by Angela Simpson
author awarded score: 100/100

BioShock Review
Developer: Irrational
Publisher: 2K Games
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Reviewed by: Angela Simpson

Reviewing games is an interesting lot, particularly when it comes to the ‘hype’ factor. BioShock was laced with praise, long before it arrived, which is usually a bad sign and sets the gamer up for disappointment--more often than not. In this case though, the praise was right, here is a game worth shouting about.

BioShock is set in an underwater dystopian cityscape, a place that once shone as a bastion of free thought, political and religious freedoms, of the arts and of great minds. In this quest for perfection and with the ability to re-write genetic codes, things go horribly awry and the beautiful art-deco city of ‘Rapture’ becomes a place of crazed ‘splicers’, former civilians deranged due to the biological genetic splicing they’ve endured in their quest to be perfect.

It’s difficult to put into words just how atmospheric and truly beautiful the broken world of Rapture is. It is both terrifying and splendid, gore filled and sublime. It is everything that a new generation videogame should be, it is wondrous. Each section we would usually cover in a review can be lovingly lumped together under the ‘wondrous’ moniker. The graphics add such a sense of awe and art-deco styled beauty that you can see, despite the abject horror of the events that have occurred, that Rapture was once a utopia to the wealthy and gifted. Each room, window, area and edifice has a sense of cinematic greatness about it. It feels as though the entire package was just meant to be, with the soundtrack and particularly the voice acting bringing the whole thing together seamlessly.

So what’s actually wrong with BioShock?--almost nothing. There’s the usual female playable character ‘hero’ issue, which we’ll cover shortly, but tiny niggles aside, BioShock seems ahead of its time, technically and artistically. In this day and age where gaming franchises are rife, where innovation in art is stifled by corporate bigwigs, BioShock, perhaps ironically conveys all of what Rapture was once about, perfection ahead of consumerist social control. The only nitpicking things that springs to mind are the ease of play due to the save function, the repetitive scripting of some of the characters and the similarity of the character models.

Due to the confined nature of the environments, some of the usual hiccups that could occur regarding draw distances and such are of no consequence. Environments are large and lush, but given they are essentially rooms, stores and small outdoor areas within a sprawling underwater city, this actually helps the game in a multitude of ways. The fact you are ‘trapped’ in the city of Rapture, gives the game a claustrophobic feel. Though this may be seen by some as just another ‘dungeon’ styled 3D jaunt, the enclosed nature of the game adds yet more atmosphere. Akin to this is the clever character upgrades in the form of ‘plasmids’. These can be bought and found throughout the levels and give the main protagonist an arsenal of cool abilities. Along with these are all manner of weapon upgrades (though why a utopia needs weapons is anyone’s guess). It would be wrong to discuss any of BioShock in great detail, regarding the story, abilities or much else for that matter, because it’s more fun to find out for yourself. Yes it may seem like a reviewing cop out to not get into the whys and wherefores of lighting effects, water effects, smoke effects, particle effects, the ability to hack various hardware and so on, but just go out and buy the game, you’ll be pleased to see it all first hand, trust us.

Female gamers seem to not be taken into account when it comes to the development of gaming heroes. Majority of games--with the rare exception, will feature a male protagonist, if there is no gender choice. BioShock is no different sadly, so wherein it excels in all areas by being ahead of its time, with the female gamer wishing to play a female hero on screen, its feet are stuck firmly in the now. That aside (and treading carefully to not dash any of the story), there are the usual plethora of peripheral female characters throughout, including the ‘little sisters’ of course and the various women heard over diary entries as the story unfolds, including one integral to the plot. Whilst this fact doesn’t hold the game back to a huge degree, it is yet again another example of the assumption of the male hero and the null choice of the female gamer to play a female hero.

Overall there will be naysayers that will suggest BioShock is just another FPS, with limited environments, a linear story, a too easy respawn interface and samey character models. Whilst this may be true to some degree, the limitations of the in game environments only add to the game overall, lending it a claustrophobic feel. The linear nature of the story is broken up somewhat by the different AI reactionary elements on replaying levels. The easy respawn is more helpful than burden, whatever the players level of expertise. Whilst the samey character models can be forgiven due to the likeability factor to each and every one. With that said, there really is little to say negatively about BioShock, it is a haunting and amazing experience throughout. A storytelling tour-de-force, with superlative voice over narrative work. BioShock is art meets videogaming, film meets video gaming and most importantly of all heart meets video gaming. If you haven’t yet broken down to part with the cash to add BioShock to your collection do so. The only thing that lets this game down for the female gamer is the lack of playable female protagonist, maybe next time ladies, we can but hope.