torstai 2. kesäkuuta 2016

REVIEW - BioShock

GENRE(S): First-person shooter
AVAILABLE ON: Macintosh, PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): 2K Australia, 2K Boston, 2K Marin (PlayStation 3), Digital Extremes (PlayStation 3)
PUBLISHER(S): 2K Games, Feral Interactive (Macintosh)
RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2007 (Windows, Xbox 360)

I told myself I wasn't going to do this. I wasn't going to embarrass myself right from the start by counting the ways what a douche I've been towards particular types of games in the past. Then I started writing this review, and I realized that perhaps it's for the best after all. Perhaps I should start from a game that I was almost never going to play just because of what it is, and certainly a game I thought to never fall in love with. BioShock is fucking awesome – but you probably knew that already. After all, it's been nearly a decade since Ken Levine's slow-cooked masterpiece first came to light.

Cry Little Sister

The logical thing to do first is to tell you about my complicated history with first-person shooters. Once upon a time, even I, a sworn warrior of the inferior race, was somewhat of a PC (and Amiga) gamer. I loved point 'n' click games and the earlier graphic adventures, and sure, first-person shooters, when they first emerged, left their mark on me too. Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, the Quake series (especially the third game), and I had some fun with a few more curious titles such as Hexen and Descent, too. I considered Soldier of Fortune from 2000 the last good first-person shooter for the longest time. I don't know what it was that finally opened my eyes to the staleness of the genre, and at which point I began to loathe these games. Was it the transition to consoles? Might be, I always thought these games were the only games in the world which would never work with a regular controller. Was it that one time Samus Aran – my best girlfriend in the field of 2D action-adventure – was suddenly made into a first-person avatar in Metroid Prime and its sequels? I call double on that. Was it simply the skyrocketing popularity of Half-Life – which I still find boring, by the way – and its seemingly never ceasing spin-off Counter-Strike? I think we have a winner. Thus, this genre was dead to me.

Taste my tool, fool.
On one cold February night, I pre-ordered the new Doom on a whim, after watching the trailer and thinking to myself how much I liked that game back in the mid-90's. This new game was to be a deliberate throwback to those good old days of simple slaughter in the depths of Hell. I just had to have the game, but then I realized what I just did: I deliberately bought a full-priced FPS game, and I hadn't played a single, pure-blooded FPS game in years. Logically, I thought of Doom 3 which I'd had for the original Xbox for ages, but never tried it, as a good warm-up. Well, that didn't work. I got bored with its poor compatibility with my 360 in five minutes, before the killing had actually even begun. Some time later, actually just two or three weeks back, my thoughts returned to warming up for Doom. I had bought a game called BioShock from a flea market bin some months back; a sealed copy, for two whole euros. This game's got some good reviews in its day, not to mention its second sequel BioShock Infinite, which my ex-girlfriend used to play night and day even though she's not a fan of first-person shooters either – these were some damn good reasons to at least give the game a shot. Two hours into the disturbing world of BioShock, its addictive story, and interesting mix of different gameplay elements, I was hooked.

Perfection from simplicity

In this dark tale of biogenetic research which looks and sounds like Fallout 3 – but predates Fallout 3, a key point there – and is set in the year 1960, you play as a fella named Jack, whose plane crashes in the ocean for an initially unknown reason. Near the crash site, he finds a hidden entryway into the underwater city of Rapture, built in the 40's by a businessman with a dream of an isolated, utopic metropolis. However, the local scientists' more recent discovery of a genetic material called ADAM has changed most of the citizens of Rapture into powerful, yet batshit crazy and deformed mutants known as the Splicers, and those in power want to hoard all of that supergoo to themselves. Enter ADAM collectors known as Little Sisters – little girls brainwashed to do their masters' bidding – and their colossal bodyguards, the Big Daddies. With the help of an anarchist who calls himself Atlas, Jack tries to escape Rapture, having to deal with just about every creature that dwells within.

Hap-hap-hap-happy new year.
At first glance, BioShock looks like any old FPS game, but it's made quite clear early on that the story of the game, the history of this remarkable city and its inhabitants – told via collectable audio logs – are at the very forefront of the proper BioShock experience. It's also spelled out right from the start, that you cannot just run aimlessly through the hallways of Rapture and shoot everyone you see. There's security equipment everywhere, from cameras to turrets, stealth and melée are both of great use to you especially in the beginning of the game, and what's perhaps most important, whenever you see the screen shake and hear loud footsteps and low-pitched moaning, just run the hell out of wherever you are, to wherever else. That's a Big Daddy, and he doesn't like strangers coming too close to his girl. Including your common enemies, so he can actually be of use to you from time to time. With this much going on, and this many challenges laid before you, it's only natural that you'll have a load of upgrades to sink your teeth in – hack that security to slaughter your enemies (in a minigame that closely resembles the home computer classic Pipe Mania!!), kill yourself a Big Daddy, and do whatever you wish with his surviving zombie child. With the right upgrades, you can even coerce a Big Daddy to your service, as if you were his Little Sister. That's fucking rad. The upgrade system is very simple, it's your own morality which poses the true challenge in molding your character.

Run to your mother

Though your principal guide and mentor constantly refers to Little Sisters as lifeless, soulless zombies instead of the innocent little children they seem – though damn creepy – and advises you to just kill them all to harvest the most of the ADAM for your upgrades, you can decide yourself whether you want to kill them, or cleanse them of their condition. The latter option still leaves them like lifeless shells, but at least they're not that creepy anymore, and yields less ADAM, but only on the spot. Saving those little ones will garner in some awesome rewards, the more you decide to play it nice all the way to the end. The Little Sisters and their hulking bodyguards are just one small element of the storyline's awesomeness, but without them to diversify the gameplay and bring in that extra challenge every now and then (you ALWAYS have to kill the Big Daddy before you can even come close to his Sister), I'm guessing BioShock would fall in the category of same ol' for me.

Excuse me, is that a puddle of water you're standing in?
And this is exactly where we come to the few cons. Although I'd like to consider BioShock more of a tightly knit, first-person adventure rather than a shooter, it dims down towards the end. There's less storytelling there, more repetitive fight sequences and tons of those hacking puzzles for those who bother – and I definitely bother. Repetitive or not, I love hacking shit. A more minor peeve – which was gloriously fixed in the later games – is that you constantly have to switch between your ”magical powers” and just using your weapons. Having just one hand up at a time results in a lot of small distracting problems, such as forgetting which weapon you had equipped, and whether it had ammo left or not. There are plenty of situations which require quick combos of both magic and good old ammunition to be properly managed.


It has some very minor issues, but besides those, I'm glad to announce that BioShock changed my perspective on first-person shooters, perhaps permanently – I hope so too, 'cause I have a LOT of first-person shooters still completely untouched on my shelf. It lives off its crazy world and captivating story, and delivers a seriously entertaining, action-packed campaign of just the right length. It may well be one of the best ”new” games I've gotten around to in years. Better late than never.


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