Developer: Irrational Games | Year: 2007 | List Price: $19.99 | Buy from Amazon
I don’t often get to review big console-scale games. I own exclusively handheld consoles, with the exception of GameCube, which I don’t have a huge library for. Recently, I was interested to try some of the last generation’s big games, so I invested in a DualShock 4 controller even though I don’t (yet) own a PS4. Many limitations came into play when deciding on a good game to try. First of all, the only computer available to me is a Mac, so that limits the library right off the bat. Secondly, it is an Early 2008 iMac, so I couldn’t try any games from the last 5 years or so. Third, it had to have gamepad support, so I could try out my new DualShock. One game that I saw on every list was BioShock, released back in 2007. I’d heard lots of great things about it before, so I downloaded myself a copy from Feral Interactive’s site and gave it a whirl.
Note about Mac and gamepads: As with most Feral Interactive games, the Mac port is really good, and it runs great at highest settings even on my 7-year-old Mac. You can also use pretty much any controller with it, though for my DualShock 4 I had to email Feral Support and get a .plist file to add to my game. They were prompt and really helpful. I was a little disappointed that the onscreen commands were still configured to Xbox controls, which caused a bit of confusion now and then (and may even have cost me the good ending, I’m not sure!).
The first thing that pops at you when you start up BioShock is the setting and overall tone. There’s a distinct steampunk vibe that it exudes. The game is set in 1960, but the underwater city of Rapture seems to take more inspiration from the 20s and 30s. Though not explicit, there’s an almost alternative history-like theme to BioShock, and though some technologies present in Rapture are a little far-fetched, for the most part, you really can believe that you’re in a secluded, divergent branch of world history.
Story in Bioshock is usually conveyed through audio diaries that play in the background as you continue fighting enemies. If you’ve played Borderlands, it’s sort of like the ECHO devices and how you can have narration from a different character even when they’re far away. It’s a good way of telling an intriguing story, but you run the risk of missing plot details. I didn’t quite collect all the diaries in my playthrough, and there were a couple plot points that I had to look up even when I was done. More annoyingly, I wish diaries could be replayed. There was a point in the game where a password to an elevator was told through a diary, and because I didn’t remember it, I had to look it up as well.
The narrative itself is interesting in its mystery. For the first half of the game, it’s unclear who you are or what your role is exactly, but that’s what makes the story arc so good. There are a good share of plot twists in BioShock, and they’re extremely well done. I also enjoy how story-focused BioShock is. Gameplay is really forgiving, so if you were mainly only there for the story, as I was, all you have to do is follow the markers and use the in-game hint system to guide you along.
That’s not to say that the gameplay isn’t there. I played mostly on Easy, since all I really cared about was story, and on that difficulty, all I really had to do was whack enemies with my wrench. But on Normal, and I assume on Hard as well, there’s a little more challenge and you’ll have to rely on a little more strategy to take down some of the bigger enemies. The game runs really well, and looks really great. Everything looks a little rounded, but that’s more of an art style, and even on highest settings on an old Mac, I only had the game crash once.
Altogether, BioShock is a game that everyone should play. It’s story is so worth I didn’t stop to smell the roses much, and I beat the game in around 10 hours, but even on Hard mode and trying to get everything, I can’t imagine taking more than 15 hours to get through the story. Being a little old, you can get the game pretty cheap on many different platforms. I’d steer clear if possible from the iOS version though, I haven’t tried it but from what I’ve heard, it’s a little scaled-down and the controls don’t translate well to a touchscreen.
Design: 10/10 Rapture is such an intriguing world to explore. Though I didn’t stop to find everything, the backstory I did find through audio diaries painted my view of the world. That’s the beauty of BioShock’s design. The narrative is almost suggested rather than told, and everyone will interpret the game and its message differently.
Visuals: 9/10 Though it’s almost eight years old now, BioShock has aged relatively well, and the Mac version is no exception. The steampunk aesthetic is used often, but with a unique art style, BioShock still looks and feels special today.
Sound: 9/10 Music isn’t omnipresent in BioShock as it is in many other games. This silence adds to the eerie tone of the game, however, and when music is played, it’s often a crackly rendition of a classic song to further emphasise the 20th century setting. Voice acting is used a lot, and thankfully, it’s pretty good.
Gameplay: 8/10 I may have ruined it for myself by playing on Easy, but I didn’t feel that pulled in by the mechanics of the game. There are different abilities you can use, but I usually defaulted to my wrench and my guns to deal damage.
Value: 9/10 BioShock isn’t long, nor does it have much replayability, but that’s not where its value lies. It’s a unique, seminal game that is a must play for anyone who enjoys story-based games and action shooters with a darker tone.
Total: 45/50 (A)
List Price: $19.99 | Buy from Amazon
Have you played BioShock? What did you think? Tell us about it in the comments!
I’m going on a week-long trip really soon, with two 20+ hour flights, so I’m looking forward to catching up on some JRPGs, like Suikoden and Final Fantasy IV. I’ve been messing around with Guacamelee, and it’s pretty great, and I’m considering getting Grim Fandango as well, which was rereleased today.
For now, check out our other video game content right here, would you kindly. And here’s the always-up-to-date ranked list of my favourite computer games. It’s kind of meagre compared to my console and handheld one.