It’s always difficult to write a review of a game like BioShock
, that’s riding such an enormous wave of hype. Even before I got to put my own two hands on it I was in love with the concept, the look, and just the entire aura that seemed to surround the game. Now, I had to play it, not just as an excited fan, but as a battle-scarred critic. Having been burnt too many times in the past by the hype machine (I’m looking at you, Brute Force
), I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy this game. I had to inspect it, dismantle, observe others interacting with it and question just about every single inch of it.
There is one more important point to make here. I’ve spent time playing this game. I have spent lots of time. I don’t actually have time to tell you about the time I’ve spent with my 360. Suffice to say that what follows is the considered criticism from a tired man who loves the game despite its flaws – and yes, BioShock
Although the story in BioShock
may have be constructed in order to accommodate the unique play style (which in reality is a less deep but more exciting version of Oblivion
), I would not have known that had I not read interviews with the games designers about how the setting evolved. After seeing the way in which the story is so delicately revealed and intertwined in the surroundings I could have easily believed someone had this amazing narrative from the start, and built a game around it.
One of the first things that sold me on BioShock
, long before its release, was the genius choice of its setting: underwater, in the past, with characters who were once as human as you but have now been made mad by their own techno-greed and political aspirations. BioShock
manages to raise its game above the current stuck-in-a-Sci-Fi rut of ‘post apocalyptic dystopias’ that the games industry appears to believe is the best way to slap on a back-story for the average gamer. This is a definite plus, as is the way the story unfolds…
The game starts off in the last century with you on a plane somewhere over an ocean. Suddenly things take a turn for the worse and you crash into the cold water below. Miraculously (or not, as it would be a pretty short game otherwise) you are the only survivor and, as luck would have it, you crash land within 50 feet of the entrance to an underwater utopia that has been forgotten for many years.
Faced with the option of staying on your nice little island and awaiting rescue or venturing into this underwater city, which at this point you should know nothing about at all, you of course opt to hop into a tiny unmanned sub and throw caution to the wind.
This is possibly one of the most genius moments in the game. While in many games you do things simply because it is a game, as you play BioShock
you begin to realise that there is a reason why you would so willingly venture thousands of feet below the sea. There is indeed a reason you would pick up a giant glowing syringe and jab it into your arm without any coaxing.
The developers have taken seemingly clichéd game mechanics and flipped them on their heads. Like the best television crime dramas, the smallest actions come back later on adding to a much larger story, which you could very easily overlook. The story is revealed by, for example, randomly located tape recorders containing audio diaries, in posters and in a myriad of other devices. You are never too weighed-down with ‘story’ to have it interfere with your game-playing fun, though.
I’ve never before felt like a developer had any faith in me to “get it” and this is one of the things I appreciate most about the game. Sure, some things are spelled out for you, but it’s never heavy handed and it always feels natural in context.
Choosing when and how to tell a story so carefully and allowing people to ignore and bypass it entirely or dig around and unveil it completely was, for me, definitely the highlight of the BioShock