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Posted on Sep 10, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Bioshock Review

By Ryan Stepalavich

Passed Inspection: Everything all-around. Great graphics, fantastic art deco design, mind-bending storyline, excellent RPG/FPS mechanics. Ayn Rand would be proud.

Failed Basic: There’s an ending to this tale. Some stability issues.

If there’s one objective in every developer’s mind, it’s to deliver the perfect gaming experience to its user base. The definition of such perfection would be to transport the player to a realm that fits the original vision of the designer to his or her exact specifications. It’s a means in which players lose themselves in the world that was created through billions of lines of code, pages and pages of storyline, audio, artwork, the whole package that gets wrapped and slapped on an eight gigabyte DVD and sold on market shelves. Perfection, of course, is hard to come by. However, 2K Boston’s Bioshock certainly has set the benchmark.

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Set in 1960, the player assumes the role of "Jack" in this harrowing first-person shooter/role playing game hybrid. Almost instantly, the plane Jack is travelling in crashes into an unnamed ocean near a rather conspicuous lighthouse, and the player’s journey into Rapture – a dystopian objectivist society where profit rules all – begins.

The most amazing aspect of Bioshock that will no doubt strike the player is the style. The underwater city of Rapture began construction around 1947, adopting a 1920’s "flapper era" art deco design that permeates from buildings to doors and everything in between. "Jack" travels via antiquated bathyspheres, utilizes enormous antiquated "voice recorders" that are reminiscent of the old 8-track handheld players, opens steampunkish airlocks, and hunts-or is hunted by-bronze diving suit laden "Big Daddies". All of this, consistent with the dystopian setting, is covered by rust, grime and just a hint of a coppery sheen. It is positively impossible not to be drawn into this creepy yet somewhat nostalgic and, forgive the cliché, "cool" environment.

The astonishing design and style is no doubt backed up by the fantastic visuals. Bioshock is built on Unreal Engine 3.0, which enables DirectX 9’s Shader Model 3.0. This adds reflectivity and bump mapping effect the likes of which have never been seen properly on a PC game before. The water effects as Rapture begins to leak are amazing, the enemies – Splicers, Big Daddies, sentry guns, etc – are frighteningly detailed and gruesome, and the special explosive effects are tremendous.

The gameplay is strong, quick and exciting, and yet it certainly qualifies Bioshock as a "thinking man’s FPS". The player is granted with two different styles of attack. First, there is the traditional weapons and melee combat. But even here, it’s far from conventional. While pistols, submachine guns, and grenade launchers are certainly rampant in use through the game, the player is also faced with the option of switching between several different types of ammunition as well. Each weapon and ammunition selection represents a specific recipe for particular enemies. For example, the heavily armored "Big Daddy" is best dispatched with either high explosives via the grenade launcher, or a submachine gun paired up with armor piercing rounds.

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