocks and plasmids from a previous save file in a new game. In the opening level you are stuck using what you arrive with but the moment you venture into the Medical Pavilion your inventory and all other items are at your disposal.
That being said you have to find a gene splicing station to put your chosen plasmids and upgrades into the slots you have previously unlocked. Sadly you don’t keep the Adam that you stole from the final boss but like I said Adam isn’t as important as the game thinks it is.
If I had known that Bioshock had a plus-game mode I might have gone for the evil playthrough first as I would have had way more Adam to play with but considering I completed the game without killing a single one of the Little Sisters my play-style couldn’t have been that bad.
So, not only has Bioshock got the plus game mode, it also allows you to play through it on different difficulty levels if you so desire. I have jumped straight back into my second playthrough and have decided to set myself the challenge of trying to complete the game without using a Resurrection Booth whilst also doing the game on Hard difficulty…will I succeed?
I’ll keep you posted
I am also going for the Evil playthrough this time, and harvesting Little Sisters (which honestly and bizarrely made me feel a bit guilty). So I will have much more Adam to spend on some of the plasmids I did not get last time so it will add some variety to my second time through the game.
All in all whilst I think that games since 2007 may have stolen a lot of Bioshock’s thunder, I can understand why this game is considered one of the best ever made, because it does demonstrate that games don’t have to be about fighting demons from hell or whatever. Games are capable of having strong stories, interesting characters, and the player is important to the story rather than being some unknown grizzled marine with the personality of a fridge on legs.
Despite numerous niggles that I had during my playtime; at no point did I ever want to stop playing, far from it. In fact this was one of those games I found myself still playing several hours past the time I promised myself I would stop. Bioshock is an exceptionally well made-game with a thought provoking self contained story, which gets a strong Thumbs Up
8/10 – In my opinion the game has aged in the last decade with numerous others having moral choice systems and allowing you to play around with guns and superpowers. So it wasn’t exactly original to me. However, I can understand why it was so well received at the time and it was certainly worthy of an HD release. I was not disappointed so if you haven’t played it would you kindly purchase a copy and check it out
Just so you guys know. I did play Bioshock again on Hard and managed to get the achievement for not using the Vitra-Chamber. Basically although I was killed twice during the game, I reloaded previous saves rather than continue after being resurrected. As a result the game recognised that I had not used a Vitra-Chamber so was able to get the trophy I wanted. The same trophy is awarded if you play the game on Survival difficulty again without using a Resurrection Booth. I may attempt this at some point as you can save the game as often as you like so if you save frequently and reload if you are defeated, getting this trophy shouldn’t be too difficult.
One other thing…there are hidden trophies and all but one of these I was able to get by just playing the game, However there was one that eluded me even after my second play through. There is a section in a location called Fort Frolic where you have to hunt down and kill four targets for a deranged artist named Sander Cohen, once you have done that, Cohen appears. There is a Health Upgrade that he will unlock for you if you allow him to walk up to it without immediately attacking him. There are actually two trophies which involve him. One you get for taking a picture of his body after he is defeated, and the other you get for entering his apartment. This can only be done if you do not kill him when you first encounter him and presumably just leave the area after you have completed his sick art project.
Later on (in a different level) you encounter a locked door, which cannot be opened unless you have left him alive, at which point he appears and then opens the door for you. Now you can safely kill him, claim the Enter [his] apartment trophy and then photograph his body (if you haven’t got that trophy on a previous play through).
Personally I did not look up the hidden trophy until after I have replayed the game on Hard without using the Vitra-Chambers so in order for me to unlock the trophy I would need to play the whole game again. So, just to give any of you planning on playing the game a heads up if you are trophy hunting, that is how to get two of the hidden ones (the others you can look up for yourself or will just get by playing the game like I did)