Let me preface this article by saying that if you have not played BioShock yet, you shouldn’t read after the spoiler warning – heck, ideally, you shouldn’t read any reviews at all – this one included. In fact, you should stop reading anything and everything about BioShock and begin punching your friends who talk about it in the mouth until they shut up about it. Then, will you kindly please buy a copy, and upgrade your computer or buy/borrow/rent/steal an Xbox 360 to play it. Your platform of choice doesn’t really matter. Or go be a parasite and pirate the PC version, since apparently that’s what 2K wants you to do considering the disincentives they give you to buying it by implementing such draconian copy protection measures. Measures that, may I add, failed anyway seeing as the game was available through pirate channels before retail.
In fact, you probably even shouldn’t read this review at all. The game is just that good and that subtle, that potentially cluing yourself into some things you may want to look for is bad enough.
Before I begin the spoilers, I will say this in case you need any more encouragement: BioShock is art. As a game, it is great but feels only good because the gameplay is quite simply blown away by the story and storytelling. Contrary to all comments otherwise, BioShock isn’t a revolutionary game – it is merely a combination of System Shock and Jedi Knight, with a bit of Half-Life thrown in. Again, if it wasn’t for the story, the previous sentence would seem ridiculous because who doesn’t want System Shock, Jedi Knight, and Half-Life all in one package?
It is the story itself that is magic, the writing, the exposition, the way everything in the game comes together to tell it all. Things that don’t make sense or just seem so weird that you automatically kick the “suspension of disbelief because it’s just a stupid game” button are slowly revealed to make a whole lot of sense within the game and are, in fact, often tragic. In fact, BioShock interweaves multiple tales of tragedy to tell not only a story but also argue philosophy and deliver a scathing indictment against Ayn Rand and her Objectivism. George Bernard Shaw, the great critic himself, would tip his hat to Irrational for BioShock. Finally, the game is a metaphor for gaming itself and the illusions we live under.
Half-Life and Half-Life 2, as great as they are, merely mastered the art of storytelling through gameplay. As good as their story is, it is merely a game story and has no greater message to deliver. BioShock argues on all fronts, and delivers.
But before we go into the spoilers and my gushing about how absolutely fantastic BioShock is, let us briefly discuss the gameplay since this is nominally a review of the game itself.