Last year Xbox 360 owners were treated to one of the most incredible gaming experiences of all time. BioShock broke new ground in the art of story-telling and immersion with its underwater utopia setting of Rapture and the morality of forcing players to choose between what is right and wrong. 2K Games is now giving PS3 owners a chance to experience this incredible game with a few extra incentives (promised through DLC) as well as harder difficulty to try and entice everyone who has already experienced it to take a second dip. The bottom line though is that now no one has an excuse to not play through one of the best games ever created.
There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of people on the internet have at least a small understanding of the premise behind BioShock, but for those of you that do not let me give a quick synopsis. The game starts out with your character on a plane, admiring photos and reading a note on a package from someone. All of a sudden the plane begins to fall from the sky and the next thing you know you are clawing to reach the surface of a large body of water. A light tower in the distance draws you to its glow and from here you slowly descend into the underwater utopia created by Andrew Ryan known as Rapture.
Rapture is a society created that is free from the normal downfalls of society. Artists are praised, religion is subdued and everything in the city is meant as a place people can be free to express themselves without fear. As you progress through the city you will uncover the secrets of what happened here and who exactly Andrew Ryan is in one of the most compelling stories ever told in a game. Part of what makes BioShock so immersive is how the story unfolds. Unlike other games you will rarely see a cut scene; in fact most of the back story is delivered via tape diaries scattered throughout the environment. You will also learn a great deal from Atlas, the man who first discovers your arrival and speaks to you through a short wave radio obtained immediately upon entering Rapture.
While the story is certainly the most compelling reason to play this game the way it is designed to allow you to approach from multiple angles is also welcome. BioShock is not your typical shooter game; that is unless you want it to be. The city of Rapture is full of what are called plasmids that basically re-write your DNA and give you new abilities such as telekinesis and even fire. Using these plasmids throughout the game can change it from being a straight-forward run-and-gun into a more strategical experience. For instance you can lure enemies into a pool of water with a target dummy plasmid and then switch to your electricity and shock them all in one fell swoop. The possibilities are endless and when playing on the new Survivor difficulty exclusive to the PS3 version you will need every advantage you can get.
This new mode is one of the few items currently on the disc that differentiate it from last year’s PC and 360 versions. In this mode the game will force you to use your brain for nearly every single encounter. Using methods like the one I mentioned above are crucial because the game strips you of nearly all items, ammo and health packs that are usually scattered around the game. Find a gun on the floor and it may only contain one bullet as opposed to four or five, health packs give much less relief and money is even more scarce making hacking various vending machines essential to survival.
The other addition is actually just the downloadable plasmids that were available on the other systems shortly after launch. Thankfully though with the PS3 version everything is available from the beginning and you can access these new power-ups very early in the game. Everything else feels nearly identical and to be honest while I was playing it I felt a sense of familiarity, which is a good thing. Outside of the mandatory ten minute install (which really does seem to speed up the loading screens) this game is exactly the same as the one you played last year.
What will make things different is the upcoming downloadable content that, unfortunately we were not able to check out at the time of this review. These will include brand new challenge rooms that are modeled after other parts of Rapture that will give players an extra look into some more of the underlying mythos. It has not been determined if these will be free or premium DLC, but I can imagine that they will be worth checking out for fans of the game. It is also worth noting that BioShock fully supports Sony’s new trophy system and almost mimics the 360 versions Achievements down to the letter. This is probably the most complete version of the game currently available and if you have yet to venture through the halls of Rapture this is the one to get.
When 2K Games decided to port the game over from DVD to Blu-Ray they went the extra mile to squeeze some extra high-res textures into the game. This is where the mandatory install comes into to play for those wondering why a game that fits on a DVD requires such a large install. The problem arises when you see the old textures mixed in with the new ones. With these new prettier objects the texture pop-in can become very noticeable. Couple this with the fact that the slowdown present in the 360 version is still lingering around and you can have some truly less-than-desirable moments during intense action sequences.
The most disappointing thing is that you would figure with a year to port the game some of these minor annoyances would be remedied, but as it stands the PS3 chapter is still the best version slowdown or not. Everything in the world of Rapture is a poignant beauty. From the neon signs to the somber color palette the game provides an atmosphere that is both elegant and dreary at the same time. If visuals in a game can be considered art than BioShock’s would be the Van Gogh of interactive entertainment. The sounds and dialogue are equally impressive delivering some of the best writing I have ever heard in a game and the sound effects and ambience will send chills down your spine.
The bottom line is that BioShock for PS3 is just as good as it always was. The game is a masterpiece that deserves to be experienced by everyone who calls themselves a gamer. If you have already been through the vistas of Rapture there is little here to warrant a return visit, however if you have managed to remain closed off from the story it is definitely worth the trip. The PS3 iteration is by far the most complete account and the promise of future DLC is intriguing to say the least. If you have not played this game there is certainly no excuse for you to miss out now.