2K Games BioShock

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2K Games BioShock

Pros

  • Unparalleled depth and immersion in a vibrant game world, unique range of powers and abilities at the player's fingertips.

Cons

  • Nothing to speak of.

Bottom Line

BioShock has landed -- without a doubt, one of the best games of 2007 on any platform or genre. Buy it now.

Would you buy this?

Survival of the Fittest

So how does BioShock play? For shooter fans who've never experienced BioShock's predecessor System Shock 2, and I pity you if you haven't, this game will come as a revelation. It's almost like watching a talented juggler: the smart writing, intense action, and RPG-style character customizations are expertly manipulated in unison, making for a dazzling and entertaining display. Beginners will need to adjust to a few concepts, such as looting fallen bodies and buying equipment from the vending machines that adorn Rapture, but they'll quickly acclimate to the game's charms. That's because BioShock is remarkably easy to play. The Halo-esque FPS controls feel smooth and precise for shootouts, and the inventory management controls feel streamlined but not simplistic. There's even a handy arrow that points you to your next objective-a merciful feature that will keep you from aimlessly wandering Rapture in search of your next task.

But innovative game design aside, BioShock also shines where it counts most with gamers: in the graphics department. It is, without a doubt, the best-looking game on the Xbox 360. The unique Art Deco art design of the levels shines brilliantly in an otherwise tired sea of World War II battlefields and futuristic sci-fi landscapes. And the creepy enemies look nothing like the standard gun-wielding brutes that we've mowed down a million times over in other games. BioShock also excels on a purely technical level: the water displays outstanding real-time reflection effects and the lighting and shadow effects are eye-catching. We're finally seeing what the new generation of consoles can really do.

All Ears On Me

A game's audio track is a topic that game reviews tend to gloss over, but it's definitely essential to the BioShock experience as the soundtrack bears the heavy burden of establishing the oppressive mood of Rapture. The music accomplishes this feat brilliantly and with almost supernatural skill, despite the fact that it's used sparingly. Given BioShock's grim setting, the often jaunty music-it consists of old-timey 1940's and 50's pop tunes-comes off as both funny and creepy, a remarkable tightrope walk. The sound effects are also memorable: you'll often hear the steady drip-drip-drip of leaking water, a simple audio effect that will nevertheless make your skin crawl and your bones ache, but the echoing footsteps of your enemies will also haunt you throughout.

I know I've spent a lot of time praising BioShock but the game is quite deserving of every single positive word. Does the game have flaws? Yes, but there aren't many. The enemy roster could use a bit more variety, and a few plot points aren't quite fully explained or explored. Several tasks also devolve into "hunt and fetch" chores, leading to some backtracking and aimless wandering. It's also important to note that BioShock does not feature any sort of multiplayer mode, but it's hard to get worked up about this omission when the single-player game is so polished and satisfying. Besides, multiplayer probably wouldn't have worked well for this game anyway, though a cooperative play option would've been nice. Ah well, there's always BioShock 2. Right?

Shocked And Amazed

BioShock comes along at a time when big-budget games are becoming an almost disposable form of entertainment. You play them through once and put them back on your shelf to gather dust, forgotten. In the end, most of those games don't matter. I'm happy to say that BioShock does matter. It leaves its mark on a genre that has its fair share of memorable titles and it does it with style and panache. It is easily one of the best games of the year and it more than ably lives up to the high bar set by its spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2.

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