If any game doesn't need another person extolling its virtues, it's BioShock. It's a classic, loved by just about everyone. Replaying it as part of BioShock: The Collection has allowed me to relive its magnificence. And almost 10 years after its initial release, the game is every bit as amazing as it was back then.
Why? It's Down To The Story And Setting
The story of the game is one of my favorites. The underwater city of Rapture is such a memorable setting, and it's impressive that the story is able to work so well with such a visually stimulating location.
The seen of the action takes place in 1960, with the player being the only survivor of a plane that crash lands near a lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The player, Jack, must work his way through the underwater city. Its striking ideological banners and enormous statues set the tone while the player is introduced to the the city and its founder Andrew Ryan. The player engages with the game's cast of characters through audio diaries and radio communication, emphasizing the isolation of being lost in the ocean.
But Let's Not Forget The Characters
Many of these characters represent a specific theme. Sander Cohen, a flailing artist, wraps himself in grandeur and mystique to deny his true identity; Dr. Steinman, a plastic surgeon, driven insane by his quest to innovate human beauty, is a manic presence within the city's medical zone. Minor characters also have their stories told through audio diaries, making Rapture feel timeworn as well as underscoring the impact of the events taking place before the arrival of the player. These characters in BioShock stayed with me from my first play through almost a decade ago and it's been a real joy to experience them over again.
Unearthing New Themes
What I love now about the game that would have gone right over my head the first time I played are the different ideologies battling for supremacy within Rapture. Inspired by Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Andrew Ryan appears as the ultimate in free-market zealots, so much so that the only solution he saw in advocating his ideology was to build a city in the ocean. Through audio diaries — a staple in many games today, thanks largely to BioShock — and the environment itself, players are immersed in Ryan's vision for society. He talks about his idea of the great chain of society, fueled by everyone working independently and powered by self-interest, or the centrality of the free market to his city. These themes continue through to the following two games in the series.
The world of Rapture sure is engrossing. From learning more about the game's plasmids — abilities manufactured through use of ADAM, a substance found on the ocean floor — and the process of gathering ADAM by using orphaned girls knowns as Little Sisters, it's one of the most immersive locations in gaming. Learning about the downfall of the citizens through their addiction to plasmids, which causes them to splice themselves beyond recognition, and the ideological conflicts which played out in the city makes Rapture feel real and grim.
It Was Revolutionary
At the time of its release, the game was revolutionary in how it approached the FPS genre. It was really one of the first, if not the first game to combine FPS with RPG mechanics. This is a familiar feature of games today, and BioShock paved the way. The game does this through powers that allow the player to approach combat in a variety of ways, and tonics that grant passive bonuses on top of the game's solid shooting. Stunning enemies with an electro blast and causing chaos by unleashing a swarm of bees into a crowded room feels distinct, but equally fun. Weapon upgrades add further to the customization in the game, and provide yet another incentive to explore every corner of the city.
Playing the game in 2016 a part of The Collection, I expected the visuals to be rough. I was pleasantly surprised that the game holds up amazingly well. It feels at home in 2016 in every way, including its sound and graphics. The music and voice acting are amazing, both adding to the atmosphere that the game provides. Use of lighting and shadow help ease the transition to 2016.
Working within constraints due to the budget during development has actually helped the redo in hiding any roughness on character models. The water effects still looks amazing, too. The first time the player sees Rapture in it's entirety will be every bit as special as it was back in 2007.
Conclusion? It's Phenomenal
Once again I'm hooked, playing the game all over again. Adding in bonuses like the DLC and a really interesting director's commentary (which I'm hugely thankful for, more games should try things to open up their development) make the deal even sweeter. BioShock: The Collection is a steal and adding in the other two amazing games (even the ridiculously and mysteriously underrated BioShock 2) just ups the value for money.
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