Platform: PlayStation 3
It’s hard to imagine that it was only a year ago when BioShock was released for the Xbox 360 and PC. It feels like ages ago that gamers first plunged into the Atlantic Ocean and saw the giant “No Gods or Kings, Only Man” banner hung below the determined looking bust of Andrew Ryan. Since then, partially because of Bioshock, games have changed. Developers have realized that it’s possible to turn the environment in a video game into a character, and have taken advantage of gamers’ reactions to the game to push the envelope further and further. Now, after months of staunch denials of a Sony port, BioShock has been released for the PlayStation 3 with exclusive content and the promise of future updates, but is it worth purchasing for the 3+ million gamers who already bought the game in its original release?
For those who managed to ignore all news about the game, here are the basics: after some time near the ocean floor, some fishermen found a strange sea slug that produced a substance called ADAM, which essentially equates to hyper stem-cells. ADAM was able to be harvested and turned into a substance that worked like a miracle drug, doing whatever scientists wanted it to do. Plastic surgeons could use it to prevent any evidence of scarring regardless of the procedure, doctors could use it to heal injuries, and scientists were able to modify and weaponize it. Before long, different companies within the city were creating dozens of versions that could be “spliced” into the DNA of the citizens of Rapture, from powerful weapons like fireballs to more passive tonics like invisibility.
After a plane crash in the Mid-Atlantic, the main character of BioShock arrives after all of this, finding a dilapidated, melancholy picture of Rapture, taken over by Splicers (Citizens driven crazy by abuse of ADAM), with his only friend on the other side of a short-wave radio. The story is fantastic, and slowly unfolds itself by revealing the events preceding the main characters descent to the city via recording devices scattered around the city. It takes a critical look at society and gaming clichés, turning them both upside down and rewriting the book on video game storytelling.
The combat itself isn’t the cleanest in the genre, but the game isn’t a pure first-person-shooter. Compared to many other games, twitchy, fast paced reflexes isn’t really that important, it’s more about being able to aiming the right weapon at the right enemy and firing. Because of the different Plasmids and Tonics there are different ways to play through the game, and there isn’t really any type of gamer who couldn’t find a niche in BioShock and work their way through it based on it. The Plasmids and Gene Tonics that were added as free Downloadable Content for the Xbox 360 version of the game come on the disk of the PS3 version, so there are even more choices while working your way towards the end of the game. Also added is a new difficulty mode called Survivor Mode, which provides a much, much harder gameplay experience. Health and EVE Hypos replenish less, enemies drop less money and ammunition, take more damage to kill, and deal more damage each hit. It’s an incredibly difficult game mode, and is definitely not for the feint of heart.
Also soon to be added to the game are Challenge Rooms, which are short, puzzle rooms set outside of the events of BioShock. One example is a Ferris Wheel where the player needs to find different ways of electrocuting a switch to move it around, attempting to free a Little Sister who is trapped atop the malfunctioning device. These will be released in the near future on the PlayStation Network, and should give players another excuse to jump back into the game after completing it.
The graphics are improved over the original, but not universally. Some textures look better and particle and water effects are occasionally superior, but there are still slow downs and abundant texture pops. Physics glitches will also rear their head from time to time, and it’s apparent that, while 2K took time to make sure PlayStation 3 fans for their moneys worth with BioShock, they didn’t attempt to make this the “definitive” version of the game. It’s been a year since it was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and most of the glitches still remain. Taking this time to polish the title and releasing a complete, perfected version of the game was possible, but this isn’t that game. It’s just as good as the version released a year ago, and has some unique features that could justify calling it better, but it is far from a “must purchase” for anyone who already owns the title. That said, for anyone who hasn't played the title and owns a PlayStation 3, the choice should be clear, and this should supersede any other games currently waiting to be played.
BioShock presents moral choices that haven’t been successfully achieved in gaming before. It takes risks, demolishes taboos, and is still one of the most impressive titles ever released. While the game is not perfect I cannot bring myself to give it any less than a perfect score. It is easily one of the best games ever made, and one of the most entertaining experiences ever created. The plot rivals great novels and the voice acting and animation trump some of the best movies. BioShock will forever be the proof we point to in the “games as art” debate as one of the best in its class, a truly exemplary title. This is our Casablanca, our Ulysses and our Mona Lisa, folks, it may never get any better than this.