BioShock was one of the best games ever released for seventh-gen consoles. It truly was a next-gen game that combined a unique setting and a fantastic story with good shooting mechanics and a variety of ways to build your own unique playstyle. The game is still beloved by fans to this very day. But is BioShock still worth playing today?
How well has the game aged, how does it compare to other first-person shooters on the market, and does it still deserve its fame? Most importantly, should you still play it? We will be answering these questions and more in this article!
Should You Play BioShock in 2023?
So without any more delays, let’s dive into the main article!
BioShock is a first-person shooter that borrows elements from RPGs and immersive sims. The game takes place in the city of Rapture, an underwater dystopia that has fallen into anarchy and chaos. You are a man named Jack, and your plane has crashed over the Atlantic Ocean where Rapture was built. After narrowly surviving your crash, you stumble upon a lighthouse that leads to the city below.
Upon your arrival, you are greeted by a man whose family is being threatened by Andrew Ryan, the bloody “king” of Rapture! From here, you’ll gain your first weapons and quickly see just how far Rapture has fallen. You’ll also gain access to plasmids, a type of biotechnology that enables users to do things like shoot lightning from their hands and use telekinesis to throw objects across the room!
The game was well received by players and critics alike upon its release on August 21, 2007. Many people loved the shooting mechanics and the plasmids, and how they worked together. The creepy atmosphere and the horror elements were also loved. And of course, who can forget the unique and fascinating location of an art deco, objectivist dystopia hidden beneath the waves of the Atlantic?
Shooting & Weapons
The core gameplay component of BioShock is its shooting. The shooting itself is a bit clunky by modern standards, and it isn’t as smooth as something you’d find in most FPS games. But after going back and playing it, I still found it very enjoyable to play despite its age. The game gives you access to a variety of different weapons, from fast-firing automatic Tommy guns to big and explosive grenade launchers!
My favorite part about these weapons is the look of them. Each of them are inscribed with art deco details that really fit in with the setting of Rapture. It allows the guns to look different from what you would find in other FPS games while allowing you to kill in style. If you dislike being able to only carry two guns at a time in BioShock Infinite, you will want to play the first one, as you have access to every weapon in the game at once.
One of my favorite parts about the shooting in the game is the multiple ammo types you have access to. You can use metal jacket rounds to tear through armor, as well as a type of shotgun slug that deals fire damage to unarmored enemies! These multiple ammo types make combat much more engaging. And certain ones allow you to do special things like set traps for you to lure your enemies into!
Plasmids & Builds
One of the absolute best things about BioShock is the plasmids and how they enable you to kill enemies in unique and interesting ways. Plasmids are essentially “spell casting” in the BioShock world. You can snap your fingers to set enemies on fire, or mind-control enemies to attack others for you! This really compliments the shooting mentioned earlier, and it can lead to a lot of fun gameplay moments.
As for the builds in the game, while BioShock isn’t a full-on RPG, it has some elements of one. As you travel throughout the ruins of Rapture, you can acquire tonics. These are basically “skills” that give you buffs to certain weapons and equipment. For example, I got one that allows you to turn invisible when you don’t move, and another that lets me deal more damage with my wrench. This let me turn Jack into a sneaky, assassin-like character who killed most of his enemies by hitting them while undetected!
Plasmids and tonics combined can lead to a wide variety of different builds and playstyles. This gives the game a lot of replayability. This sort of thing has been simplified greatly in BioShock Infinite. That is a shame as they were one thing that made BioShock stand out from the crowd. If you are looking for an action RPG to play, BioShock may not completely scratch that itch, but it will tide you over with its RPG elements.
Immersive Sim Elements
What a perfect segue to talk about the immersive sim elements found in BioShock! BioShock is an interesting case — it’s not a full-on immersive sim, but it does have some elements of one. You can see this with the Big Daddies in the game. They are large, lumbering enemies that are peaceful by default but can be antagonized at any time. Killing them gives you rare rewards, and they are a core part of the game.
Using your plasmids, tonics, weapons, and the environment, you can create a trap of your own unique design to bring them down. You can do things like hack into turrets and drones to have them fight the Big Daddy for you! You can lead a Big Daddy to a body of water and electrocute it. This stuns it and gives you the chance to strike. And you can set up traps with certain ammo types mentioned earlier.
In the modern day, there are quite a few immersive sims on the market. There has been a resurgence of the genre lately, especially in the indie game industry. With so much competition, does BioShock stand a chance among immersive sim fans? There are absolutely better immersive sims out there than BioShock. But BioShock’s shooting, plasmids, and tonics combined with its unique setting, story and atmosphere are enough to make it stand out from the rest and still make it worth playing to this day.
Setting & Horror Elements
Probably the most beloved thing about BioShock is its unique setting. It takes place in the underwater city of Rapture. It is an art deco utopian paradise turned into a horrific testament to free markets gone wrong. The first step-out moment when you take a ride from the lighthouse into the city is just unreal, and it’s one of the best moments in gaming.
As you descend deeper into the city, you come across a variety of horrors. The most notable is the splicers. These are drugged-up denizens who are desperately scavenging the city for Adam, a resource needed for their plasmids. As they wander through the abandoned corridors of the city, you can hear them mumbling to themselves and others. This really sells the horror vibe the game goes for.
BioShock isn’t a full-on horror game, it just has horror elements. If you are looking to be scared, there are plenty of better alternatives for you nowadays. But I would argue that BioShock is better than many of these as it takes a more well-written approach to horror. The real horror comes in seeing how far Rapture has fallen and seeing how insane some of the notable figures of the city have become….
Story: Characters & Themes
Along your journey in Rapture, you come across a huge variety of unique and interesting characters. You see how some of the most famous and well-respected members of the city turned out after everything went to Hell, and that is one of the best parts of the game. On one level, you meet a man named Sander Cohen. He was a former artist and play writer for Rapture, now long gone and insane.
When you first meet him in Fort Frolic, he strapped a splicer to the seat of a piano, forcing him to play. If he makes one wrong note the piano explodes, and he dies. Later on, he tasks you with killing various people and taking pictures of their corpses. This is so they can be displayed in an art exhibit he is making. It’s creepy, but a great example of “show, don’t tell” writing to illustrate just how far Rapture has fallen and how there’s no going back.
The themes of the story are showcased in-game very well. The opening speech by Andrew Ryan as you descend into the city tells you of Ryan’s belief system and what lead him to create Rapture. For those unaware, Andrew Ryan is an Objectivist, which is a philosophy created by Russian writer Ayn Rand. The story critiques her views of the free market and how such a system would lead to disaster if it would be enacted in real life.
So many games nowadays are afraid to tackle controversial stuff, but BioShock sinks its teeth in deep with it. If you loved philosophy or games which try to allude to a bigger story or idea, then this game is for you. And even if you’re not one for philosophy, the story as a whole is amazing and it features one of the best plot twists in gaming.
[SPOILER WARNING] Story: Plot Twists & Ending
You might want to skip over this section if you’ve yet to play the game and don’t want the big twist spoiled for you. As you go along in your quest to find Andrew Ryan and escape the city of Rapture, you are constantly being given instructions and commands by a certain individual named Atlas. Atlas tells you where to go, who to kill, what to do, etc. All with the alleged goal of helping him find his family.
But once you get to a certain part of the story, the truth is revealed. Atlas is actually a man named Frank Fontaine. He’s been using you this whole time to kill Andrew Ryan and escape the city in which he’s been trapped. And he’s been doing it with a simple phrase: Would you kindly? As it turns out, you’re actually a brainwashed sleeper agent who can be commanded to do anything and everything with this one simple phrase. And it’s why you’ve been helping him this whole time.
The part where this twist is revealed is very well-written — I still remember my reaction to it to this very day. It’s a really good twist that not only connects to Ryan’s philosophy of “A man chooses, a slave obeys,” but it comments on how often players will blindly follow objectives in games. Regardless of how old BioShock is, it will always be worth playing for this plot twist alone.
As for the rest of the ending of the game, it does go pretty downhill after this twist and after the death of Ryan. Rather than just ending the game there…you’re now tasked with tracking down and killing Atlas, the man who used you. This part is fairly long and drawn out, but it doesn’t ruin the game.
Conclusion: Is BioShock Still Worth Playing Now?
If you love first-person shooters and are a fan of immersive sims, then yes, BioShock is still worth playing now. The shooting may feel clunky to some, but it’s still fun and enjoyable. Combined with the plasmids and the tonics, you have lots of freedom in how you want to play the game. While it may be a bit lighter on the immersive sim elements, it’s still a must-play for fans of the genre.
And ignoring the gameplay for a second, the story and characters in this game are top-notch. BioShock popularized the idea of environmental storytelling and paved the way for many games in the future to do the same. The horror elements are well done and they really add a lot to the game’s unique setting. And speaking of which, Rapture is still just as amazing as it was all the way back in 2007.
If anything, the older graphics have added more to the charm and feel of the game. I would personally consider this game to be much better than BioShock Infinite, as its systems feel much more in-depth and complex. The story is easier to understand and is also better in many ways. While you won’t be shedding as many tears as some more recent triple-AAA games, the plot twists are what really make this game.
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