Time Capsule Review: Old Games in the Modern Age – Bioshock - bigcollin Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Time Capsule Review: Old Games in the Modern Age – Bioshock

 

Recently I tried to compile a list of all the games that I own, but have not gotten the chance to play. As I went through them, I noticed that many of them are fondly-remembered classics of bygone eras, such as Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, and Fallout. So I got to thinking, though these games were considered terrific in their own time, how well do they still hold up today? Are they worth going back to experience for those who haven’t been able to play them, or has time ravaged these once-astounding pieces of digital glory to the point where their positive aspects are eclipsed by outdated content? So I decided that whenever I play one of these games, I’m going to write a review of it from a modern standpoint. I will try to keep nostalgia from clouding my opinions on these games by avoiding anything I have played to any significant degree in the past. I will try to stick to certain criteria when reviewing games in this manner: the game needs to have been out for about 5 years when I play it, and I’ll try and stick to games I have played within the last 2 years (most will be very recent reviews though). Some might be ports to new systems, but I will try and only review ports that don’t alter the core game to any significant degree (for example, I would not review Ocarina of Time 3D, but the PSN version of Final Fantasy 7 is essentially the same game as when it was originally released). I will also try to avoid any spoilers in my reviews. And with that out of the way, let me get started with my first Time Capsule Review: Bioshock.

 

TIME CAPSULE REVIEW: BIOSHOCK


something I sketched quickly for this blog.


360/PS3/PC/macOS

Release Year:  2007 (PS3 Port: 2008)

Played: March 2012

Developer: Irrational Games (Formerly 2K Boston)

Lead Designer: Ken Levine

Genre: First-Person Shooter

ESRB: M

 

                First off, the version of the game I played was the PS3 port, released in 2008 by Digital Extremes. The port only has a few very minor changes from the original 360 and PC versions, such as improved visuals on cut scenes and respawning with a lower amount of health, so it should still be a very accurate take on the originals as well

 

                Bioshock begins with a bang, as your playable character is a survivor of a plane crash that leaves you stranded in the middle of the Atlantic, where you find your way into the underwater city of Rapture. The game takes place in 1960, which loans credence to some of the reasons the game cites for the founding of Rapture beneath the waves of the Atlantic after the end of World War II. Rapture was created to be a haven for controversial artist and scientist, shunned by other societies because of their disdain for the limitations put on their work by things such as government and morality.  Thus the wealthy Andrew Ryan decided to create a society far away from the disapproving eyes of the world, and Rapture rose up from the floor of the sea.

 

 

                Rapture proves to be an amazing backdrop for the terrific narrative that unfolds throughout the course of the game. Since its founding, Rapture has degraded into a rusting husk of its former glory, and its denizens, horribly mutated through means described within the game, roam the halls attacking anyone they deem an enemy. The City gives off a ceaselessly unnerving atmosphere, never truly becoming scary but never letting you feel safe or comfortable either, and this keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game. The atmosphere wraps you up within its dark folds and keeps you enveloped from beginning to end in a way very few games I have played have been able to accomplish.

 

I haven't come across many games that can unnerve you the way Bioshock can.


                As for the story itself, the only word I can think of to describe it is beautiful. The dystopian world of Rapture, and the breathtakingly wonderful narrative that is woven through its halls, rivals, if not surpasses, any piece of dystopian literature I have experienced previously (Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Giver, etc.). It’s a perfect piece of evidence for the argument that games are a form of art, and should be experienced by anyone who is an advocate of intelligent and thematic story in games.

 

                Gameplay wise, Bioshock seems to have withstood the passage of time wonderfully, which is an unusual thing for a first person shooter.  The AI must have been extraordinary upon release, because even now the enemies fight fairly intelligently. The AI certainly isn’t perfect by today’s standards, but nothing that will hinder gameplay quality in any significant way. The shooting controls well, and the plasmid system, ( a gameplay mechanic that allows you to use various powers, such as shooting lightning or freezing enemies) in tandem with your normal arsenal lends the combat a level of strategic gameplay I haven’t seen in many other shooters.  The game also has a way of making ammunition for both powers and guns fairly scarce, adding to the game’s unnerving tone which never allows you to feel  safe, forcing you to discover combos that will allow you to conserve ammo. Overall the combat holds up incredibly well and is just as much, if not more fun, than most shooters on the market today.

 

Plasmids add a new twist to the traditional FPS gameplay.


                Even with all these positives though, the game is not perfect. My first complaint has to be with the hacking minigame. The game allows you to hack vending machines for lower prices, or hostile machinery in order to turn it friendly. This is handled through a minigame where you create a pipeline for an electrified liquid to connect 2 circuits, and thus hack the machine. The problem is this minigame is broken, even to a point where, in some instances, you actually cannot complete the circuit because of obstructions and are forced to fail the minigame and take damage. Even when it does work right, it’s not very fun and often breaks the game’s quick pace of combat, so overall I find the system fairly pointless and cumbersome. Another flaw is in the crafting aspect of the game, which doesn’t show you how much of a certain item you already have in your inventory, so occasionally if you aren’t paying close attention to your inventory you end up crafting a bunch of ammo you cannot carry, and thus waste resources. Also there are a few plot points that are never really clarified. They’re relatively small aspects of the game, and most gamers probably won’t even give them  a second thought, but it left me with a few nagging questions that I doubt these are addressed in the sequel.

 

Hacking, plumbing, all the same thing, right?


                Also, it’s not really a flaw, but something about the game design that doesn’t make sense to me is the ammunition cap on powers. The game seems to want to encourage you to experiment with various powers and weapons in combination, but ammo is so scarce in some parts of the game that you’re afraid to use ammo trying out any powers you don’t already use extensively. Throughout the game I only used 2 powers consistently, and never really experimented much because I was afraid I would be left without any ammo for combat. In my opinion It would have made more sense for Irrational to have weakened the effectiveness of powers, but made them ammo independent, (possibly based off a cool-down system) which would have allowed for more experimentation without the fear of running out of ammunition.

                One final flaw I’d like to address is the inconsistency of the difficulty. I played it on normal difficulty (the default setting), and the game seemed to drastically fluctuate in difficulty between the beginning and the conclusion. At the beginning, the game was really quite challenging, but towards the end I was tanking through waves of enemies like they were insects, and it hurt that overall unnerving tone of the game. I could have played the game on hard difficulty, but I was afraid that if I did, even though the ending would have been a much more satisfactory experience, the beginning would have been an overly-frustrating one.  It seems to me that the difficulty settings could have used a bit more tweaking to keep the game at a challenging level throughout.

 

Even these guys get easy towards the end on normal.


                Overall, the flaws are incredibly minor dents in the otherwise impenetrable armor that is Bioshock. This game is a masterpiece of thematic storytelling and tangible atmosphere in games, and a terrific example of how the contemporarily simplistic gameplay of first person shooters can be transformed into something intelligent and strategic.  It remains an incredible experience to this day, and any fan of story in games or terrific gameplay should adore this title.

 

Now would you kindly go and play this game now?

 

Original GI Score: 10 (PS3 Port Score: 9)

My Score Today: 9.5

Similar titles I have played (if you liked these, you will probably like Bioshock): Metroid Prime, Fallout 3

 

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