Monday, 25 June 2012

Game On: Bioshock

As a kid, I loved video games. On Atari. I never had a Nintendo. Or a Sega. I never really got into playing Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Final Fantasy or a hundred other games that are considered "classic". Video games were expensive when I was a kid (they still are, I suppose) and I was more in to reading comic books anyway. However, while I was living with a friend of mine he introduced me to a couple of PC games (Doom 3 and Half-Life 2) and I was immediately intrigued. The graphics were much better than any game I had played before, there was an actual story and you could interact (somewhat) with other characters. 

But when my friend started playing Bioshock for the first time on Xbox, the first that grabbed me was how gorgeous looking the game is and how "real" it felt. The first few minutes were especially amazing, watching flames dance across the surface of the ocean. Getting deeper into the game though, there were things that I initially didn't like (You can't die? What's up with that? Hacking machines? Too complicated.) but eventually grew to enjoy while other elements were mesmerizing. 

The character work in the original Bioshock game is nothing short of artistic, and it's a shame that more video games haven't been able to pull off the level of quality that Bioshock had in terms of character development. What might strike you as strange is that the majority of it is done through audio tapes. You can basically listen to the thoughts people in the underwater city of Rapture have recorded and as you begin to analyze them, you realize just how incredibly flawed (even psychotic) some of these people are or become. The best examples of this are Dr. Steinman, a plastic surgeon who becomes obsessed with making people beautiful in his eyes though it often leads them into being disfigured or even killed under his scalpel, and of course, Rapture's founder, Andrew Ryan.

Ryan is probably the most intriguing character in the game. He is a man who had the financial ability and the vision to build an entire city under the sea where scientists, artists and free-thinkers could go to have their work appreciated far from the interference of governments and religions. All this of course, goes to Ryan's head, and it doesn't help that he becomes hooked on "Adam", the designer drug which enhances the user with superpowers (of varying types), but it becomes clear that Andrew Ryan's own ego is his biggest problem. He built a city to basically celebrate (admire)  his own achievements and then wanted to be king of his kingdom without really knowing how to run it during a crisis, much less a full-scale civil war. 

Of course, character development is nice, but video games are mostly about the action and there is plenty of that to go around as well. As a player you get a range of weapons, from shotguns and rocket launchers to superpowers like shooting flames or electricity from your hands. You need them to survive in Rapture, because the city has basically gone to hell and the majority of the citizens that are still alive are strung out on Adam, which is not only highly addictive, but gives them superpowers as well. 

Then, of course, there are the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters. The Little Sisters are girls who were orphaned or outright taken from their parents and subjected to experimentation (they were symbiotically joined with sea slugs that produce Adam) and brainwashed into running around the city searching corpses for more Adam. The Big Daddies are their protectors and are basically brainwashed "volunteers" in giant metal diving suits, equipped with everything from grenade launchers to a very big drill. 

Bioshock is consistently listed as one of the best video games of all time, and it is certainly my favorite. It's sequel, Bioshock 2, wasn't as intriguing as the first game but did offer some great visuals, sound design and gameplay, but the true test of Bioshock as a franchise will come next year when Bioshock: Infinite (a new game taking place in a new city, Columbia, which is in the clouds rather than under the sea) makes it's long awaited debut. 

In the meantime, check out the original Bioshock (again, in case it has been a while since you played it) and just marvel at the amount of hard work and craft that went into this game. Something which sadly seems to be lacking in most video games shoved out on us today.

No comments:

Post a Comment