washingtonpost.com
Head Deep Into Bioshock

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bioshock is the type of original and complex interactive entertainment we desperately need more of.

The game thrusts protagonist Jack into the middle of the ocean in the opening scenes. His journey into the depths of Rapture, a failed underwater utopia, transports players to a world that blends a '40s and '50s feel (complete with an outstanding soundtrack) with one of the creepiest atmospheres I've encountered in a game.

Although this first-person shooter game's linear structure steers you along, the story of Andrew Ryan's utopian experiment unfolds slowly. An unseen ally named Atlas (an apparent nod to the book "Atlas Shrugged," which influenced the game) aids Jack in his search. The legacies of Ryan's experiment are everywhere, from flooding buildings to blood-soaked operating rooms to demented "splicers," humans who have genetically altered themselves into monsters.

The entire game can be played using one weapon, a wrench found at the start of play. Most players, though, will probably opt for "plasmids," which inject offensive and defensive capabilities (such as flames, electrical bolts and bug attacks) into Jack. The game's artificial intelligence is superb. Even the weakest splicers are unpredictable, and players are encouraged to use the environment to their advantage. If an enemy is standing in a puddle, electrocute him, but set an enemy on fire and watch him jump into a pool of water. The many turrets throughout the world can be hacked (using a fun and simple mini-game) to aid you in your fight. The most challenging confrontations come when you face off against "Big Daddies," splicers wearing large, armored underwater suits. Their job is to protect the "Little Sisters," young orphan girls; Big Daddies don't come after you unless provoked. Taking one down, let alone several, is a challenge. Once killed, players face one of the game's many moral dilemmas: whether to harvest all of the "Adam" (something you need to build up your plasmids) from a Little Sister (killing her), or taking just some and letting her go.

Beyond the truly open gameplay choices, the variety of weapons, plasmids and environmental challenges, Bioshock delivers a compelling story that sticks with you long after you've stopped playing. It is, without a doubt, the best game of the year and one of the most intriguing games since the original Half-Life. It is structured so that anyone, novice or veteran gamer, can experience the horrors and drama lurking far beneath the ocean's surface in a lost city.

-- John Gaudiosi

Bioshock Mature; Xbox 360 ($60), PC ($50)2K Games/Irrational Games Bioshock Mature; Xbox 360 ($60), PC ($50)2K Games/Irrational Games

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company