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Bioshock Review

I finished Bioshock Infinite last week, so I thought I’d do a post about the Bioshock games.  When Infinite was released, I thought I’d have to wait a while for it to go down in price before I got it, so I decided to drown my sorrows by playing through 1&2 again.

I think I appreciated them more the second time through, even though you miss that exploration into the unknown that you have the first time you experience them.

Then I was very lucky to be given Infinite, when I was just about finished Bioshock2, so I got to play all 3 back to back!

So, I’m going to do a bit of a review of all 3.  Now I’ll not give major spoilers, because that’s no fun 😛  but I do think it’s better to go into these games without knowing anything about them…  So read below only if you don’t mind slight spoilers.

Bioshock #1

I’d really known nothing about this game before playing it the first time.  I’d vaguely heard that it was set in an underwater city, and I might have been aware of there being big robot things but that was it.  I think that was the best way of going into the game really – not knowing anything about it.  It let me experience the game with (almost) complete naivety, so I got the story as I went along, as you’re meant to.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m one of those people who is still afraid of the dark even though I’m an adult…. and I’m somewhat claustrophobic….  But I found the environment to be REALLY affective.   Even playing through a second time, when I knew vaguely how everything was going to go (I’d forgotten a lot)…. and I knew the place wasn’t going to fall apart and drown me…… It still gave me that slight fear the whole way through.  Being set underwater, and with all the glass…. and the place leaking, creaking and decrepit…. I really felt like there was only a thin piece of glass between me and certain death – and that there was the possibility it could break and flood at any moment.  There’s also something really eerie about walking through a semi-flooded, dimly lit empty place on your own….. with the Splicers jumping out at you every so often.  I spent the whole time walking around in awe of the place.  The architecture, the Steampunkyness, the water leaking everywhere, the sound effects.  AMAZING!

The concept of finding an excuse to be able to hurl fireballs etc. from your hands, I think worked.  The collection of “Eve” and “Adam” gave the story a gruesome depth.  Though I don’t think it’s properly explained enough what they are and what that’s all about.

Bioshock Footage:

The story is well played out I think, you learn about what’s going on as you travel through the game…. the story makes sense.  I think some parts are a bit dodgy and not explained well enough – but overall, it’s quite good.  I don’t know how the bad ending plays out though… I chose the good ending.   The story unfolds as you play.  You have a radio you pick up at the start, and this is how half of the story gets told to you, through communicating with people along the way through that.  There are also messages over speakers in the city in different places, and there are tape players (diaries) you pick up along the way that give a lot of information.  The ending I found a challenge the first play through, and easy the second (both on “normal” difficulty, coz I’m a wuss :D) In fact the whole game was easier the second time around because I unlocked a cloaking ability which was awesome 😀

It’s fairly linear, in that you have objectives to complete and it’s usually just going from point a to point b, then point c….. with the obligatory pathways being blocked off with broken doors or piles of rubble to stop you going where you’re not supposed to – but it at least feels reasonable for certain paths to be blocked.  There are some places that are more open that you can walk around and get a bit lost in (which is good :D).  There are also a lot of offshoot rooms that you need to explore to find all the goodies.  There’s an onscreen arrow pointing you where you need to go, which is useful in those mazey places.

Playing through a second time, I discovered that you can do research on the enemies more than once, which can unlock extra goodies, which is great.  I also appreciated a lot more of the subtle things I’d not picked up on the first time through.

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Bioshock #2

Some people don’t like this as much as #1.  I think that’s probably mostly because in the first one Rapture was all new and amazing, so going back there, you don’t have the same degree of awe with the place as you do the first time.  It’s still amazing, but it’s almost like playing through a second time – you already know the place.

Without giving anything away, you’re not the same person as you are in #1….. although that distinction really isn’t important, because you may as well be – the whole game really just feels like an extension of Bioshock 1….. I can’t say whether I like it more or less than #1….  It didn’t have the same impact as #1 did, but I think it’s definitely a good game, it’s interesting to see how Rapture has changed in the time since #1, with new people in power.

While you’re still in Rapture, you visit places you didn’t go to in the first, and the people you meet aren’t the same as in the first.  So while a lot is the same and you’re in the same city, there is enough different about the locations to still feel exciting and new.

As with the first, you have a radio in which people can contact you, and there’s also communication over speakers through the levels, which helps tell the story as you go.

I found the graphics to be better, which impressed me greatly.  In the first there seemed to be only a couple of different looks for the Splicers – there’s a lot more detail in the ones in #2.  I was forever amazed at how the sound changes when you hear water falling on your helmet, and the water splashes that you get on the glass of your helmet.  Even jumping in water make splashes.  It’s really fantastic.  With the new character you’ve also got new opportunities you didn’t have the first game, which gives it an interesting spin.

In Bioshock1 you could wield a weapon or your plasmid hand – not both at the same time, so you had to switch between the 2.  In Bioshock2 you can do both at once, which is a welcome step forward.  And you can hack from a distance – woot!

The key binding issue is one that drove me crazy – for some reason you can’t rebind all the keys successfully, because it expects you to use “f” for hacking, where I like to have “f” for first aid (since it makes sense to me).  You can rebind them, but it won’t actually work, stuffing it all up and making you rebind to default again…. unless you edit one of the game files…. GRRRRRRR

The ending was a little anticlimactic I have to say, but I still came out of it having a sense of achievement and feeling good.  I went the “good” path in both 1&2 by the way. (coz that’s how I roll :D)

Bioshock 2 footage:

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Bioshock Infinite

Set in a completely different place to 1&2, this one is a stand alone game, and you don’t have to have played the first 2 – although I recommend you do, as there are some references you won’t understand unless you have.

In some ways this game is more visually stunning than the other 2.  It again has a very Steampunk feel – with airships and things.  The floating buildings are gorgeous, and the fact they move about really makes the place look alive.  When I first got into the city and saw the shop docking, I assumed we’d see more of that sort of thing, which we didn’t – and that was a shame….. but I like how it all seemed completely believable that there could be a city in the clouds like that.

Obviously graphics get better over the years, but the amount of detail in the Columbia world is amazing.  The way the people move is really realistic.  Everything (in stark contrast to rapture) is bright and almost cheerful.  The exception to the awesome graphics would have to be the barrels of fruit, which really look crap in comparison (it’s like a basket of apple fabric with a couple of apples on top), seriously wtf!:

BioshockInfinite_apples

Without the leaking water, decay and the sense of impending doom if the place fell apart and flooded that Rapture has – I didn’t feel that the world had the same degree of ambiance as Rapture.  It was beautiful, stunning even, and I frequently stopped to just look around, but I felt it wasn’t as immersive as Rapture.

Bioshock Infinite footage:

One of the main problems I had with the overall “feel” of the place was that in Rapture you’ve got a reason for the city being empty and in ruins….. Pretty much the people are gone because they are dead or have become Splicers…  That gives the game that spooky, empty and somewhat scary ambiance.   The emptiness makes perfect sense and it’s easy to loot cash registers and the like, because you know that nobody is coming back, and it’s all sitting there going to waste.  No moral dilemmas!

In Columbia though, it’s not the same atmosphere, because there are people there – which I find created problems with looting….  Often there are people in the street/houses/shops where you find money and lootables lying around….. or you have the sense that they have just closed up shop for the night or are away in hiding – but they are still there  –  so it feels weird/wrong to be looting the place or rummaging through rubbish bins in front of people (who don’t comment on it) – but you need the money and loot, so you have to….. I know that Booker wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I did…. “Should I really be taking this woman’s purse while she’s sitting right there?”…..  It’s a lot easier when you’re just raiding corpses and can explain the absence of people because they are all dead 😉

Also (without wanting to spoil it too much) at the start of the game there are people in the street and the world feels very alive…… but after an event happens it changes to there only being enemies around (except in a couple of other levels)….. which I assume is because everyone has just gone home to hide, but I found it feels a bit weird for there not to be people around in those places.  The occasional person running between buildings or something, I think would have solved that.  Or if you go into houses people should scream and call the police or something – but most of the houses are empty too.  There are other parts of the world where there are people happily milling about, which I think makes those other places that lack people, look more obviously lacking in people.

I absolutely loved Elisabeth!  Finally a game partner who isn’t a liability.  She doesn’t get shot at so you don’t need to protect her, she doesn’t get stuck on things (ok, she got stuck on a skyhook once, but when I continued on, she eventually turned up)….. and she gives you help along the way.  I didn’t find her chatter annoying (as sometimes companions can be), except when she talked while I was listening to a recording, and I think they used her very well as a way to convey different parts of the story and deal with some of the issues.  Brilliant!

The game uses the same basic fighting mechanics you have in Biochock 1&2 – where you have the ability to use fire, electricity etc, from your hand, as well as a conventional weapon in the other hand….  Though there is the addition of the skyhook, which allows you to drop on enemies, which I probably didn’t use to its full potential.  Where Bioshock 1&2 explained this magic fire hands stuff as “Plasmids” (gene altering substances that consume “eve” when used)…  In Infinite they are called “Vigors” and use “salts”.  Which is a cute sort of “snakeoil” type idea I think, and fits in with the 1900s timeframe…. though I think the plasmids were a bit more believable a concept than a tonic drink somehow giving you these special abilities (even if you take into consideration where the idea might have come from, given how the story goes).

The idea of not being able to carry extra health kits or salts with you was a bit annoying – with the amount of them in the world, a lot of them went to waste and then the inevitable time you needed them and there were none around. But then I found combat must have been easier since I definitely needed those extra health packs and eve hypos in Bioshock 1&2, whereas I only died a couple of times in Infinite.  Likewise I was not really impressed with the checkpoint only saving of Infinite, over the “save whenever you like” of 1&2.  It meant that I didn’t take some of the risks or explore some things I wanted to, because I couldn’t be bothered having to restart from a checkpoint if I did something wrong or died.  Also, for some reason you can’t bind “enter” to “use”, because that’s already used to buy stuff or exit a level – which seems a bit sloppy to me, since it shouldn’t make any difference if that’s your use key…. and I get pissed off with games that won’t let me bind keys to whatever I want them to be.

The story is quite interesting, with a lot more depth than the storyline in Bioshock 1&2.  I found the story a bit harder to piece together than in Bioshock 1&2 – with those, the diaries you find around the place are pretty straight forward.  With Infinite they don’t always seem to be relevant and then you get to the end and go “ahh, so that’s what that meant” type thing…  And you pretty much have to finish the game and then process all the information – it’s not as straight forward as the other games.  (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) I did feel some bits were a bit robbed of what I’d have thought the story should be – as in certain key characters seem to be dispatched too quickly, where I’d have expected there to be more to have to do with them (then again that happened in #1 &  #2  too).  By the end I’d probably worked most of it out, but there were still some surprises (I had not worked out who I was).   It’s a good mind bender, hubby and I discussed the story for hours, trying to sort all the bits and pieces out 🙂

It’s interesting to see what parallels this one had with 1&2, especially with the religious undertones that were in Bioshock2.  Though I did find all that religious stuff to really grate on me after a while…. I really hope they make a Bioshock4 and leave religion out of it.

I felt flat after the ending though.  With the others there is a sense of achievement and I’ve left on a high…. the end of this one I’ve gone ohh 😦 I do prefer stories with a happy ending.  But then I really didn’t like the ending of Red Dead Redemption either, because that’s not a happy ending.

Violence – I’ve seen some talk about how over the top the violence is in Infinite…  Your melee weapon can be fairly gruesome.  Being a gamer I’m fairly used to video game violence…. I mean, I didn’t even want to have the censored version of L4D2 so I got it from overseas :Þ  so I didn’t so much mind it myself, except the first introduction of it – Because it was unexpected and at the time I’d had my hubby and 9 year old daughter eagerly watching as I played in this amazing world.  So without any warning for that, and even with us quickly trying to cover her eyes and getting her away from the PC…. she saw more gore than we’d wanted her to see – which is a bit annoying.  So I did feel that was unnecessarily violent, especially so early in the game.  (But then I also think the blood spattering on the screen in Red Dead Redemption is completely unneccessary too – whereas blood spattering on the screen in other killing games can be fine) I didn’t let her watch me any more, in case something like that happened again.  The rest of the melee kills weren’t as graphic, but still more than I think is appropriate for a 9 year old to see, and while I favoured guns, I did use the melee weapon enough that it meant the whole game was unsuitable for her to watch – whereas she’s watched me play Bioshock 1&2 and other games that involve killing people.  I also found when you get the fire vigor was a bit confronting too :/   I’ve seen people complain that the inclusion of such graphic violence means the game won’t appeal to a wider range of people – which I think is a fair assessment…. I don’t think it was really needed in the game, especially in a game that is so “real” (compared to killing zombies or aliens or something)

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So, the question hubby keeps asking me is, did I like Infinite better than Bioshock 1&2 or not?

Honestly, I don’t know.  I don’t think you can necessarily compare them like that.  Rapture had a completely different feel and while it really had me enthralled, I found the world of Columbia to be so stunning and different with it’s openness, that it’s also amazing but feels completely different. No better or worse, just different.  Storyline wise, Infinite is definitely more complex, but all 3 were enjoyable to play through.  I preferred the ending for Bioshock #1 out of the 3…. but then Infinite sort of leaves the door open for possibilities and ties the other stories in.  Infinite was definitely more epic!

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