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Bioshock Replayed!

BioShock_cover

Would you kindly not stick that drill in my face?

I’ve had the itch to play the first Bioshock game again for a long while. Bioshock Infinite being packaged with a free copy of the game didn’t ease the urge at all. Since Infinite’s release, everyone seems to be on a big Bioshock kick, borrowing my copies of the games and discussing the ingeniously crafted universe. I got to the point where I could no longer help myself. I watched the credits roll yesterday morning and I said to myself, “Now I remember why this is the game that converted me to the world of First Person Shooters.”

There probably isn’t anything I can say about the first Bioshock game that hasn’t yet been said. But I can offer a fresh perspective as I am one of those gamers whose experience with FPS games was limited to hanging around Halo parties for the free food and being the last person selected to be on a team and always being the first to die and having the most deaths per whatever. FPS games never really clicked with me before Bioshock. I played RPGs and platformers and action games. Hell, I even played more arcade style fighting games than FPS shooters. I think, maybe because my exposure to FPS games was limited to Halo tournaments in which I exercised my right to get shanked about 100 different ways, I assumed they amounted to little more than running around shooting things in this weird camera perspective that I wasn’t used to and made life a bitch whenever an enemy snuck up behind me. In fact, I am still guilty of asking “What’s the big deal about Halo?” (probably due more to my bias against Microsoft) but after playing this gem again, I began to think that maybe Halo did the same thing for a lot of gamers that Bioshock did for me.

In a 10-15 hour campaign, Bioshock manages to do what it takes a lot of games over 30 hours to do: create an immersive and intriguing world filled with characters you can’t help but bond with. One of the most magical points of Bioshock is the strange Big Daddy-Little Sister bond. The disturbing images of young girls walking around with their dangerous (and apparently smelly) paternal figures, sticking needles into dead corpses to collect ADAM, does a lot to paint Rapture’s landscape. The Little Sisters speak very few lines, but what they do say is memorable and made it so I couldn’t help but pity them. And the Big Daddies? They don’t even need to speak. The rush of excitement and fear I felt the first few times I could hear them moaning while escorting their little ladies gave me chills. Unlike survival horror games where you often have the big badass that you must continually turn tail and run from, in Bioshock you barely have the choice NOT to go toe-to-toe with these monstrosities. And you’re rewarded fittingly for doing so.

Speaking of fighting Big Daddies, I did have a small thought when I started this playthrough that I would be a meanie and harvest the Little Sisters. That didn’t last very long. Amidst Tenenbaum’s pleas and offering to make it worth my while to save them, and remembering I had a few more trophies I wanted to unlock, I decided to play the good guy. Tenenbaum is an example of another great character who has few direct dialogue and interactions with the main character. Even less if you decide to harvest all of the Little Sisters. Tenenbaum ends up filling a maternal role for the Little Sisters she was responsible for creating (surprise, surprise), but opposing her stereotypical maternal instinct kicking in, she is a brilliant scientist who managed to escape death in Hitler’s infamous prison camps due to her incredible intellect.

Sander Cohen is another great character. I can’t believe I forgot about this crazy son of a bitch. I guess one of the perks to having a bad memory is getting to know crazy characters like him all over again. This time around I didn’t kill him when given the chance. For steadying your trigger finger, you’re rewarded with meeting Sander again in his apartment. There’s also a Power to the People station here and I was aiming to collect all of those.

I was super thorough this playthrough. I didn’t use a walkthrough and I still found all of the weapon upgrade stations and all of the Little Sisters. I still didn’t find all of the audio diaries. And this comes to one of my few not-glistening-with-admiration comments about this game. I’m not completely sold on audio logs scattered and hiding around the environment. Especially when they are the sole providers of a lot of essential information. I play games as much for the story and characters as I do for gratuitous violence and escapism. I hate missing interesting tidbits that help the player see into the eyes of other characters or explain bits of lore because I didn’t think to backtrack to a certain location after a certain plot point. Plus, whenever I am trying to pay attention to an audio log, I always seem to get inundated with splicer friends who want a piece of me. I understand the point of the mechanic, to not take away from the player and the action, but I am the kind of person who is more than happy to relinquish control for a minute if it will better help me understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, or how the underwater utopia fell from grace. Who leaves those things lying around, anyway?

Another big factor that won me over to this game is magic! I always assumed FPS games had ‘just guns.’ I’ve always been partial to magic in video games. It helps with the fantastical element. Plus magic is flashy. And requires less aiming. Anyway, guns are something I associate with the real world and don’t excite me as much as being able to turn someone into a human icicle, or hypnotizing Big Daddies, or sicking a swarm of insects on a Thuggish Splicer and standing back and chuckling as chaos ensues. And Telekinesis… My gawd. The awesomeness of being able to kill a splicer by throwing a dead splicer at it is priceless. So imagine my excitement when I heard about a FPS game with “magic” incorporated in it. In fact, as the game progresses, you begin to piece together how Plasmids, along with Andrew Ryan’s ordeals and Fontaine’s treachery, played an enormous part in leading to Rapture’s downfall.

The first Bioshock is only about five or six years old. It hasn’t aged for very long. It still stands up to the newer entries in the series, though there are some features that I wish it had. I need to play Bioshock 2 again (or don’t I?) because I don’t remember when they smartened up and let you keep track of how many audio diaries you’ve collected and such. But I wish there was a way (and if there is, can someone tell me where to find it) to keep track of your enemy research status and collection numbers like in Infinite. I also wish there was a button assigned to melee. I’d be much more inclined to use the wrench if I didn’t have to select it on the weapon wheel every time I wanted to swing it. And why, oh why, is there not a New Game+ mode?

As much as I like Infinite, it is lacking a lot of the magic Bioshock had. The Splicers made a huge impact on the world of Rapture, and they were downright hilarious at times. Seriously, they’ve got some of the best lines. And Bioshock took the time to explain the Plasmids and their effect on the world. Infinite’s Vigors are there just because they have to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed my return to Rapture and one of the best games of this generation. I can’t recommend this game enough. Even to people like me who generally aren’t interested in FPS games. If Bioshock doesn’t win you over I’ll never suggest another game to you ever again. Now… would you kindly go play this game already?

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