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Monday, October 13, 2014

Game Review:Bioshock

Premise:A plane crash survivor finds a strange underwater city full of extremists and violent drug addicts.

Cast:
Adam Sietz as Jack, Armin Shimerman as Andrew Ryan, Karl Hanover as Atlas, Anne Bobby as Brigid Tenenbaum, Juliet Landau as the Little Sisters, Stephen Stanton as the Big Daddies, Susanne Blakeslee as Professor Julie Langford, Ritchie Coster as Bill McDonagh, Peter Francis James as Dr. J.S. Steinman, Miriam Shor as Diane McClintock, T. Ryder Smith as Sander Cohen, James Yaegashi as Dr. Yi Suchong


Available On:
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Mac


ESRB Rating:
M for blood and gore, drug references, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language


Genres:
Action, horror, first-person shooter, sci-fi


Notes:
Box art taken from IMDB.


Pros:
Conveys quite a sense of horror. Tricky villains. Engrossing story and world. The fun of collecting stuff.


Cons:
Annoying hints. Badly timed subtitles. Brief freezes. Mildly irritating controls. Anti-climatic bosses. Graphics could be better.



Let's say your plane crashed in the ocean, with only one nearby land mass. Now when you go in, you get a pre-recorded speech about how this guy is sick of being told whom the sweat of his brow belongs to. And that he wants a place where artists need not fear censorship and where scientists won't worry about morality. (That last one should be setting off alarm bells in your head.)

And now even the "something-terrible-happened-here" creepiness gets tossed out the window and replaced with "holy-crap-that-thing-just-gutted-a-guy-with-a-hook." Welcome to Rapture, the project of one Andrew Ryan. Everything was going great, until human nature got in the way. But what were you expecting when you take a bunch of people and encourage them to look out only for themselves? Now they all wander the city in search of ADAM (a genetic wonder drug) and its companion EVE.

As you can see, this game gets kind of freaky. Not only is the place a wreck full of corpses and debris, most everyone you encounter is in a frenzied state, a malevolent schemer, or most often both (and you could be too). And that's not even getting into the Little Sisters and the Big Daddies. It's the kind of horror that's both disturbing and fascinating. And it worked very well. Just wandering the areas alone can be kind of scary. I just got absorbed in the story and the world. It's not unlike something you'd see on The Twilight Zone.

I also loved the villains in this game. I can't really get into why without risking spoilers, but I can tell you they are crafty and monstrous guys. Whoever wrote them deserves a round of applause. However, don't expect a lot from the boss fights. Most of them aren't that challenging or noteworthy, not even the final boss.


Gameplay was pretty entertaining. You look around, keeping an eye out for the inhabitants and searching for assorted treasures. Looking around for the radio diaries can take up a lot of the game (and it gets you further into the story, which is cool).

One thing that bugged me was the hints. They flash onscreen constantly (depending on the difficultly level) and treat you like you can't do anything yourself. And unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to shut them off. Anything you absolutely need to collect will be glowing yellow, which can make it too easy. 


You may not want to bother with the subtitles - they're consistently off time and won't play certain dialogue. The controls were sometimes frustrating (I tried to hack a camera, hit the wrong button, and ended up wasting all my EVE). And finally, their were several small freezes. Nothing that required me to restart, but it was kind of annoying.

Overall, I liked this game and would recommend it to someone looking for something kind of disturbing and who can handle a few flaws.


Sex:You enter can enter some strip clubs (though the performers are long gone). Advertisements with PG-13 nudity for them are in the background. You see a brief genetic memory of a woman pole-dancing. A guy wonders in an audio diary why a man keeps a creepy woman around when he can have any woman he wants. Someone else mentions Ryan doesn't get much respect from the middle class because he's a rich guy having sex with models.

A woman mentions having sex with a man for several weeks to get information. References are made to breast implants and breastfeeding. Ryan compares "parasites" to rapists. One of the bosses you fight is nude, but has no genitals. Ryan lives with a woman named Diane McClintock, but visits a stripper.

Violence:
You will spend much of the game beating, burning, freezing, electrocuting, blowing up, and shooting enemies until they die. And there is some blood when that happens.
 Dead bodies are scattered around, some implicitly because of suicide. 
A big theme of the game is child abuse and murder. The Little Sisters produce and carry ADAM, making them the target of everyone nearby. The Big Daddies are designed to protect them, brutally killing anyone that comes near. You have the option of killing the girls to get their ADAM (though you are encouraged not to). Should you choose to harvest them, the screen will turn cloudy green and reveal the symbiote that produces the wonder drug. Other unfortunate girls are mentioned or shown to have been killed, which in most cases you can't prevent.
A corrupt plastic surgeon performs his own visions of "beauty" on his patients (with some pretty gruesome results). An artist kills to create what he considers great works, with plaster statues of people all over. A woman is killed with poison gas. In a cut scene, your character beats a man to death with a golf club, making a bloody mess of his face. A man rants about tearing out someone's heart for killing his family.
A Big Daddy kills a splicer by drilling into him and beating him against a window. In a radio diary, you overhear a man dying in a similar way (you find his body pinned beneath a drill). One of the plasmids you use causes bees to make honeycomb out of your arm. Offscreen, a young boy is forced to kill his pet puppy.

Language/Insults:"
F**k", "G*dd**n", "J*sus", "Chr*st", "sh*t", "bloody" (and "bleeding"), "bas**rd", "d**n", "h*ll", "b**ch", "t*t", "wh*re", and p*ss are all used. A female doctor is called "kraut" and is insulted by various people.

Drugs/Alcohol:
Most of the people you encounter are junkies. Only the drugs they're after are not just for getting high, they give you superpowers. They also disfigure you and destroy your mind if you use too much. And you'll be using plenty yourself.
 Some people smoke. A few bodies are located near bottles of pills, implying suicide. Cigars appear in the background.
There are bottles of booze scattered around which you can drink to gain health (but it drains your EVE). If you drink too much in a short time period, your vision gets fuzzy and you hiccup. The more you drink, the longer it takes for this to wear off. There are also cigarettes around, which you can smoke for EVE (but you'll lose health). A man mentions he survived a massacre because he had good opium.

Spiritual:
The two big drugs that everybody's after are called ADAM and EVE (how subtle). A few of the splicers talk about God and sing hymns like "Jesus Loves Me" or "Amazing Grace". But that's nothing compared to the portrayal of the city's atheist founder, Andrew Ryan. While he speaks derisively of religion and those who practice it, he fanatically abides by his own principles even when it destroys everything. He calls the Bible "the book of lies", though he admits Ecclesiastes 3 does have truth in it. When he talks about "parasites", he often quotes them saying things about God.
At the beginning, you see a banner that says "No Gods or Kings. Only men." In some areas, you find Bibles and crucifixes scattered about. Corpses are strung up in a crucifix-like manner. The Little Sisters often mention angels (meaning corpses, though they see dead bodies as angels) and are called abominations. A plastic surgeon believes he was visited by the goddess Aphrodite. What he believes she told him inspires him to do all sorts of nasty things to his patients.
There's mention of some kind of cult. Atlas remarks the Lord hates a quitter. A villain is called the Devil himself. A strip club is called Eve's Garden and ads for it entice comers to "bite the apple." Someone seeing the splicers for the first time compares them to demons from the Bible. A woman calls it a sin to let even one girl die.


So what was your opinion?


© 2014 by M.R.R.

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