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Review

Review: BioShock

Last year's best FPS finally gets a release on this year's best console.

Bioshock is one of those once-in-a-lifetime games.  Think Super Mario World; Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; Halo, genre defining classics that are still just as stunning years later.  It’s a richly constructed, lavish game which wraps you up from the first second to the last, and yes, the PS3 version is every bit as brilliant as 2007’s Xbox 360 version.  Sure, it’s taken a while to hit the PlayStation 3, but that’s more down to exclusivity deals then any shortcomings in porting over yet another Unreal Engine 3 title.

We’re assuming that most are at least vaguely familiar with what Bioshock is all about: the player, escaping a crashed and burning plane wreckage finds shelter in a strange structure jutting out of the sea, which turns out to be Rapture, a utopian social experiment entirely underwater.  You’re left almost unaided from the off, except for radio communication with mysterious characters, and from the moment you emerge from the elevator it’s clear that this particular project, built 14 years earlier, has turned slightly sour.

Bioshock isn’t just another shooter.  It’s 1960’s steampunk setting provides a fresh, unique take on the normally grey stone corridors of most FPS’s, and the fact that this was entirely human inhabited means that it often plays out more like a survival horror than anything else, as you make your way around what is essentially a massive submerged city.  Splicers, residents turned insane due to reasons you’ll discover soon enough, lurk around most corners and in packs are tricky to dispatch, but you’ll soon meet the Little Sisters and Big Daddies, both of which designed to scare the wits out of you.

So, Bioshock offers a compelling story, consistantly evolving and surprising along the way with some killer twists, but how does it stand out in terms of gameplay?  Thankfully, it’s rock solid: the gunplay is meaty and the player soon becomes enhanced via Plasmids, which are intially useful as additional weaponry but soon make way for telekinesis and also more celebral purposes.  There’s little backtracking, the puzzles are intuitive and the way the game continuously throws new challenges your way keeps everything fresh.  It’s a joy to play from start to finish.

Visually it’s often stunning too.  The PS3 version is locked at the same 30fps as the 360, and makes great use of the Unreal 3 engine in throwing around detailed, varied environments that appear to pop right out of the screen.  There’s a few instances where things aren’t quite as nice as on the Xbox – the water effects look a little dumbed down and the textures aren’t as high resolution, but we wouldn’t want that to influence your decision to buy the game as overall it’s a very clean, crisp looking game despite showing it’s age a little.  The audio, however, is faultless, with amazing surround sound creating one hell of an atmosphere.

So, to conclude, Bioshock is a wonderful game.  It’s hard to back up the initial statement in this review without going into detail about the story, so you’ll have to take our word for how good the game gets if you’ve only played the rather limited demo.  Once all the gameplay opportunities open up, and you realise where the storyline is heading, it’s a compelling, encompassing thrill ride that you’ll play again and again.  It manages to stay fresh throughout the whole experience, and in our opinion is the best first-person-shooter on the PlayStation 3 right now – it’s not perfect, but it’s worth every single penny.  Sure, there’s no multiplayer, but when the single player is this good there doesn’t need to be.

Note: The PS3 version requires a 10 minute install before playing, which takes up around 5GB of your hard disk, for those of you with stacks of other games installed on there.  It’s a bit of a shame, but the load times once in the game are quick enough to make it worthwhile.  There’s also the promise of exclusive Challenge Rooms, downloadable mini-tasks due soon.

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