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Bioshock was a game I was very intrigued with. Having bought a copy for the PC only to be plagued with technical problems, the minute I got a 360 it was the first game on my list.

The game plays like a successor to the System Shock series as a first person shooter with depth. The game begins when the plane you are in crash lands into the Atlantic, leaving you swimming to a mysterious lighthouse. Finding a strange sphere you descend into the underwater city of Rapture. Built by a business giant, sick of society's meddling and morality, the city was designed to be a place for freedom and new discoveries not bound by normal rules and regulations.

However, things went very wrong. New scientific advances were made, specifically creating "plasmids" and "tonics" which would change the genetic structure of a person, giving them new powers and abilities. Yet these changed people into murderous psychopaths, known as "Splicers" which now roam the silent halls. It is here that the story progresses where you try to discover what exactly happened as well as simply survive.

Firstly, the game looks incredible. The graphics are really impressive, especially in 1080p on a good television. The art design for the game is excellent and the mood of the period is captured well, down to subtle art deco touches and broken gramophones still playing their tunes. The lighting and water effects are excellent and really help to make you become immersed in the game.

Sound is one of the game's strongest features. Realistic sound effects make the game more convincing and ambient sound really adds to a sinister and threatening atmosphere. Thankfully the voice acting of the game's characters is some of the best in any game, which is always crucial to one which is story driven. The key characters are voiced superbly, by some well known actors and at times the experience feels all too real. Even your enemies, the Splicers have distinct personalities and often scream out disturbing phrases when they attack you. More unsettling are the ones who just roam the halls mumbling quietly to themselves, cradling a gun as though it were a child.

Whilst the game's presentation is unquestionably impressive, how does the gameplay fare?

I am pleased to say that Bioshock offers an excellent first person system with a good selection of weapons and satisfying gunplay. Each weapon has a variety of ammunition types which are generally split into armour-piercing, anti-personal and general. The combat feels meaty and different from the clinical effectiveness of Call of Duty.

Alongside the weapons, your character also gains access to the same genetic enhancements as his enemies. These range from paralyzing them with electricity, setting them on fire and even freezing them solid. These plasmids are effective and become an essential tool in facing off ever tougher opponents.

As well as offensive plasmids, you also can obtain tonics which are passive. These offer boosts to a wide range of different areas. Some give you more health from first aid kits, others improve your chances in the hacking mini-game to control turrets and security drones and one even gives you the ability to turn invisible when standing still. They fall into 4 categories, Plasmids, Engineering, Physical and Combat tonics.

As the game progresses you are forced to switch between these as you are limited to only 6 from each category which adds a tactical approach and allows you to take on situations in different ways. This adds a pleasant depth to the gameplay, though at times it is a little easy as there are plenty of places to swap your upgrades.

In order to purchase these upgrades you first have to acquire ADAM, a currency which is only available from Little Sisters. These small female children roam the corridors collecting ADAM from corpses but are protected by large diving suit wearing bodyguards called a Big Daddy. You must kill the Big Daddy (quite a feat), to be able to access the Little Sister, where you must then choose to either kill her (and receive maximum ADAM), or save her (and receive a smaller amount but have a clear conscience). This moral choice is a good addition and really elevates the game from other titles, as it ties in with the narrative very well.

I could criticize Bioshock for a number of small issues. The hacking mini-game is rather easy on a console, there is no inventory screen, the map is confusing and so on. However, these criticisms are minor when you view the game as a whole.

I can't remember the last time a game gripped me so much with such a strong narrative, I literally sat and completed it in almost a single sitting. The game is mature, tackles interesting issues and isn't afraid to try to do things a little differently. Whilst it follows most of the conventions of the genre, it brings enough new elements to make it fresh and interesting. Seldom is a game crafted with so much attention to detail and has an atmosphere as strong as Bioshock.

If you are a fan of FPS games and strong stories then Bioshock is unmissable. For everyone else: it is essential.

9.00/10 9

BioShock (Reviewed on Xbox 360)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Bioshock was a game I was very intrigued with. Having bought a copy for the PC only to be plagued with technical problems, the minute I got a 360 it was the first game on my list.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Christopher Wakefield

Christopher Wakefield


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