Tuesday, October 2, 2024

2024, A Deep Sea Odyssey: BioShock Reviewed

By Tyler Barber

Every five or six years, there comes a videogame that's avowed by gamers, developers and critics as a beacon of gaming's progression as both an art and a respectable form of entertainment. Enter BioShock, a rich adventure carefully crafted to provoke ominous moral and gameplay decisions.
"Is not a man entitled to profit from the sweat of his brow?" asks Andrew Ryan, the megalomaniacal dictator of the maritime metropolis ironically named Rapture. You find yourself struggling to answer such philosophical questions minutes after your plane crashes in the Mid-Atlantic, where you descend to a sunken city. Built leagues beneath the ocean's surface, Rapture is a product of idealists and elitists looking to forge a utopia where science, industry and art are unconstrained by authority -- DIY genetic engineering has become as commonplace as buying a new TV set. However, a macabre irony greets you as you're introduced to Rapture: cryptic warnings scrawled in blood across beautifully detailed Art Deco walls, bellicose scavengers roaming the city in search of Adam, the genetic currency needed to splice genes into superhuman powers called Plasmids. You learn that the side-effects of gene splicing disfigured and lead to the eventual demise of both Rapture and its residents. All that's left is the ravaged skeleton of a city buckling under the pressure of the dark sea.

Big Daddies
My vision shakes and blurs as I crouch behind a machine-gun turret rigged to an office chair, unleashing a hail of bullets on my assailant. If I hadn't hacked the turret seconds before I would be taking 50 caliber rounds to the face. As the rumbling gets closer, a behemoth encased in a diving suit rounds the corner: the Big Daddy -- the newest and most unnerving icon to videogames. I royally piss-off the Big Daddy when I set him aflame using my Incinerate Plasmid. Through a blanket of fire, I see the yellow-cautious glow of the Big Daddy's helmet-portholes turn bright red. He emits a roar, paralyzing me behind the turret. Luckily, the hacked turret is already pumping lead into the beast. Unluckily, the turret stands no chance at stopping the Big Daddy's charge. Flying 10 feet backward through the room, my health is all but depleted when I noticed the Big Daddy standing in a glorious puddle a water. Arming my Electro Bolt Plasmid I shoot electricity at the puddle, stopping the beast in his tracks as he seizures with lightning dancing around his exoskeleton. I step forward, place my shotgun to his face and pull the trigger.
The Big Daddy drops like a ton of bricks and I notice something I didn't before. A little girl crouches at the side of the fallen monster, sobbing at the loss of her protector. Looking directly at me, the little girl backs into a corner begging for her life, crying out a hollow pray for, "Mr. Bubbles" to wake up. A voice overhead tells me its a Little Sister, and that she carries inside her the only material in Rapture that ensures my survival, Adam. I can save the possessed girl's life, but extract less Adam, or I can kill her, and harvest all the Adam she has. What would you do?

Choices and Details
If reduced to two words, BioShock is all about choices and details. Not only will you rack your brain trying to outsmart the malicious AI of your aggressors, you'll also get the bends trying to decide whether or not you're going to "harvest" the Little Sisters. All the while, you're swept away by the flood of detail that Rapture encompasses in both in its fiction and aesthetics. From start to finish, BioShock delivers on gameplay, graphics, sound, mood, pacing, story and setting, while perpetually introducing new elements to the gameplay. More importantly to videogames as a whole, BioShock has managed to slip in some serious topics (like the pros and cons of Objectivism) into its fiction, and gameplay that has yet to be executed so elegantly in other games.

End Scene
Stretched to the sky with a slight kindle, the dire, black monolith placidly beacons the primitive closer. A new horizon is peeking over the convex profile of our world of gaming. The primitive nervously approaches the monolith, with its forefinger perked outward. Touching the monolith imbues the Heavens with golden enlightenment as trumpets blare Strauss' Zarathustra. A videogame emerges: BioShock. You are welcomed gamer, to the intelligent age, the age of Rapture.

Final Grade: A+


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