As you no doubt already know, Bioshock has become the icon of discussion for the majority of gamers. If you have not already picked up a copy of the game, feel free to stop reading here and run out to the stores. I can already assure you it will not be a mistake (i write that with much confidence).
Bioshock begins right off the bat with a fantastic introduction. Flying in the dead of night you soon find that the plane is taking a detour; straight for the ocean. Worry not, however, as you will survive this plummet into the sea. After a quick struggle you are at the surface, surrounded by flames. Flames roaring all around, water splashing onto the camera, waves roaring in the deep sea, a thick smoke fills the air... and then you realise, the cutscene has ended and you are now in control. Instantly the water and fire effects will leave you speechless, as they are without a doubt the most impressive you have yet to come across. You come to your senses, take control and head towards the only light that will not seriously burn you, the light emitting from a lighthouse in the distance. Whilst it is obvious that this is not the most intelligent of moves, you have little choice.
The game will hold your hand like this for the first chapter of the game, leading you through the basics of your adventurer. Fortunately you will also find that even after the tutorial, you will never be left alone in the dark. The game features an array of methods to help the player at all times: be it the compass always pointing to the target, the detailed map, the step-by-step goal explanation or the useful hint system. This however, is a double edged sword - whilst always knowing which direction to take removes frustration, it also gives little reason to explore alternate areas. Venturing out on your own, however, will have great reward. Nearly every room will contain items to help you throughout the game or journals to tell a tale.
The world of Rapture, the setting for Bioshock, is a paradise city that has been built under the ocean. You will first set your eyes on the magnificent city as you venture into the lighthouse, shortly after the plane crash. A voice over narrative from the creator himself, Andrew Ryan, explains that the world is a place for mankind to live without limitations… that much is clear upon finally stepping foot inside the city. Something has gone terribly wrong; the world without limits has turned into chaos, which is beautifully expressed with the artistic style of a twisted and gory version of 1940’s décor.
It is not clear what has lead you to Rapture, it is unknown why you keep going further, but soon you will be unable to leave - the sense of mystery leaves you wanting to know more. On your travels you will come to learn and even become involved in the fantastic tales of many inhabitants of Rapture.
Shortly into the game you will learn that the world is run by an essence named "Adam". Whilst you can obtain items such as ammunition and health kits with currency (obtained from enemies and environment objects), you will notice that the important elements are purchased with "Adam". Unfortunately getting Adam can be a little tricky, as the only method to obtain some is by killing an innocent little girl, a “Little Sister”. Whilst slaughtering a little girl might not be an issue for most (you sick people), she will be heavily protected at all times by a Big Daddy.
Thankfully the story is supported by fantastic voice acting that truly brings the characters to life. There is a constant stream of dialogue throughout Bioshock as you progress through the game, either in the form of taunts, tips, storyline progression or journals left behind for your enjoyment. This helps keep the game fresh and interesting as you are constantly being updated with new stories of life in Rapture.
Gameplay is without a doubt the main component of the first person genre title, and Bioshock gameplay is unprecedented. As expected all the cookie cutter guns that you have come to know are present (such as the pistol, shotgun, grenade launcher and machine gun to name a few), with several types of ammunition for all. The typical melee weapon is back in fantastic form as a large wrench that can take down most enemies, if used correctly. These alone would create an enjoyable experience, but when you add on the most enjoyable feature of Bioshock, you get something on a whole new level… plasmid powers.
These plasmid powers rewrite your DNA code, to allow you to shoot bolts of electricity out of your hands, set fire to any object with the flick of your wrist, turn your arm into a living beehive or turn an enemy into an enraged killing machine; to name a few of a large choice. The use of these powers with the current arsenal of weaponry combined with a fantastic reactive environment provide for some unique and extraordinary combat situations. In short, Bioshock simply rewrites the standard for gameplay that all future games will be measured.
What enemies can I use this fantastic gameplay on? Well Bioshock has an array of characters that are twisted, evil, fast, skilled, furious and deadly. They can come at you with speed, lurk up from behind, drop from the ceiling or even appear in a cloud of smoke from nowhere. Handling these enemies can be extremely tough, especially if experiencing Bioshock on the harder difficulty setting (not for the faint of heart). However the ultimate challenge comes when you finally encounter a Big Daddy, the foe which has become famous by reputation. As mentioned previously, the Big Daddy will protect a Little Sister at all costs, and when you anger them, you will know it. The Big Daddy, in all his might, will come charging and pulverize you to the ground within seconds if you let him. This provides the basis for one of the most enjoyable and intense combat experiences that you will find in any game. Console Monster puts forward the challenge, who will be skilled enough to take out a Big Daddy with just the wrench?
Bioshock is a complete package, it covers every aspect of a fantastic game flawlessly, and one should always save the best for last. Graphically, Bioshock is simply a masterpiece. The graphics are equally measured by fantastic technical excellence, showing without a doubt the best water effects in any game and an art style that flows through the city of Rapture, providing a streaming masterpiece. Fantastic art direction meets the latest in graphics technology, creating an environment that is packed with terror, personality, atmosphere and endless charm.
Whilst the game does provide a reasonable amount of playtime (12+ hours on average) you will find little in the form of replay value; as expected from a single player first person shooter. However thanks to the nature of combat, it can be enjoyable to replay the game simply to try different weapons or tactics, for a challenge or simply to reminisce in a piece of what will be, gaming history.