The game begins much like every other classic title that has appeared throughout the history of video games, with a 10 minute installation. All the greats have graced players in a similar fashion, from Deus Ex and Super Mario Brothers to Tetris. When you see that a game is installing you know it means business. You'll be needing roughly 5gb of free space on your hard disk to make room for the game, so those of you with one of the early 20gb PlayStation 3's might want to delete some of those Barry Manilow albums that have been taking up precious space. So where does the game really begin? With a plane crash, no doubt sympathizing with gamers sad at the loss of classics such as Copacabana from their hard drive in one of the most brilliantly fourth-wall shattering experiences I've yet to encounter in a video game. Just like my heart that giant metal behemoth crashes and promptly sinks, leaving your mind boggling at just how spectacularly well the developers sympathize with the people playing or perhaps even experiencing BioShock.
That's not all that will impress however as first impressions are that the game looks fantastic. They've managed to equal the Xbox 360 version of the game graphicly (in most areas at least, more on this later) and it's an impressive way to start the game, floating in the ocean at night surrounded by flames, a sinking plane and some really nice water effects. Then again the game does primarily take place underwater so it would be a terrible shame had they guffed that one up, we dread to think of the complaints had the water resembled more of a thick oatmeal with blue food colouring than something altogether more realistic and dazzling. The whole play mechanic of electrocuting those BLOODY SPLOICERS in water eradicated in favour of cooking them a damn fine breakfast might not have gripped us in the same way. It's as much a technical accomplishment however as the perfect example of how important art direction can be, BioShock oozes style and this is something that has been sorely lacking from games this generation which usually favour realism or space marines. As soon as you begin your descent into Rapture you'll notice just how different the game looks compared to stereotypical first person games, encouraging you to make sure every area of a level has been visited before progressing to guarantee you haven't missed something cool. As a note to other developers out there, would you kindly pay attention? You can apply as much bloom to a game as you want, but it will never be a substitute for art direction as solid as this.
The level of immersion and care to detail that this game has is brilliant. Besides the aforementioned graphical excellence the audio has also also received a lot of care, from the radio communication to the screams and conversation you'll hear from splicers, as well as the character given to the Little Sisters as they talk to "Mr. Bubbles" which makes harvesting them that much more of a difficult decision to make, especially when urged to save them by Dr. Tennenbaum. The cast is rounded off by some excellent voice work by the people portraying Andrew Ryan and Atlas also although truth be told, I shudder to think at how incredible the game could be had they managed to get someone like say, Christopher Walken on the job. Sure Andrew Ryan no doubt likes his dramatic speeches, but I think we all know Captain Koons could bring a level of drama and more importantly ass to this underwater adventure that would firmly cement it as the greatest.
So what of these splicers then? They've been mentioned a few times and despite my personal preference laying with the term "SPLOICERS" (it needs to be shouted) those of you unfamiliar might be wondering just what exactly they are. They are, bar a few minor exceptions, your main adversaries in this game. Without wanting to give away too much of the plot, these creatures are in essence humans warped both physically and mentally from ADAM abuse, a resource that assists in the use of Plasmids which as a player, you too will also be able to make use of. Compared to most enemies in games though these are brilliant, from their dialogue and design to their brilliant and unique artificial intelligence which makes fighting them highly entertaining. The game could have potentially nosedived into mediocrity had they goofed this up, but thanks to the incredible combat system you're always presented with a variety of choices to taking these enemies down however you may see fit. You could for example lure a group of them into some water and then use a plasmid to fry it, electrocuting them all or perhaps use a different plasmid to enrage a Big Daddy and watch as the large behemoth kicks their heads in. If you want to max out your abilities however you'll need to take these big guys on as well, as you won't be able to get to the Little Sisters to extract the ADAM from them before you've taken out the Big Daddy protecting them. These fights can be very difficult, but smart thinking will make short work of them. Take some time to learn their routes for example and you can lay down proximity mines and hack turrets along the way to make their life very difficult indeed.
Turrets are not the only things in the game that can be hacked however, you're also able to hack security cameras and the drones that they summon if you get spotted unaware. This is done via a small Pipe Dream-style minigame which can vary in difficulty depending on which Tonics you have, offering the ability to reduce the speed of water flow, to making the probability of success much higher thanks to a lack of tiles making your job much more difficult. Prior to hacking you can get a rough idea of it's difficulty thanks to it's scale and opt-out of hacking to avoid setting off alarms and receiving an electric shock, but in some cases you'll also be presented with the opportunity to buy-out machines to avoid wasting time hacking. This is a viable option on lower difficulties if you're not fond of rearranging pipes but if you're playing on Survivor mode for example, you'll need to do a lot of hacking. Besides the turrets, cameras and drones there's also a large amount of vending machines selling everything from extra health to the ability to send swarms of bees after people, yes you read that correctly, you can in fact run around an underwater paradise murdering people with your own personal army of bees. Let's be realistic now, I could end the review here and there wouldn't really be anything else that needs to be said about this game to justify it's purchase. Still though, that is but a small taste of the powers on offer to you when utilizing plasmids. There's also one more type of machine called a U-Invent at which you can invent items such as ammunition depending on what items you've collected in your travels. Unfortunately it's rather limited in that you can only invent pre-existing game items via a checkbox system of everything requiring 3 items, but it's nice to have regardless.
There are a variety of weapons also from a shotgun to a chemical thrower and a crossbow weapon allowing you to create some brilliant traps thanks to the electrical tripwire nature of some of the arrows. All of these weapons are also fully upgradeable to provide more damage, have less recoil, hold more ammunition and even devour ammo at a reduced rate. There are also different types of ammunition available which has different effects on the various types of enemies in the game, from anti-personnel and armour-piercing bullets to electrical gel. On top of this you're also given a camera with which to photograph enemies to research them, providing information as to the best way to take them down and getting small bonuses to aid in combat against them. Whilst this may all sound a little overly complicated however, it isn't. It's all done in such a way that you are eased into things gently and in no time at all you'll find yourself with a very proficient understanding of the combat system and develop your own personal style and preference for how to take different creatures down. It's executed brilliantly and is satisfyingly deep. Whereas most games have a simple mechanic of each successive weapon doing a little more damage before the last and a very straightforward approach of "Shoot them in the face!" This game really does offer a lot of freedom in how you tackle things, whilst the game itself is mostly linear, the combat isn't and is arguably head and shoulders above the majority of games whose sole focus is killing things.
The differences in ammo are not limited to simple mechanics such as one type doing more damage than the other however, as different ammo types are more effective against certain enemies than others ensuring that the player never focuses on just using one weapon and ammo type throughout the course of the game. You're constantly encouraged to mix things up and experiment, find out what works best in certain situations compared to many games that often have you searching out ammo for the one superweapon, and then the next one down after that with little regard to how you're killing things other than slamming the fire button. It's another product of love from developers clearly eager to innovate and push the boundaries a little, which is certainly appreciated in a game that could have all to easily settled for rather simplistic combat.
All in all this game is every bit as amazing as it was upon it's release a year ago. It's exactly the same game as the Xbox 360 and PC versions save for a few additions such as the brand new Survivor mode which bumps up the difficulty of the game significantly. Enemies are much more harder to kill thanks to increased toughness, AI and a severe lack of ammunition and money around the levels. It also features the downloadable content from the Xbox 360 version already on the disc and in the game, along with some more downloadable content in the form of three challenge rooms. It makes for a very desirable package, especially if you manage to pick it up from one of many places selling the game at a discounted price. There are a couple of minor complaints however which were hinted at earlier, the most notable of which is some small graphical problems resulting in parts of the game looking inferior to the Xbox 360 version. One example is the Big Daddies whose textures are incredibly low resolution, the first encounter with the corpse of one in the game revealing a large blocky texture which looks outright appalling. This is however of minimal concern due to 2K responding to complaints with the news of a patch being released shortly to fix the minor technical problems of the game, it seems that the low resolution Big Daddy textures are more down to error than anything else, and the updated textures will be coming shortly. Once this patch is released there will be little arguments to be had, if you want to play BioShock then this is the version to own.
The only other complaints are hopes for the sequel more than anything else, but we wish BioShock had some form of multiplayer component. Perhaps online co-op might have detracted from the immersion of the story and resulted in a 10 hour splicer genocide more than anything else, but with so many fantastic gameplay elements we can't help but daydream, "What if BioShock had multiplayer?" Granted it might not work and be too chaotic but the thought of running around in an adversarial deathmatch-style game mode with the plasmids, upgradeable weapons with varying ammunition types and the hackable turrets and drones would surely be an incredible experience. Wishful thinking surely, but we love the idea of setting Big Daddies onto friends and watching them run around the level screaming whilst we set them on fire repeatedly. Perhaps even a variation on the classic flag capture modes, they could call it something snazzy like Capture The Little Girl. Give the player vehicles such as wheelchairs and incorporate a minigame revolving around trying to prevent your nose from falling off. Come on 2K Marin, you know it makes sense.
It's unfortunate that the game is a year late coming to the PS3 in a hectic season full of fantastic games, but it's still up there with the best of them and is most certainly worth playing if you haven't yet experienced it. The gameplay is fantastic, the graphics are excellent and the story is enjoyable and brilliantly executed thanks to how much care has been put into the immersion. We can't wait to see how the sequel turns out (thanks to an Easter egg in this version) and hope that we won't be subject to a year-long delay for the PS3 version like we were with this.