I recently finished Bioshock for PS3 & it kind of blew me away how sophisticated video games have become.
Having grown up owning most of the major video game systems ever created, from Atari 2600 to the PS3, I have witnessed first hand the evolution of the art & technology involved.
Playing games like Pitfall & PacMan were adequate back when I was 5yrs old, but even then I had some idea that there was room for alot of improvement.
Experiencing a game like Bioshock is like a whole different universe. Modern games like this one engage the player on multiple levels. There is the intense action of a first person shooter, as well as the intellectual challenge of puzzles & moral choices. Of course, the amazing HD graphics on games like this can make you want to just look around at the virtual environment. As a designer, I am easily enthralled by the detail that goes into the visual aspects of a game. Bioshock's locations have a unique look inspired by early 20th century Art Deco style, but the twisted fate of the place is reflected in the deteriorating facade.
In Bioshock, you find yourself at the bottom of the ocean- in a city called Rapture, one man's utopia gone wrong. The city has degraded due to addiction to a genetic tonic that gives people superhuman powers. There are now zombie-like genetic mutants called Splicers roaming the areas that you encounter. You acquire different superpowers as the game progresses, and you end up having an awesome arsenal of ordinary weapons like guns on one hand & crazy powers like incinerate, freeze, telekenesis, etc. on the other.
The undersea environment gives the game a unique mood that is effectively creepy & very cool. This is enhanced by the occasional rumblings of a large creature in a diving suit walking around, called a Big Daddy. These behemoths protect eerie girls called Little Sisters who harvest the genetic tonic from Splicer corpses around the city.
These Little Sisters are the source of tonic for your powers, so you have to deal with them by either saving them... or harvesting the parasite inside them & killing them- which makes you feel like an evil bastard, but gives you significantly more tonic for your powers. To get to these Little Sisters, though, you have to take down the Big Daddies protecting them, which ends up being a major battle.
The addition of moral decisions & emotional responses to situations give depth to game that really puts you into it. I played through saving almost all of the Little Sisters, but the ending still made me out to be a bad guy, which was weird. Apparently you have to save ALL of the Little Sisters to get the 'good' ending.
My only complaint about the game is the repetitive act of having to 'hack' devices through constantly completing the same puzzle- arranging a maze of pipes with liquid flowing through them. Gets old quick.
The game is definitely challenging but I enjoyed it & thought it was great overall. The 'evil' ending I got kind of disappointing, but the entirety of the game is so exceptional that it didn't bug me as much as it might otherwise.
• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 8.5