When future generations look back on gaming over the past decade or so, there will be a few standout titles that will be remembered fondly. One such game is BioShock, a first person shooter that defied all preconceived notions of what a decently crafted plot could look like in a game. There’s little doubt that those who haven’t played it may have heard exactly what the big deal is with BioShock, but it’s certainly worth experiencing for yourself.
It’s somewhat hard to believe that it’s been close to ten years since we first got into the bathysphere and descended several fathoms under the sea. With the current-gen consoles having greater performance than the platforms BioShock released on originally, it seems only fitting that we get to revisit both Rapture and Columbia in one collection, with the remastering work done by Blind Squirrel Games.
From the very first time your eyes lay on Rapture, the art deco dystopia that wowed everyone, BioShock captivates from that incredible moment to its end. Each new locale is filled to the brim with recordings from residents long gone, physically or mentally.
With the remaster, everything has more detail and the lighting has been tweaked to feel more natural as opposed to the bloom that dominated the last-gen versions. This improvement is certainly most noticeable in BioShock than in any of the other games, but the performance has also been tinkered with to reach as close to 60 FPS as is possible.
BioShock was the one with the best story and setting, no questions asked. The twists and turns that make up the main game are still a showcase of how to produce a good story to this day. By going with a ‘show, don’t tell’ approach, there is more in the way to discover and be immersed in the dog-eat-dog world of BioShock. Splicers can still surprise you, Little Sisters are still creepy as sin, and the accompanying Big Daddies are still hulking beasts that can pummel you with a single strike.
That said, BioShock isn’t perfect and this version hasn’t been updated to match the times. You need to swap between your Plasmids and Guns in order to fire them, rather than having both active at once. Not a game breaking decision by any means, but it does make it the BioShock that feels slightly clunky when compared to its sequels. There’s also the awkward pipe puzzles, but it’s harder to see how they could possibly have updated that.
As this is based on the PS3 version, coincidentally the same one we reviewed way back when (sorry about the mess), so the Museum of Orphaned Concepts, as well as the three exclusive challenge rooms are included in the package. There’s also the Director’s Commentary, which is just video interviews with Ken Levine and Shawn Robertson courtesy of Geoff Keighley. It’s a decent insight into how the game was made, but it’s not for everyone.
Following up BioShock was always going to be a tall order, especially due to the fact that Ken Levine didn’t work on the sequel. Needless to say though that while the retrofitting of certain characters into BioShock’s lore was awkward at times, the gameplay of BioShock 2 was a dramatic improvement on the previous game.
Even without Ken Levine, the various studios that worked on BioShock 2 captured not only what it was like inside of Rapture, but also outside. Underwater areas are certainly among the most visually breath-taking parts of the trilogy. It was certainly well loved in Blair’s review of the game way back at launch!
With the update, it’s a tiny bit harder to see the graphical upgrades, but they are there and the performance upgrade is very welcome. It’s a shame the intro cutscene is rendered at such a low resolution and frame rate because that’s the only jarring bit of the entire game.
Simply because you could now dual wield a gun in one hand and a plasmid in the other; BioShock 2 had a significantly better flow. Not just this, but hacking was also streamlined so it just require you to press the button at the right time.
Given that you are now a Big Daddy, when you come across a Little Sister, you have the choice of Harvesting them, or Adopting them to gather more Adam before saving them. It’s more thematic a concept and feels more rewarding to make the right choice. Then there are the Big Sisters that skulk in the shadows, waiting to pounce from on high, which are still unnerving encounters.
BioShock 2’s DLC packages include Minerva’s Den; still widely regarded as one of the best single player DLCs out there and is well worth experiencing. It acts as a sort of mini-campaign that comes with its own twists and turns. Protector Trials on the other hand was a horde mode of sorts, which isn’t very appealing. Unsurpisingly, the multiplayer that was in BioShock 2 is not in the remaster, which isn’t exactly a great loss.
The game of the BioShock Collection that saw the least changes, BioShock Infinite was able to draw upon the higher quality settings of the original PC release and get a performance upgrade to run at a more stable 60 fps, albeit not locked. On PC, you literally just get a copy of the original game, but it still looks lovely.
BioShock Infinite saw the return of Ken Levine to the franchise to create yet another world of wonder. Set even more in the past than previous games, we are also introduced to the dynamic duo that is Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth; a pairing with so many moments that they outshine the rest of the cast at times. The floating city of Columbia was an appealing place to explore and the sky rails were a neat concept.
You can always check out our BioShock Infinite review for what Blair thought of it at the time, but personally I felt that the characters in Infinite were nowhere near as imposing as BioShock’s cast and Vigors as a concept made no narrative sense and weren’t very original beyond their aesthetic design. Columbia is not quite as enticing for me as Rapture was, but it had its own moments and themes that are worth checking out.
BioShock Infinite also had its own horde mode-like DLC in the form of Clash in the Clouds, but the main attraction here was the two-parter Burial at Sea, which saw a return to Rapture. This is worth experiencing as well, mostly so you can finally see Rapture during its heyday.
So is the BioShock: The Collection worth the investment? Well certainly the console versions feel like a significant upgrade to the original, but it may be worth holding off on the PC version as reports are suggesting that there are a few issues with performance and the options settings are currently abysmal. If you did want to return to either Rapture or Columbia, or if you’ve never visited either location, then by all means hop on and take in all the sights.