BioShock Review

BioShock for the PS3 isn't exactly a moot point, but it's definitely a footnote compared to the original's huge footprint. BioShock is of course the hugely successful, widely admired successor to System Shock. Made by a lot of the team members from Irrational who worked on the adventures of Shodan, BioShock takes what it wants from System Shock's legacy and leaves the rest behind, picking up a new, hip, art deco-inspired design along the way. The result is a mixture of System Shock-lite customization and gameplay, along with a healthy shot of Fallout-inspired retro chic.

BioShock takes place in the 50's, deep under the ocean, in a gigantic deep-sea biosphere of a city, called Rapture. Rapture was founded by the ambitious, Ayn Randian egomaniac Andrew Ryan. Ryan's goal was to create a haven for those too brilliant and perfect for the regular, petty world, but what he did was create a breeding ground for destruction. With the advent of Adam, an aquatic mutagen, the inhabitants of Rapture began to "splice" themselves to an alarming degree, quickly taking sides in a brutal, genetically modified war that has come and gone by the time your protagonist appears on the scene.

You arrive via plane crash, somewhere over the Atlantic, and are thrown into a conflict that rages still, although it has exhausted most of its fury. In your quest, you employ a stable of conventional (though potentially modified) firearms, and more importantly, a vast array of "plasmids." Plasmids are the game's magic powers, and come in offensive and support varieties. They are powered by EVE, a kind of charger for the basic Adam mutations that the denizens of Rapture found at the bottom of the sea.

As you explore the beautiful, decrepit halls of Rapture, the game's primary upgrade system and moral quandary is thrown in your face: to acquire Adam (to buy new and better plasmids), you must either kill or rescue "Little Sisters." These young girls, frozen in time, travel the bowels of Rapture extracting Adam from corpses. Their hulking guardians, the diving suit-sporting Big Daddies, are by far the most interesting and formidable opponents in the game.

When the game came out, much was made of the choice that would face players: spare the Sisters and receive less instant Adam bonuses, or kill them, receiving larger amounts of Adam. In practice, it is far less affecting than advertised. If you choose to sacrifice a Sister, the camera goes black, and when your vision clears, you see a squirming worm (full of Adam) in your hands. It's alarming, and not very pretty, but its game world consequences are not drastic. In fact, if you save the Sisters, you receive bonuses of Adam over time, making it the more economically viable option.

As previously mentioned, the game plays like an action-oriented version of System Shock. There are no skills, hardly an inventory to speak of, and the only upgrades you can get are from guns and advanced level plasmids. Sure, you can get a plasmid that lets you heal yourself as you hack computers, or that electrocutes attackers, but your choices are deceptively simple: you have many ways to kill, but kill you must. Never do your skills allow you to follow a different course in any situation. There is a branching point to be sure, but it's a simple Good/Evil dynamic, keeping the gameplay linear.