I find myself in a tricky situation going into this game. For years, I’ve avoided playing Bioshock because… well… it’s kinda been spoiled for me. Generally I try to avoid listening to spoilers unless I’m absolutely positive I’m never going to play the game. But for as popular a game as Bioshock is, & for as old as it is, it’s hard to completely avoid any conversations about the twists. So I’ll be upfront & admit that I already know going into it one of the big twists. Specifically, I’m already privy to the, shall we say, safeword. To that end, I do think it’s a pretty brilliant way to weave mechanics-as-narrative.
However, aside from that small but important tidbit, I only have a vague knowledge of the story I’m getting myself into. And I feel like it’s hard to call myself a gamer without having at least had some experience with, what is by most accounts, a great game. It’d be like being a psychologist who’s never read Freud.
Many have called Bioshock a spiritual successor to the System Shock franchise, which is something I haven’t played myself but I have watched a playthrough of System Shock 2. The titles share a lot, just from my limited experience, despite the surface differences. Both are set in what is essentially a fancy prison, although one is in space & the other is under the sea. The player character shows up after everything has gone very wrong with no understanding of the environment he’s found himself in. The inhabitants have turned on each other, thanks in part to questionable scientific practices, which the PC has to make use of to their advantage. You have to scour the environment for supplies. Hell, you even start with a wrench in both games.
So far, the part that’s impressed me the most about Bioshock is the atmosphere. It wastes no time setting up this alien setting, or establishing that things have gone to Hell in a hand basket. While not technically a horror game, I think it pulls off the survival horror feel a lot better than most games recently that have been specifically labeled as such by their publishers. Even though I’m armed with conventional & non-conventional weapons, there’s always this sense of tension. I never know what’s around the corner, although it’s usually something creepy. It’s also had its share of scares. My favorites thus far was have been two sections in the Medical Pavilion. In one section, I went to a desk to pick up an audio file, only to hear footsteps behind me. But when I turned, there was nothing, but a body had been placed on a table. The second was when I was creeping up on the shadow of a doctor, only for the lights to go out, then come back on & find him gone. It’s the build-up & release of tension that makes for a good scary moment. And Bioshock knows when to be quiet, & when to be in your face.
I also appreciate that the game allows a bit of freedom in how you handle things. While pretty linear, the different tonics & plasmids allow me to customize my PC to suit my style. Currently, my play style favors the revolver & hacking. I’m not thrilled about the limited number of items you can carry, but I get that it would kill the tension if I never had to worry about ammo or search trashcans for chips. At least it seems pretty kind about letting me go back to previous areas if I need to stock up.
As of writing this, I’ve made it to Neptune’s Bounty & just got the rocket launcher — which incidentally seems like a really bad weapon to use in a facility composed of pressurized glass panels. I’ve taken out four Big Daddies & rescued three Little Sisters. I think that, in the future, I’ll leave the Big Daddies alone unless they actually have a Little Sister with them. I’ve already gotten to the point that I can’t pick up more ammo or money, & at least the splicers attack them.
Overall, I’m enjoying my stay & look foward to learning the other twists in the story that I know are coming.