"It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea, it was impossible to build it anywhere else."
~ Andrew Ryan
I love those words; they're etched firmly inside my skull along with other choice phrases and the dull echoing wallow of the Big Daddies as they thump along the ruined floors of the once mighty city: Rapture. It might sound like I'm waxing philosophical about some roleplaying game or another, but this isn't true.
I'm talking about BioShock. Irrational Games spiritual sequel to System Shock 2 and brainchild of Ken Levine, a man who should be given all the Adam in the world and allowed to run it as Ken the pumped-up Gaming God!
I've been immersed in Rapture for around 30 hours. I've explored a great deal of the city from level to level and I've discovered secrets and other places that most people might just have let slip. I've heard tell that some people can go from beginning to end in nine hours, great, but you're missing out on a lot of what the game has to offer if you do. I admit that I probably took a lot longer than the reported 20 hours that some gamers have said takes to finish it.
What I got out of it is a highly polished FPS that drips atmosphere, from the grimy and blood covered walls to the cracked panes of glass where water dribbles in trying to reclaim Rapture: a city that by all rights should not be at the bottom of the ocean where it's unwanted. BioShock is at its core first and foremost a shooter, it's not meant to be a hybrid RPG with guns and superhuman powers, it's meant to be an action shooter where you are given complete freedom to explore the current environment and even backtrack to levels you've previously visited.
The controls are a breeze, extremely simple to pick up and play. You'll be bashing Splicers (genetically altered humans) with a wrench in no time at all, throwing electro-bolts and shooting the various weapons after only a few minutes of play. It has a simple GUI and it's easy enough to see your health, Eve and ammo without having to wade through a tonne of screens in the process. There is only one way to see what tonics and plasmids you have equipped though, by visiting a Gene-Bank, a place where you can swap out your current inventory of cool additions.
Plasmids = powers in BioShock like electro bolt and inferno.
Tonics = power_ups that can change your character in many ways. Equip hacking tonics to help you overcome security systems or combat tonics to pulp your enemies with the wrench.
So with simple controls and easy to use features, BioShock lets you get on with exploring Rapture and following the game's twisted & dark plot. A lot of this plot is told via Radio transmissions and Recordings (you might remember that from earlier games like System Shock 2 etc) and you'll miss out on vital information, codes and the like if you don't try and track down all of the records.
You have several weapons to help you get the best of your enemies, the Splicers and over the course of the game all of these can be upgraded via Upgrade Stations; however you can only choose one upgrade at a time. This means you're going to have to be careful as you upgrade your arsenal. Ammo and other items, like Eve hypos can be found in crates and boxes. On dead bodies and in other places that might seem hard to reach (hint: TK is your friend).