Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: "Bioshock" leaves you begging for air

I was very skeptical seeing video game sites and magazines giving 2K's "Bioshock" all 10s. After playing the review copy, I can see why.

The game is set in the 1960s. The place? Twenty-thousand leagues under the sea. (or close to it) You start as a character on an airlines flight, looking back on your past. Suddenly, the controller rumbles and you wake up underwater. You surface to see flames everywhere. I was so engaged, I didn't realize I was supposed to look for a way out. The background is dark and the water looks the same. I have never been in airplane crash at sea - but the intro made me feel like I was there.

You swim to a lighthouse and climb into a pod. You are transported to 'Rapture,' an underwater city that caters to folks looking to avoid imperial rule. The society thrives on the superficial - the residents turned to plasmids, or chemicals, for various needs. Of course, you know the end result - they went crazy and became zombielike creatures. There are very few sane folks when you arrive, and the most interesting characters are 'Big Daddies.' He and others are in these huge diving suits outfitted with huge weapons. They protect 'Little Sisters,' small girls running around Rapture with syringes the size of toddlers.

The action is mostly underwater - and it's linear FPS. While this may not be cool for some gamers, it works great here. Another feature missing is multiplayer. It would definitely be sweet to run around Rapture as a 'Little Sister' or 'Big Daddy,' but still, the single player story is strong enough to carry the title on its own.

Why is there so much buzz about this game? For one, it's scary. The Rapture residents are relentless, and it's scary at different turns. While "Gears of War" offers some sweet action, having to consider strategy when you fight 'splicers,' the majority of residents, makes this game even more interesting.

The second feature that rocks is hacking vending machines. This minigame rocks because after you hack it once, it's hacked as long as you play the game. While it doesn't work for every vending machine (like you hack a machine on one level, it doesn't hack other machines), it's still pretty cool to hack it so when a splicer comes behind you, it will kill them. Sweetness!

The third feature that is pretty cool are the plasmids. Just wait until you get your first taste. You end up taking a bit of a tumble, but like a vampire looking for blood, you find your character wants more. You start out with electricity, and progress to fire, ice, telekinesis and other powers. My favorite one is fire, fire, fire. I enjoyed BBQing splicers like they were babyback ribs. I also loved using some electricity to fry splicers standing in water. Dumb. My mom taught me to never play with electricity around water - you'd think these jokers would learn better. Another sick plasmid is the cyclone. You can point at an area and fire - and plant an invisible patch that shoots splicers vertical if they step on it. Oh, it's sweet ... trust me.

Another feature I thought was cool was near the end. You end up transforming into a Big Daddy. It's a very, very sweet suit that takes a ton of damage like you're Superman (Christopher Reeves, thank you very much).

But the absolute coolest feature about "Bioshock?" The urgency. You can't slow down to look over your shoulder. You are alone and know it's you and against Rapture, except for the mysterious voice on your radio that guides you. While "Gears" and "Halo and Halo 2" stress blasting aliens, you really want to stop for a few seconds, appreciate the awesome graphics and ask yourself why these people left their lives for this underwater society. You don't have a second to do it because you know someone is always on your tail.

After you play 'Bioshock,' you will never look at water or syringes in the same way.

Why you should care: This game is a FPS that combines "Gears," "Prey," "Condemned" and "Halo" and "Halo 2" into one watery package.

The good - intense action - ability to hack machines - uber sick plasmids that give you killer abilities - cool weapons upgrades - and the list goes on and on.

The bad - No multiplayer, but as sweet as this game is, it's forgiven.

The ugly - If you hit/hurt/wound/kill a Little Sister, beware of 'Big Daddy's' wrath ...

Overall - (Out of 10) As a gamer for over 30 years, I consider these games - "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past," "Halo," "Rastan," "NCAA Basketball" and "The Grand Theft Auto Series (III, Vice City and San Andreas)" to be perfect - 10s. Even if I like a game, it has to bring something entirely new to the table. According a few Web sites, this game was originally set on an island and you fought Nazis. While that idea sank, the final product didn't.

10 - perfect. It's a FPS that breaks the mold. It is a better FPS than "Gears of War," and gives "Halo" and "Halo 2" a run for their money. I am curious to see how it will hold up against "Halo 3." Either way, it's going to be a great holiday for 360/PC owners who reach out for "Bioshock."

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