I’ve played through BioShock a couple of times, so I thought I’d post my thoughts on the game. There are incredibly in-depth reviews all over the web, so I’ll try to keep this as short as possible (fat chance though, right?). All of these thoughts pertain to the PC release, my gaming platform of choice.
- Without a doubt, this is one of the best looking games available today. It doesn’t feel as gritty or realistic to me as Half-Life 2, but the game is a sight to behold. The water effects are well worth the price of admission. Future Unreal Engine 3 games should be fun to play.
- Voice Acting
- BioShock has some of the best voice acting in any game, on par with all-time greats like System Shock 2 and Half-Life 2. Many of the characters are believable, though there are a few rough edges. The primary bad guy is particularly bad, and you’ll really come to hate him by the end of the game.
- Art Direction
- No game ever produced can touch the art direction presented in this game. In one particular level (Fort Frolic), you fight several waves of enemies all to the strains of Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. It’s a magical gaming moment that I won’t soon forget.
- A Definite Psychological Thriller
- There are a lot of really psychological moments in this game, many of them bordering on the horrific. Not many games can pull that off without being cheesy, and BioShock does an excellent job of keeping it just scary enough.
I unfortunately have a laundry list of gripes with this game:
- Volume Problems
- The audio diaries scattered throughout the game are often difficult to hear. Turning on the audio-subtitles helps a little, but they quickly get out of sync (clearly a game bug). Hopefully a patch will fix this issue.
- Mediocre UI Design
- In order to see how many Little Sisters are left in the current level, as well as how much money and Adam you currently have, you have to go into the game menu (by pressing Escape). Storing critical information like that in a game menu is an incredibly poor design decision. Maybe this is different on the 360 release?
- Repetitive Combat and Hacking
- The bestiary in this game is very limited, which inevitably leads to repetitive combat. In addition, there are far too many enemies on some levels. System Shock 2 did a great job of maintaining a slower pace by limiting the number of enemies on each map. The pace in BioShock seems entirely too fast. Similarly, the hacking mini-game quickly gets tedious. Having additional hacking mini-games would have helped in this department.
- Way Too Linear
- Most first-person-shooters are linear affairs, but BioShock is too linear. While you have the option of visiting a previously cleared level, you never have a need to. System Shock 2 did a great job in this arena, forcing you to revisit levels to obtain some item you needed to continue on your journey. BioShock could have made backtracking a fun thing to do, but it ultimately does not, a big disappointment.
- No Inventory System
- How the hell am I supposed to tell what I’m currently holding?
- This Is No System Shock
- Touted as a “spiritual successor” to System Shock 2 (one of my favorite games of all time), I was expecting this game to be just as good. And it’s simply not. There’s a lot to like about this game, but there’s also a lot to dislike about it. When I finished both System Shock 2 and Half-Life 2, I literally sat through the end credits thinking “Wow; that was one of the best gaming experiences of my life!” At the end of BioShock, I was simply glad the game was over. How disappointing!
- Games are expensive, and a blockbuster like this is expected to be pricey. But $50 seems a little high to me. I didn’t feel like I got $50 worth of entertainment out of it. Which is why I’m glad I only paid $26 (long live Amazon rewards points)! 😈
Do I recommend this game? Absolutely. It’s a must-play for 2007. There’s a lot I ended up disliking, but overall I think the experience was a positive one (if only for the enjoyable art direction and eye candy). I’m guessing the 360 edition of the game is similar in most regards, but at least one review preferred the PC edition (your mileage may vary). If you don’t have this game, be sure to pick it up.