Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


(2K Games for Xbox 360)

By Michael Palisano

Bioshock is easily the one of the most-anticipated shooters of the year, and one of the Xbox 360's flagship titles. The game is set in a dystopian underground paradise ruled by a fascist leader. Your mission is to escape the city, unravel its mysteries and try and save some of its inhabitants. Bioshock offers players plenty of choices, ranging from which weapons and plasmids to use, whether or not you want to play good or evil which is quite an accomplishment. Bioshock's visuals are impressive, and its evocative backstory will keep you engrossed throughout each level. There can be no doubt that Bioshock lives up to the hype. Join us as we go off the deep end and discover why this is one of the most impressive games on any current generation system.

As your experience in Bioshock begins, you find yourself as the lone survivor of a horrific plane crash, and swim to what seems like a shelter in the form of a deserted island, only to find it leads to something entirely different than what you'd expect from an ordinary shooter. As you dive deeper into the world, you find that this is no small place, but a complete and fully alive underwater city called Rapture. This was an idealistic society built up by a leader named Andrew Ryan where science and mankind were placed on a pedestal, while religion and politics were shunned. In this shining city, artists and scientists were respected and not shunned. There were also a number of scientific breakthroughs created that brought mankind to a higher level. After being submerged for two decades, the city began to decay rapidly and descended into a war between different factions. However, something far more sinister has gone horribly wrong and the citizens of the city have mutated into what are called Splicers, somewhat human creatures who have gone into a decaying zombified state. These poor souls wander around looking for the genetic Adam that gives them their life force, killing anyone that gets in their way. While you can see its horrible side-effects, you find that you have to take this drug in order to survive in this world, which gives you some really impressive genetic enhancements. When you upgrade your character with these items, which are referred to as Plasmids, you are given special powers such as the ability to shoot fire or ice from your fingers, throw items or enemies around at will or hypnotize enemies to kill each other. The plasmids can be used in a variety of interesting ways. For example, when you have the power to shoot electric bolts out of your hands, you can zap enemies standing in water and kill them much faster, which is one of the more interesting things about Bioshock. These plasmids are doled out via special vending machines, where you can purchase the upgrades like candy. This itself is a clever comment on the ease of things like designer babies and plastic surgery these days and is just a taste of the sophisticated and fascinating world you find yourself trapped inside.

As you delve deeper into the game's plot, you find that this disaster has been caused by the Adam, a special gene-enhancement drug that allows its users to have super-human powers. However, the side-effects are quite severe. In order to survive, you'll have to use some of the game's weapons, such as machine guns, pistols and bombs to kill any splicers you find. During the game players can purchase a variety of items, such as weapons, additional health kits, atom injections and can also earn upgrades to their character's weapon which include additional plasmid slots, weapons upgrades, devices which auto-hack vending machines. Addtionally, once you have killed a splicer, you can search them for additional items, which gives you more chances to earn item upgrades. The weapons and plasmids give players plenty of flexibility, but later on, you can make and invent your own plasmids by combining objects in the inventing pods, which gives Bioshock an even greater sense of sandbox or open-ended gameplay. Using the standard shooting interface as a template, gamers can use the onscreen menus to select which plasmid or weapon to use. You can switch these on the fly and are only limited by the amount of ammo or power you use. While the standard guns are fairly obvious, the Plasmid system is a bit more complicated and requires you to inject yourself in order to gain more power. You shoot the standard weapons with the right trigger while the left unleashes your plasmids. It's a fairly simple system once you get used to it and gives you a great deal of power in the palm of your hands.

While the standard weapons are cool, there's a lot more you can do. During the game, you can purchase upgrades, additional weapons and items from the various vending machines you'll find in Rapture. If you don't have enough money, you can hack these devices and earn free items by playing a relatively simple mini-game involving slides. This isn't as easy as it sounds, and it can be frustrating to do after awhile. In addition to the splicers, players will have to be on the lookout for other enemies, like the automatic bots which will attack you if they spot you. The levels themselves are quite large with complicated maps and multiple objectives for each mission, which makes things more challenging. However, the good news is that the game offers frequent save points, which are represented by Vita-Chambers. You don't need to do anything, since the game autosaves at these points, which helps progression move along much faster. It does makes things a little easier than maybe it should, since enemies you've already damaged don't regenerate their strength when you do, making them easier to kill once you've respawned at these points. This lessens the game's difficulty somewhat, but it doesn't really make things any easier. One of the more interesting aspects of Bioshock lies in its sandbox gameplay, where you are given many choices in how to approach things. Obviously, choosing which of the Plasmid power-ups you use is one of the key factors in how the game unfolds, and while this flexibility is apparent, it makes Bioshock all the more immersive. Allowing players free-will ties into Rapture's stated manifesto while also giving the game an incredible sense of realism and intensity that many other shooters lack. The intelligence and foresight that has gone into each gameplay element is impressive in its own right and this doesn't even include the game's biggest draw.

As you might have heard, the featured characters in Bioshock aren't the splicers, but the massive, lumbering creatures called Big Daddies. These are mutated things that have been enlisted by Andrew Ryan to protect the smaller, seemingly vulnerable little sisters. These are genetically enhanced little girls who are the source of Adam in the game. When you encounter a Big Daddy, he's usually protecting a Little Sister. In order to get the Adam she holds within her, you have to defeat the Big Daddies, which isn't as easy as it sounds since they have plenty of firepower and will attack you relentlessly if you threaten a little sister. One of the more interesting things about the game comes when you defeat a Big Daddy and capture his Little Sister. When she is in your arms, you can choose to either harvest her outright, which will kill her instantly or show some mercy and 'save' her. Rescuing the Little Sisters reduces the amount of Adam you receive, and makes the game much harder to complete, since you have fewer options in the genetic upgrade vending machines. However, there are rewards later on that make it worthwhile. This presents an interesting moral quandary, since the little girls are hard to kill - but you are rewarded handsomely for doing so. This gives players yet another choice, making much of the gameplay feel very open-ended. You can play through Bioshock twice and have an almost completely different experience depending on your choices. If you choose the good path, it has a positive effect for the game later on and makes for an almost completely different ending to the game.

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