It's not easy to choose between two obvious Game of the Year candidates, but in reality, not everyone can afford to buy every game out there. So we pose the question: If you had to choose, would you buy BioShock or Halo 3? We break each game down into eight categories to see who emerges victorious.
BioShock: A real gamer's game, BioShock's plot grasps you firmly from the moment the main character Jack sets foot upon the underwater city of Rapture. A hyper-capitalist utopia immersed in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Rapture was intended to serve as a refuge for the most gifted members in society. The vision was a success until the discovery of stem cells called "ADAM" eventually led to genetic enhancements (plasmids) forming a seedy black market, addiction, and crime. Eventually the city erupted in an all-out civil war for control over the all-powerful, all-consuming ADAM. And thus, Rapture fell.
BioShock's story unfolds like a quality sci-fi novel, revealing mysterious tidbits about Rapture's formation and its cast of eccentric characters. You never quite know who to trust, and you're forced to make difficult choices - such as whether to rescue or harvest ADAM-laden children. The atmosphere of the crumbling Rapture itself is dark and decadent, a perfect match for the psychologically scarred, ADAM-addicted survivors. Like its predecessor, System Shock 2, BioShock weaves a fascinating, socially complex tale. And though its endings aren't entirely satisfying, the journey is worth the letdown.
Halo 3: The events of the first two Halo games climax in Halo 3, playing out the final act in the ongoing battle between humanity and the Covenant, a race of alien religious zealots. In Halo 3, supersoldier Master Chief and Covenant turncoat Arbiter race against time to stop a Covenant leader from activating the titular Halos and destroying the universe in a fit of religious-inspired mass suicide. The Covenant's desire for the suicidal "Great Journey" is a reoccurring theme in every Halo game, and the parallels to Middle Eastern suicide bombers do not go unnoticed. These kinds of real-world references give Halo 3 more brain cells than the average action game.
Halo has an appealing science-fiction allure, iconic characters, and an epic galaxy-wide battle for survival. But any Halo fanatic will tell you that what makes the game great isn't the story: it's the well-tuned gameplay. As the Halo series progressed, the developers paid more and more attention to its story. The voice-acting and direction improved during the in-game cinemas, but in time, the plot strained with a tangle of convoluted sub-plots. Halo 3 is no exception: in fact, parts of Halo 3's story can be incomprehensible to all but the most devoted Halo fanboys.
While Halo 3's plot is a cut above the average game, it falls far short of the engrossing tale laid out in the first official Halo book, The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund. It serves as an official prequel to the first Halo and contains better dialogue and plot twists than Halos 1 through 3 combined.
WINNER: BioShock, hands down. Dark, compelling, and smartly written, BioShock's story treatment is not only vastly better than Halo 3's - it's vastly better than almost any video game storyline ever released.