14 November, 2010


I found my first review I ever wrote for a 360 game today :) It was for Bioshock! I thought I would relay it here for your perusal! It's quite unnecessarily long, I do think, but it's interesting to see how I used to write, compared to how I write now.

Nov 23, 2008

Bioshock spent a while in the making and I followed it from when I first heard it was in development. When it was released for Steam I grabbed it up. Playing it on the PC was great, and I must say that the graphics and game play blew me away. Of course I went into it thinking, " hey I know it's a creepy game, but I've played my share in my day and I can handle it." And so, I played it in the dark without a light on... and it freaked me the hell out. Most of what I could say for the PC version though, was eclipsed when I got it for the 360, and that's what I'll talk about here. I must say for all it's glory on the PC, the 360 version is much better. Maybe it was just me, but I noticed better graphic quality, sound quality, and game play over all. There is also a version for the PS3, but as I never played it, I don't feel I can review the qualities and flaws of that version here. Crashing into the water, at the beginning of the game, looked more realistic and gripping when the water hits your screen. Because water plays such a massive role in Bioshock, it had to be the best feature of the game, and it really excelled. Everywhere you find water it really feels like it's trying to invade the city and trying to submerge you. As you move through Rapture there is a constant aquatic presence and moving through it is beautiful. The splash effects are luminous and even when you run through a small puddle, you see it splash and ripple in other puddles and the ground. Plasmids are especially beautiful as well.

For instance there is a plasmid called Winter Blast which creates ice and cold, and freezes your enemy. When you have Winter Blast readied as your active plasmid, your hand becomes chilled and spikes of ice and frost surround your hand, coating it in ice. All very nice, right? Well the graphics are such that as the ice spikes emerge from your hand constantly, you can see little droplets and rings of blood on your hand every time this happens. It brings another quality to the play in that you can see this is probably a painful plasmid to have, it's continuously tearing through your skin,
causing damage. A price you pay for plasmids. Fire also plays an important role in Bioshock. Rapture is a city in ruin; a revolutionary society gone awry through war and torment, drugs and conflict. The city is in fire and destroyed from the inside out; the ocean is claiming it back, and destruction reigns. Fires can be seen everywhere, including through your scorched and bloody hand by using Incinerate ( a fire based direct damage and damage over time plasmid ). Through-out the city there are destroyed clusters of fires and ruin. The way the fire moves is incredibly beautiful. When you get close, heat is obvious and you see a wavering of space. Damage done to you through fire looks realistic and when you cause damage to the Splicers, it's a fantastic effect. The Splicers in general are done very nicely as well. Their costumes and attacks are surprising and creepy; all with a surreal context to them. Wandering through Rapture you see many kinds of Splicers along with Big Daddies and Little Sisters.

Big Daddies come in four types with two models which are quite beautiful in a surreal sort of way. Rosie's have several lights on their face and Bouncer's have a porthole. The best thing concerning them graphically is their aggression monitor. When a Big Daddy is passive it's face ports will be green, if it's suspicious of you or your motives, it will change to yellow, and when it will attack you, it's red. This is a useful way to determine threat, and doesn't ruin the immersion of the game. Little Sisters are only present with a Big Daddy for the most part. Their unhealthy greenish pallor and glowing yellow eyes are as unsettling as they are lovely to witness. The way they stab at angel's with their ADAM syringes is creepy to say the least. Over all the graphics are the best I've seen in a game, and I've played a lot of games
in my time. Everything meshes together in a unique way and fits the way the world of Bioshock works. The next big aspect is the music and sound of this game. I was highly impressed when the first song played as I entered the lighthouse. The game is filled with both instrumental pieces by Garry Schyman and old 1950's music. But here is the beauty of the 1950's music they play... it sounds like actual 1950's music. OK, let me step back for a moment. Usually when you hear music these days by artists such as the Andrew Sisters, Bing Crosby or Perry Como they are re-mastered tracks. They are digitally improved versions of the songs, which I personally hate. It makes then sound wrong, disturbed, and I feel somewhat betrayed. In Bioshock, none of this re-mastered crap happens to the music. You hear the sounds of the vinyl discs or tape recordings. It SOUNDS like it would if you heard it in the 1950's. A little distorted and tinny because the setting of the game is actually in the 1950's. They wouldn't have access to the technology to make the music better, and in that, it makes the game. Hearing the music as people in that time would have heard it, makes me forget a little that it's 2008 and we're in a time of CD's and DVD's and re-mastering. I love this so much. The music quality makes the game that little bit more disturbing.

There is a part in the game where you come across a jukebox and when you hit it, you hear How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? by Pattie Page start to play. As this is playing and you move around the room, you find a switch to open a secret room that you enter and open a safe and upgrade your weapon, but as this music is still playing, you turn around from upgrading your weapon and this plaster encased Splicer is standing there in this ballerina position briefly then starts wailing on you with a pair of scythes. This surreal moment, when I first encountered it, left me momentarily stunned and confused. I'm sure this was the effect the creators had in mind... the light hearted music which plays around the game sort of lulls you into this awkward sense of comfort while the ravaged reality of this broken city sticks a claw hammer in your skull. Conflicting emotions and responses are a common part of it. The instrumental music by Garry Schyman sets in slowly in some parts, you aren't really aware that its there, but then you become aware of it and a chill sweeps down your back. It's beautiful and haunting in composition and equals the world
around it, really setting the scene. Sound effects are very well done in the game and the sound you get from hitting different objects or enemies really shows. When you hit a Splicer, you hear a gooey flesh type hit and it makes a big difference from when you smack a shaft of wood or a door. The twirling sound of a grenade heading your way or a Splicer talking to them self in the next room are very noticeable and sometimes where they're coming from is not immediately discernible, which makes the already creepy atmosphere all the more unsettling. Your plasmids also have their own unique sounds to them, and using them is a great experience. As you walk, you hear footsteps, and you can hear the footsteps of your enemies as well. Depending on which enemy is around, their footsteps sound different. It's a great set up and was very enjoyable.

Controls on the 360 work out very well in Bioshock. I think the controller was utilized very well and everything is easily accessible. Of course switching between weapons and plasmids is easier on the PC if you believe binding each to a key is easier, which for some it will be. After I first got my few weapons and plasmids on the 360, switching between them was hardly a noticeable action. I knew where everything was, and in the blink of an eye I could navigate to my desired plasmid or weapon. It didn't become a problem at all for me. Interacting with the environment was, in a few places, touchy for a small part, but mostly due to the fact that in some places it was too dark to see where I was going and so I chose the wrong actions and move incorrectly the first time through. Turning the contrast up in this game is highly recommended. Getting around and what to look for became second nature very quickly, it really felt like I was having
to adapt to survive, which I was highly pleased with. Immersion in a game is a big must for me. You get a choice in the game to be a good person or a bad person, and the choices you make have, all in all, a very little effect on the overall game play. I would have hoped for more of a game impact with the choices you make, but for the most part, all these choices affect is the very short ending sequence. You end up being able to access more Gene Tonics and Plasmids if you're and evil child eating psychopath than if you're a cuddly Father Christmas teddy bear man. And yes, the difference is really that extreme. There is no in-between here. You either end up consuming the lands of all their milk and honey, and unleashing atomic war on the world, or you become Mother Teresa and create life for these children by giving them all the things they missed by being genetically manipulated in an under ocean laboratory. For the 360, one has to mention the achievements you can acquire through-out Bioshock. There are quite a few and you will need at least two play-through's to get them. The first play-through can be done on Easy and I HIGHLY recommend you go through it first on easy to do this. I would also recommend not harvesting the Little Sister's on your first time through because in all honesty, easy is very easy. The way I would rate the difficulties is in this manner: Easy - You beating up someone in the school yard. Normal - You getting beat up in the school yard. Hard - You have 10 seconds to escape Chernobyl before the reactor blows.

Yes, this is an extreme jump between Normal and Hard and it's a very, very accurate jump. Hard mode eviscerates your friends who just happen to be watching you play. There are two achievements for the 360 which must be done in hard mode, and I have not completed them yet, but am slowly making my way through Hard mode to get them. One involves turning off all the Vita Chambers in the game so you cannot be instantly revived at one if you are to die. Vita Chambers are pretty much useless throughout the game if I'm honest. In easy and normal mode, I left them on... why not? But I didn't die at all in either difficulty setting, so their effectiveness was rather lost. In hard mode however, that's where they would be most useful and yet, the achievement decides you cut your eyes out at every turn. I hear there is another difficulty for the PS3 which is beyond hard, but the sheer terror this thought inflicts upon me has yet
to be formed into human words. Leading to the other Hard mode achievement: Brass Balls. Beating the game on hard mode. Some tips I learned for hard mode? Hack everything you can, every camera you see, every turret, every security bot.. they WILL come in handy have no doubt. Enrage, Target Dummy, and Security Bullseye are your dear friends. You will not survive long without them. Always hack first aid units, they will poison a Splicer if they try to use the and you've hacked it. Telekinesis is a great tool for Nitro splicers and Rosie's. Choose your ammo wisely... if you fight Splicers or such use those anti personal rounds and for armoured enemies make sure you have armour piercing rounds. Electro bucks are always nice too. Your grenade launcher has some nice bombs in it, figure out when best to use them... don't underestimate proximity mines. SAVE OFTEN. Because you can't use Vita Chambers in Hard mode, if you want the achievement, you will rely on saves you make to return you when you die... and you WILL die. I saved after each Splicer battle, after finding first aid kits, after hacking. It may seem an inconvenience, but it is vital to your game, and after a bit, it doesn't take long to quickly save at all. The vital and imminent death in Hard mode really changes the game. Even if you've played it 20 times on easy or normal, the threat of death takes on a whole new meaning. Corridors are darker, enemies seem tougher ( and of course they are tougher... a lot tougher ).

I could go on for hours about this game, but I'll stop here for now. Overall, Bioshock is great. Besides what I've mentioned, I honestly can't think of any other flaws the game has. It is a near perfect game with incredible replay. As an FPS game, many people are turned off by it, saying it's not for them, and it's true, it might not be. But it's not your average FPS game. A few of my own friends who do not enjoy an FPS game have played it and felt they enjoyed it quite a lot. With game play, graphics, and sound as I have stated, it really has a unique way of pulling you in and holding you. I recommend this game with all my heart for the 360, and if you don't have a 360, have a go at the PC version. It's great as well.

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