Bioshock was released in August 2007 to great fanfare. It received universal praise and sold extremely well. Touted by many as a spiritual successor to System shock, Bioshock is a story driven FPS with RPG elements.
Set in a decaying and yet beautiful underwater city, it becomes clear early on that game has a deep and interesting story to tell you. The player takes control of an unnamed man who is suffering from amnesia. Following a plane crash the player is transported to the underwater city of Rapture. The descent to Rapture is perfectly executed and stunning to watch. Once in Rupture the game forces the player to battle creatures known as Splicers. Splicers are crazed and deformed humans who invoke both fear and pity. While Splicers make up the bulk of the enemies you face they come in different varieties which creates challenges and saves the game from becoming repetitive.
The story telling is well executed relying on a combination of great atmosphere, brilliant dialogue and plot twists. An example of this can bee seen in how the writers slowly tell the player about the fall of Rapture and how one mans dream became the nightmare you are forced fight through. That man is Andrew Ryan, a man whose dream city is some objectivist utopia with slight nazi undertones. That man is also the main bad guy.
While not exclusively a horror game, Bioshock has some good scares. Early on the atmosphere and suspense is genuinely unnerving and once we meet the enemies the game successfully switches from suspense to jumps. However its heart lies in action and simply hacking down large numbers of enemies as opposed to the elaborate scares and resources management of survival horror games.
The game isnít perfect, a common complaint is that for a FPS/RPG hybrid the RPG elements are quite weak. This is a reasonable complaint, the game attempts some RPG elements such as character customization as well as present moral choices. However these are very limited, early on in the game we are presented with a moral dilemma that is recurrent throughout the game. This choice is reduced to save a child or kill it and gain some power (basic good or evil stuff), while this seems like it could be a tough moral dilemma, the problem lies in that either choice does little for the story and the notion of sacrificing morals to survive is defeated by the game still showering you with gifts of ammo, health and power if you decide not to kill the children.
Slightly more successful is the character customization. This consists of giving your player strange abilities such as shooting fire or bees at enemies as well as freezing or confusing enemies. As the game progresses you are able to power up your abilities as well as gain new one.
Overall the complaints are minor and the weakness of the RPG can be excused as simply giving a FPS game more depth. The game is graphically stunning, brilliantly written, completely engrossing and without a doubt one of the best FPS games to be released in years.
-- Review by Robert "Spartan" Bryden