Bargain Bin Gaming: Bioshock

A hybrid first-person shooter/role-playing game, “BioShock” harkens back to classics like “System Shock 2” and “Deus Ex.” Just as those games took the genre to a higher level, “Bio­Shock” too has set a new standard for the style; building upon what its predecessors did while adding some new features that are sure to be­come staples in video games.

Set in 1960, “BioShock” takes place in Rap­ture, an underwater city built by rich industrial­ist Andrew Ryan. Disgusted with the Cold War, Ryan tries to build a new way of life. Eventually, Ryan and his underlings make several scientific breakthroughs of the genetic variety, but those very discoveries become Rapture’s undoing.

After your character survives a plane crash, he ends up at the city’s entrance. What once was a beautiful metropolis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has degenerated into a festering hellhole, filled with mutated freaks running around try­ing to destroy one another. Upon arrival, you will receive a radio transmission from a mysterious man named Atlas, who promises to help you in exchange for helping him rescue his family.

As your adventure progresses, you will be met with increasingly fierce levels of opposition: From the mutants, known throughout Rapture as “splicers,” to the frightening combination of Little Sisters and Big Daddies, a tandem of characters that play a pivotal role throughout the game. Ul­timately, your greatest foe is Ryan himself, who seems intent to let his creation destroy itself and takes offense to your interference.

The most fun you’ll have in “BioShock” is when you are forced to become a splicer yourself, augmenting your body with various powers and abilities that make life in Rapture a lot easier. The gifts you receive range from electrically shocking your enemies, freezing them in place, scorching them with flames, or even causing them to be at­tacked by a horde of bees.

You’ll want to play “BioShock” more than once because of the role-playing aspect of the game, which allows you to build and customize your character’s power stable. You may not use certain powers very often in one play, but you can go a totally different route the next time.

As good as the gameplay is, the best part of “BioShock” may be the quality of the audio and the visuals. The game looks and sounds amazing. As you make your way through a wide variety of environments, you’ll be stunned by how many little details you’ll see and how many cool sounds you’ll hear that make you feel as if you really are trapped in Rapture. The game’s atmosphere al­ways succeeds in creeping you out, as in the level when you’ll constantly be fearing attacks from splicers, while a near-by jukebox plays classic songs from the era, like Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.”

The character models are wonderfully done and the plot-progressing radio messages you hear throughout the game, as well as the chatter from the bad guys, are nicely done too.

Overall, “BioShock” wasn’t just one of the best games of 2008, it’s among of the best games of all time. A few years down the road, when you see a list of the best video games, “BioShock” is sure to be near the top.

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