Bioshock is one of the biggest titles in gaming right now.
With the recent release of Bioshock Infinite, the series has reached a level of first person shooter acclaim similar to that of Half Life. As a huge fan of the series myself, I thought it would be cool to take some time to reflect on the evolution of the Bioshock games. Let’s start at the beginning.
The first Bioshock has definitely earned its spot in the gaming hall of fame, and arguably more deservedly than its sequels due to the fact that it introduced and set the signature tone of the series. Bioshock combines excellent first person shooter game play with a unique “plasmid” system. Plasmids are story driven abilities that the protagonist can inject himself as he finds them while exploring the underground city of Rapture. By utilizing various guns and plasmids, the player must make his way through the zombie ridden city in order to find an escape.
But by far the coolest element of Bioshock is the overarching theme of ethical philosophy. The underwater city of Rapture was at one point a paradise of sorts, a society driven by scientific advancement. Once the scientists began experiments with plasmids and enhanced human abilities, however, things started going wrong.
In traveling through Rapture, the player interacts with several surviving scientists who regret their experimentation on humans. Additionally, strewn throughout the city are recordings from deceased Rapture residents that tell the story of the ethical line being crossed.
Finally, at various points throughout the game, you’ll encounter “little sisters”. Little sisters are genetically engineered little girls who harvest “atom” which is the substance utilized in plasmids. These little sisters travel with their protectors, who are monstrous and armor clad. You have the option of either killing and harvesting the atom that these little sisters have collected, or setting them free and protecting them. Your choice affects how the story ends.
Bioshock 2 is a departure from the original. The story takes place in Rapture once again, ten years after the events of Bioshock. However, in this entry, you play as a Big Daddy, one of the behemoths that travel protecting little sisters. It seems that someone has been abducting and using little sisters in Rapture, and it’s up to you to protect and escort your little sister as you make your way through the city.
Bioshock 2, which is still an amazing game, is arguably the weakest in the series due to one fatal flaw. A significant amount of game play is centered on protection – picture the Natalya levels from Goldeneye. Your little sister needs to harvest the atom from certain bodies lying around the city, which takes time. Somehow, every time she starts, hundreds of zombies in the vicinity are notified, and it’s up to you to stand and protect her as zombies descend on you from every direction.
If this happened once or twice throughout the game it would have been okay, cool even. But this was a central element of the game. No one likes escort missions, let alone an escort game. But, that being said, Bioshock 2 still incorporated some pretty badass weaponry and game play. This coupled with revisiting the awesome city of Rapture, which is fully re-equipped with more survivors and more history for you to unearth makes Bioshock 2 only slightly less enjoyable than the original.
Bioshock Infinite was a real achievement. It successfully incorporated all of the best elements from both Bioshock 1 and 2, while taking the bad aspects of the previous games and improving upon them to the point where they actually added to the experience. Specifically in terms of the “escort game” dilemma that Bioshock 2 faced, Bioshock Infinite pulled off an escort game where, finally, the person you’re charged with protecting is not only useful in battle, but can fend for herself decently well.
The plasmids are back – although under a different name and story driven explanation, but in terms of game play they’re essentially the same – along with the a new environmentally interactive claw-hook weapon.
The plot takes place out of Rapture, and actually until the end there’s essentially no connection to the previous games other than game play and some similar enemies. But, while Rapture doesn’t play a part in Infinite‘s plot, the story itself is by far the strongest of the three. And the ending is nothing short of mind-blowing.
What’s so impressive about the Bioshock series as a whole is that it took a downturn in the sequel, but the developers actually listened to the complaints of the gamers and found a way to turn every negative into a positive. At the same time, they incorporated the philosophical and ethical themes seen in the original two and stayed true to the game play style. I can’t really think of a bad thing to say about Bioshock Infinite, and the series itself is certainly one of the strongest in gaming.
Written by: Richard Reitzfeld