Bioshock TV commercial caught my attention one day - giant tormented monsters, little spooky girls with glowing eyes, the city under the sea and hoards of were-humans attacking a stranger caught up in an friendly-looking brutal world of Rapture... It looked like a good story and I like a good one in a game, so I was looking forward to playing it. Last week came across a copy of BioShock and gave it a try.
One of the very first cut scenes you see is a man with two meat hooks attacking another man. You stand in a bathysphere, behind tempered glass, watching helplessly the poor guy's guts spilled all over the floor. That certainly set the game mood going forward. No more than five minutes later you find a wrench and turn the meat hook fella into a bloody pulp. Well, he started it.
A few scenes behind, you find yourself in an odd-looking world - upbeat songs from the 50s, all-familiar smiling four-color posters from the same era and nobody in sight, as if everybody just left the place for a minute to get a cup of coffee or went for a smoke. Soon you realize that they didn't go very far, as you find blood splattered all over the walls, puddles of it on the floor and blood-stained tools scattered around.
Early into the game, you find a woman with a baby stroller singing a lullaby, who suddenly turns around and attacks you with a gun. Not much later, you find a little girl sticking a needle into a corpse and then you quickly realize that nobody in Rapture wants your help, they just want you dead.
From time to time you see creatures in armored diving suits, with heavy weaponry, sometimes accompanied by little girls. The two make quite an odd couple. The girl, a Little Sister, gathers remnants of human souls still lurking in corpses getting colder on every corner and the monster, a Big Daddy, is her bodyguard. Big Daddies do not talk, but just make low-pitch tormented noises. Girls behave just as a child would and you often hear their voice saying: "Mister Bubbles!" or "Mister B, time to go to bed" and from time to time they point to objects around them and ask the monster: "What’s that?" The monster only growls in response and, from time to time, strokes their hair.
One of the game goals is to kill Big Daddies and free girls of slugs implanted into them. Doing so gives you the magic substance called Adam, which gives you superpowers. However, throughout the game I came to a realization that Big Daddies are the only respectable characters in the entire game – they focus on their mission and don’t attack you when just passing by, they care about Little Sisters and Little Sisters care about them. When you are finishing off a Big Daddy, the little girl cries and mourns the death of the guardian. This made me somewhat sad and I ended up killing just enough Big Daddies to get by.
Visually, BioShock is amazing. Textures are very detailed and carefully tell you the story of devastation in an underwater city. Water, which is everywhere in the game, is particularly spectacular - when you melt ice, it just turns into a pile of water and flows away. Audio is just as good and you are always surrounded by sounds and ambient noises reminding you of the strange world you are in and the danger waiting for you around every corner.
Gameplay, however, was just not nearly as exciting. After the first two-three hours, when I got accustomed to blood used as wall and floor paint and tortured corpses lying everywhere, it became fairly obvious that the game creators didn't know how to keep the player busy.
Some missions just didn't make any sense. At one point you are completing some silly sculpture using photographs of bad guys you have to hunt down and kill. In another challenge you are trying to turn yourself into a Big Daddy and searching for a diving suit, lead boots, a voice changer and even Big Daddy "perfume". In a single escort mission in a game you guard a Little Sister, while she is leading you through a winding path, stopping along the way to stick a needle into the next corpse, just because she is trained to do so and you have to defend her against numerous meat-hook guys and girls, Splicers, attacking you from multiple vectors.
The first mission is not very much different from the last one - throughout the game you find same security cameras and turrets, ice them and hack them to make them shoot bad guys, taking pictures of Splicers to advance your research and earn Adam points and, of course, shoot scores of Splicers in the process just to get some free ammo and keep yourself entertained.
There are seven types of weapons in the game - a wrench, a revolver, a machine gun, a grenade launcher, a chemical thrower, a now-mandatory in most games anti-zombie shotgun and a crossbow. Each weapon has three types of ammunition, such as antipersonnel or armor-piercing ammo, napalm or liquid nitrogen, steel or incendiary crossbow bolts.
As in most games of this type, machine gun isn't very practical and may take half a clip to kill an enemy at a higher level in the game. Crossbow is probably the most useful weapon in the entire game - you can pull steel bolts out enemy's head or a wall, if you missed, and use them again, which is a big plus in a resource-constrained underwater city. Steel bolts also kill most enemies with one or two head shots, while sometimes it takes four-five revolver shots to put the same splicer to rest.
Security bots, cameras and turrets can be hacked and will be on your side, which provides tremendous help against all sorts of enemies, especially when you come across a missile turret and lure a Big Daddy in its range.
The bad guy
The final mission of the game is just as artificial as the ones preceding it. The evil mastermind, who was your friend in the beginning of the game (surprise, surprise), turns into a three-meter sculpture of a man, Atlas, who shoots lightning bolts and throws ice at you, while charging at you after every shot. Those who played Ninja Gaiden can beat Atlas with just half the weapons and one magic item, Enrage, which is quite helpful against those pesky Splicers thrown at you in the final series of attacks.
In the end, with his last breath, Atlas throws you to the ground and is ready to finish you off, when a Little Sister jumps out of the vent and sticks her soul-gathering needle into Atlas. Moments later, a dozen little girls was crawling all over the giant, hitting him again and again with their needles. A perfect ending scene, well-aligned with the spirit of the game.
The game ends in a heart-warming cut scene - all the girls you saved (that is, if you chose to save them during the game) came with you to the surface, went to school, married and lived happily after. There is also an alternative ending, triggered by killing some of the Little Sisters, in which Splicers surface in multiple bathyspheres, kill everybody aboard of a nuclear submarine nearby a plane crash site and set out course to conquer our world. This, at least, tells me BioShock creators didn't approve of killing little girls.