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November 18, 2008
Bioshock - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
17/10/20082K Games2K Games2K Marin, Australia & Boston,Digital Extremes1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Visually PS3 Bioshock impresses.
I'll admit that in the early days when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were first duking it out, cross-platform games made the PS3 look… well... quite inferior to be honest. People were paying a premium for the PS3 which quite often had games which were better looking/playing on the Xbox 360. Fortunately developers have since had a bit of time to get used to the PS3 development environment and the tricks and tweaks of the trade, and many cross-platform games are now starting to shine on the PS3. Bioshock has been out for over a year now on the Xbox 360 and PC, and to great accolade – making it on many game-of-the-year lists for 2007. So has an extra 12 months resulted in something just as good if not better for the PS3? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

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The PS3 exclusive Bioshock Carnival area.
Bioshock is set in 1960 in a sci-fi underwater dystopian city known as Rapture. (err… dystopian? It's the opposite of utopian; a society which was designed to be perfect yet has completely degraded). You play the role of a guy by the name of Jack, a passenger on a plane which crashes somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Being the sole survivor, you swim to a nearby island where you discover a strange underwater elevator which takes you deep below the ocean's surface. What awaits below… an entire underwater city with an eerie neon glow to it. What's more eerie however, is the lack of people – the city appears to have been abandoned with many parts in ill-repair with leaks and cave-ins. But while there's a notable absence of people, Rapture isn't completely lifeless…

Rapture was the creation of a business magnate Andrew Ryan, where the inhabitants were encouraged to use plasmids – the fruits of accelerated genetic engineering research. These plasmids would give people anything from increased strength, stamina and beauty, to telekenesis, fire and hacking powers. Greed and overuse of plasmids caused their use to get out of control however, leaving the remaining citizens of Rapture as ‘Splicers' – zombie-like people who scanvenge the city. ‘Little Sisters' (creepy little girls) and ‘Big Daddies' (their guardians – the big diving suit sentinels) also roam occasionally, and play an important role in the game, which you'll soon discover.

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That's a fist you don't want in your face!
Upon arriving in Rapture, Jack finds a radio which has a human on the other end, Atlas. Atlas is in effect your guide during the game, and during the early stages he narrates you through a sub-conscious tutorial to the controls and gameplay. Through this, as well as numerous audio diaries which are littered throughout Rapture, you begin to learn the history of its rise and subsequent fall, and how it came to be in its current tattered state. Atlas has his own agenda however, and proceeds to guide you to his wife and child who are trapped in a remote part of Rapture; it is this adventure which leads you through to bigger and greater events in Bioshock's plot.

While Bioshock is a first person shooter, it doesn't completely rely on a guns blazing approach. Plasmids which you pick up throughout the game will give you additional powers to help you along your way. Some plasmids will let you set splicers alight, and others will make them seem offensive towards security drone guns and cameras – so Rapture's security system will quite happily destroy them for you. It's a clever way of doing things, and lets you play the game how you want to play it rather than being forced to go down a particular offensive approach. They're implemented in an RPG-like ‘slots' way, where you can only enable a limited number of plasmids at a time to suit your style.

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Another impressive PS3 BioShock screen.
The engine in Bioshock is as good as it gets for a first person shooter game like this – it feels and moves as you'd expect, and there's never a moment where you're let down by sloppy controls; here if you stuff up, it's your fault. Environments are on the whole slightly claustrophobic (understandably, being underwater), though this gives the more open rooms and areas a greater presence when you encounter them. The audio diaries mentioned earlier, together with ammo and other pickups are hidden in a ‘logical' manner; unlike some games which hide things in ridiculous ledges 10 floors up, items in Bioshock reward the player for exploring, yet in sensible places (the trophy for collecting all audio diaries will have you scouring the levels to make sure you've got them all).

Bioshock is a hard game to fault; everything it does, it does really well. The story behind the game is riveting and will keep you playing just to find out more (though I'm not wanting to dwell on it for fear of letting spoilers slip), and for once the game remembers the choices you make and depending on some save-or-slaughter decisions that you impose upon the Little Sisters, will impact the ending of the story. And with multiple endings, you've got no choice but to play through the game multiple times... and with Bioshock, that's a good thing mind you.

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One of the new BioShock challenges.
If I were forced to point the finger at an annoying problem or two, you're not completely penalised for dying in the game. Lose all your energy, and you'll be reincarnated back at the last spawn point (vita-chamber as they're known) with a little health, a little eve (plasmid ‘ammo'), and the level exactly as you left it. So, if you're fighting a tough Big Daddy and you have little ammo and poor plasmids, you can get two swipes in at him with your wrench, then die, then do it again, then die, then rinse, lather repeat etc. So I guess if you're persistent enough you could kill him without wasting a bullet. It's a cheap tactic to use once or twice, but once you improve at the game you'll be wiser and stronger and won't bother with being so petty.

In the screenshots, Bioshock is a stunner, which evolves into a sexy beast when you see it running in motion. All the right boxes here are checked; detailed characters and textures, brilliant dynamic lighting and shadow effects, no slowdown, imaginative environments and architecture; everything looks like it's right out of a 60s sci-fi dream, kind of like Bladerunner meets the Dharma initiative (yes, I'm a Lost nerd). Then add in brilliant water effects (ripples and reflections, as well as warping), fire and steam/smoke, and there's barely a graphical stone left unturned here. It's sexy. Period.

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Check out the stunning water effects.
Bioshock's sound effects are top notch and high production values are evident here. Whether it's the memorable sound of the Big Daddies walking around (which you'll hear well before you see them), the voiceovers of the audio diaries, or the elaborate score, it's all been produced to a high standard. You know too that when the developer 2K Games have the Bioshock score available for download on their website, they've done something right – give it a listen, it sounds as though it's right out of a feature film, and just listening to it gives me flashbacks of moments throughout the game.

It's weird that playing through Bioshock, it technically does everything that's expected in a survival horror game; being alone in an unknown place, much darkness, with zombie weirdo bad guys galore, limited ammo, etc. However what makes Bioshock stand out from the crowd, and in fact that genre, is that it fills in the rest of the blanks by building a believable world around of this, and tells its story oh so well. Rather than concentrating on the surprise factor with sudden explosions and baddies popping up behind you, much of the thriller is played out in your head, aided by the audio diaries in the game. As this game stood last year for the Xbox 360 and PC releases, it's no wonder that it was several media outlets' choice for game-of-the-year. However, with the PS3 version's extra downloadable content due out on November 20th, trophy support, and a new hard-as-nuts survivor mode, there's no reason that Bioshock won't be up there battling it out for Futuregamez's top spot at the end of 2008.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSThink Gisele Bundchen if she were a videogame.
SOUNDBrilliant effects, and the musical score is to die for.
GAMEPLAYIt's as much an interactive story as it is playing a game - brilliant.
VALUEPerhaps a touch short, but you'll be back for the multiple endings.
OVERALLJust because the PS3 version of Bioshock is a year late to the party, it doesn't mean it's any less of a game than the GOTY version which graced the PC and Xbox 360 last year. Play/buy/hire this, because they'll be comparing other FPSs to this for a long while to come.

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