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Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: First Person Shooter/ RPG/ Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
"Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?" Is a gamer not entitled to an excellent port of one of 2007's greatest games? Of course, they are. BioShock has finally made its way onto the PlayStation 3 console and it is every bit as amazing and wonderful as it was a year ago. 2k Marin and Digital Extremes mostly handled the port and the most noticeable difference is that there is no difference. It just as it was a year ago.

Given the recent titles that have had trouble porting over to the PS3, (like Fallout and The Orange Box) BioShock is nearly identical in every way to its Xbox 360 counterpart. Textures look incredible like the water effects, (which are some of the best in gaming to this day.) All of the characters look believable and creepy and Big Daddies still convey a menacing feeling. The underwater city of Rapture is brought to life in every way possible just short of swimming to the bottom of the ocean with a construction crew. It feels vibrant, enormous, dynamic, but most of all it feels believable.

A major part of the experience is definitely the voice work. Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture, is fully realized with some of the most memorable dialogue moments in years. His climatic speech is delivered so dramatically, that it sent chills down my spine... again. You know it is something special when a game can be played numerous times over a year and you still get spooked when a plea for help echoes around the corner.

Another part the creators spent time with was the ambient atmosphere. The instantly recognizable sound of a Big Daddy permeates the entire level and hearing the boards creak under his weight really ups the commitment level for other industry developers. Once you come across a Big Daddy and you have taken the Little Sister, the Big Daddy groans and wanders aimlessly around the level and cries out for a Little Sister to come play with him. I followed one around an entire level and he beat on every vent he came across and I haven't felt a sense of heartbreak like that since Shadow of the Colossus.

To those of you that aren't familiar with BioShock, it is a story about a man named Andrew Ryan who built an underwater city to escape the oppression from the surface world. The city, known as Rapture, is home to medical marvels and scientific breakthroughs. Rare inventions called plasmids were created to genetically alter its user's DNA. Without giving too much away, your character crash lands in the ocean and finds his way into Rapture after complete chaos has broken loose and the city has torn itself apart.

BioShock is two things. First, it is a shooter and then it is an RPG. Delivering on the shooter aspect first was essential to make compelling gameplay and that distinction is important. Doing that makes it more accessible to more people. By being too stat heavy, it would have created moments where it wouldn't feel like aiming for the head did much good. But by creating a damn good shooter at the start, BioShock is able to redefine the genre. It is a near perfect amount of addiction. Mixing and matching run and gun gameplay with intelligent strategy creates something new and refreshing. It creates a reason to keep playing after you die.

And you will die, but it won't be permanent. After every life lost, you will be revived at checkpoints called Vita-Chambers. They are a blessing and a curse, really. It is good that death isn't too punishable, but it also sucks when the nearest Vita-Chamber was two screens over and getting back to where you were is an exercise in reflexes to not get killed again.

The meat of the game devotes itself to the exploitation of its plasmids. Like I said earlier, plasmids are DNA enhancing power-ups. There are different types of plasmids including combat, physical, and engineering plasmids. There are some plasmids that shoot out an electrical shock to an enemy. There are even some that can make hacking safes and sentry turrets easier. There are over 50 plasmids and each one adds a level of strategy in how you approach each situation.

Using plasmids is tricky though. The main resource for plasmids is a genetic material called Adam. Adam is a very hot commodity in Rapture and there is a unique character that travels around the city extracting Adam and she is called a Little Sister. She carries all of the Adam, so in order to get it you either have to kill her or rescue her. Oh, it isn't that easy because she is protected by a hulking behemoth known as a Big Daddy. He is very hostile about her safety, so if you want to get her Adam, you have to go through him.

Each Big Daddy essentially acts as a mini-boss for each level. Sometimes there are more than one Big Daddy per level, but the more you kill, the easier it becomes to take them down. Arguably, that first Big Daddy you come across is going to be the toughest of them all simply because you don't have the resources to come up with cool strategies yet.

There are plenty of little things that help define the city and one of the most important things are the audio diaries scattered throughout the destroyed halls of Rapture. There are hundreds of tapes that chronicle everything from security codes on elevator doors to how Rapture went to hell in a hand basket. If you want to soak in the entire story, these tell key parts that won't be spoon fed to you in the cinematic scenes. But, you could also ignore them entirely if you wanted. It is completely optional and not necessary.

While it is generally a somewhat linear experience, BioShock succeeds where most other games fail like creating incredibly memorable characters and set pieces. One great example is a man named Sander Cohen who refuses to assist you until you create a work of art for him that requires certain grizzly means in acquiring the canvas. The entire cast of BioShock is demented, insane, and crazy but at the same time endearing and somehow relatable. Story-telling doesn't get much better than this. It sets a new standard for what new games should hold themselves to and it deserves to be played.

Difficulty is quickly becoming a revolution in its own right. BioShock starts the game on a default setting, but at any moment you can go into the options Menu and change the overall difficulty between Easy, Normal, Hard, and Survivor or just use one option to turn off Vita-Chambers for the rest of the game. If ever you get the feeling that it is becoming too overwhelming and you just want to explore for a bit, you can drop it down to Easy, collect some money or hack a safe and then ratchet back up to Hard and experiment with different weapon and plasmid combos.

Something that you might find tricky no matter what difficulty is knowing when to bring certain plasmids with you. There are Gene Banks around that let you manage your plasmids and sometimes it might just be time to break out the Insect Swarm, but you left it at the Gene Bank. It could make for an arbitrarily harder experience but at no point in the game are you left without the means to achieve victory. Winning is literally at your fingertips... whether those fingertips have a small spark of electricity in them is your call.

Game Mechanics:
Really, there are only two small complaints that can be said about BioShock. First, the weapon lay out and controls should be customizable. Second, the map in the Select screen is overly complicated.

BioShock handles just like any other FPS. The Left stick controls movement and the Right stick handles where to aim your boomstick. To fire your weapon or plasmid, you press (R2) and (L2) respectively. It would be really nice to be able to customize the controller layout, but everything is locked in place. You press (R1) to cycle through available ones and hold it down to bring up a quick select Menu. The same is true for plasmids with the (L1) button. Personally, I think it would have been improved to have the button choices swapped. Firing with (R1) and cycling with (R2) just seems more natural for the DualShock 3 controller.

Now, the map is something they added that just confuses me. It confuses me to look at it and confuses me to wonder why they added it in the game. There are multiple levels to many of the areas you travel through and the map does not break up the visual info into different levels like Zelda, but instead has all of the areas in the level represented side by side with arrows pointing to where certain doors lead. Why bother? Throughout the entire game, there is a giant arrow at the top of the screen that is pointing in the direction that you are supposed to be heading anyways. Why have maps if the game is going to hold your hand through the whole level? These are the only things that ever bothered me over the year the game has been out, but they are just small blemishes on an otherwise remarkable game.

Finally, PlayStation 3 owners have something to brag about to Xbox 360 players because BioShock is getting exclusive content in the form of challenge rooms. These rooms aren't squeezed into the regular game, but instead accessed from the main Menu and will offer unique puzzles and adventures for a small price. The DLC will be 10 bucks and will release on November 20th. Oh, almost forgot to mention that the DLC will have its own set of trophies and difficulty modes. Enticed yet?

In short, BioShock is just as good as it was a year ago and will most likely be just as good five years from now on the PS4. If you missed it the first time around or had to wait because you had a PS3, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Now, would you kindly look around and make some scratch to go out and buy this game?

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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