Retro-Review: BioShock

Title:  BioShock
Developer: 2K Boston and 2K Australia
Publisher: 2K Games
Director: Ken Levine and Alyssa Finley
Writer: Ken Levine
Composer: Garry Schyman
Game Engine: Unreal
Release Date: August 2007


This is a review of the game that won multiple game of the year 2007 awards: BioShock. The reviewer did not play this game when it was new but when it was six years old.  This review is asking one fundamental question: does the game hold up well?

The Good:  There’s a lot to praise with BioShock. And I mean a lot! First and foremost, BioShock is visually stunning. From the first moment Jack starts off with the sinking plane in the middle of the ocean, the game took my breath away. The moment Jeff entered into the lighthouse, it felt like I was entering into an Ayn Rand nightmare.


Just look at that picture for yourself. That’s intimidating and breathtaking. You know for a fact that you’re entering into a very bad place. That statue looms!

The artists who worked on this game went out of their way to give Rapture an underwater 1930s – 1940s feel. Anyone who played this game knows exactly what I mean. Rapture was a unique city in almost every way. Rapture felt like it is built at the bottom of the ocean. It’s tiny and confining. Water was leaking from the ceiling. The pathways were made of glass. Every room felt stifling. I’ve never played in an environment quite like that before. Bravo!

It’s easy to praise this game for its graphics, but there’s far more still. The voice acting was another great part of this game. The tape recordings and the radios sounded authentic. The antagonists sounded disturbed, broken. Every conversation over the radio really did sound like an actual conversation. I loved it! And the soundtrack… wow… it helped set so many scenes so well.

The gameplay was intuitive. From the moment I picked up the controller, I was able to figure everything out quite easily. Melee attacks was a simple press of the button. There were a couple of wheels, one for switching between guns and the other between various plasmids (powers). Both health and EVE need potions to refresh. It was very straight forward. BioShock was very easy to get into because of the simplicity of the gameplay, and that’s to the credit of the developers.


The Bad:  It’s difficult to get into the game when the story leads Jack by the nose from place to place. There are plenty of games with phenomenal stories that do technically railroad you, but it feels like the player had a choice in the matter. BioShock was not one of them. Jack’s every move was dictated to by someone else. He never had a choice or a voice in what was happening in his life. He was told to go from point A to point B to point C and so on. It got to the point of ridiculousness! Jack should have had a word of protest or maybe panic. Or heck, maybe suggest something to one of the people who directs him. But no. He’s told to go somewhere, and he does it without question. It’s boring.

It was most noticeable when Jack was put on fetch quests. The lack of choice / free will was made incredibly apparent. It all got so boring for me that I stopped playing.


The Truth:  Getting railroaded isn’t really that big of a deal if the story pulls you in. I talked with a number of people who loved the story. Being railroaded wasn’t even a factor for them. So that could just be a pet peeve of mine. The reviews on Amazon as well as many other sites shows that people love everything about this game. The story is highly original. The graphics were near perfect. The soundtrack was entrancing. Any bad review of this game tends to be attacked relentlessly. Clearly, this game has many passionate fans, and for very good reason.

With that in mind…  many things of this game held up well, including the story. The manner that the story unfolds is the game’s weakness. The lack of choice is very apparent in every facet of the story. It works against the overarching narrative. It’s because of this that I don’t believe the game held up well.

But do you agree? Does the game hold up after all this time?


One comment on “Retro-Review: BioShock

  1. Pingback: Looking Back At BioShock | Press Start to Begin | FRONTBURNR

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