Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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Rapture was a place unlike any other. Away from prying eyes, deep on the ocean floor, business magnate Andrew Ryan built his ideal city. He picked artists, scientists and industrialists to help him build the society of his dreams, where no man was limited by “parasitic” government. However, the city soon crumbled as unregulated “genetic enhancements” known as plasmids drove inhabitants of the city to madness. Now it is 1960, and one could only wish that Rapture were deserted. Instead, giant guardians roam its halls, trailed by little girls who loot corpses. The former fortune seekers scavenge the halls, killing to survive. Through audio logs, the story slowly unfolds as you fight your way through the desolate underwater city.

Bioshock is one of the first “real” video games I played. Like, I’d played some strategy games as a kid, and I’ve played some verrry old First Person shooters as a baby, basically – but I’d never properly played a shooter from start to end until I played Bioshock. To be honest, the genre had never really interested me. I don’t generally like military stuff, and I usually prefer using magic or a bow and arrow over using a gun. I’m not sure how I came to even play this game, to be honest. If I recall correctly, Matt sold me his X-Box 360 and this is one of the games that came with it.

Bioshock is one of my absolute favourite pieces of media of all time. I actually bought the complete collection on the Switch despite already owning it on several platforms. I did a course on political expression in video games in college, and I presented about Bioshock. I even own the tie-in novel, which I found at the thrift store, lol. I’ve even cosplayed Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite.

What sets Bioshock apart for me, is the setting. I love old stuff. Walking into Rapture for the first time was… terrifying, but unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Even that doesn’t quite cover it, though. I’m not usually a big fan of horror. Bioshock is definitely scary, and the splicers are basically fast zombies (my absolute nightmare), but it doesn’t feel gratuitous.

I’m not the best at following a story like Bioshock’s. The main story takes place in a series of audio logs, and while they give a good idea of the “vibe” of Rapture during its hay-day, I find it hard to fully understand what actually happened in the City. The tie-in novel really helped with that, though. Not that you need to read the book to understand the video game. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to buy the book if I hadn’t stumbled upon it in the least likely place ever.

Other things that I love about Bioshock are the sound design and the atmosphere in general. If you love vintage stuff, desolate places and old-timey music, I’d definitely check this game out. If you’re not scared of horror, that is.

Here I am, rating BioShock three and a half stars – while my curator page says it’s one of my favourite franchises, ever. Allright then – what’s going on?

I really love Bioshock. I remember when I read the first preview for the game in an honest to god paper magazine, with these beautiful atmospheric screenshots and a really exciting promise of a mysterious dieselpunk world full of story and invention. When I finally got to play the game (well after its release, because back then I was a kid and did not have the money to fork over full retail price for new games (remember, even then all my spending money went into buying GW plastic crack)), it blew me away. There was so much to love, from the story and the characters to the beautiful world and the exciting mix of magic and gunplay. An absolute 5-star experience.

So why only a 3,5 star rating? Not bad, but maybe a bit meagre for a game so near to my heart, right?

The honest answer is, it’s nearly fifteen years old. Were I transported back to 2007 and writing this review, I would be stuffing BioShock down your throat will all the strength of my 13-year-old muscles. But in 2020s, I feel the game is starting to show its age. Yes, there has been a remaster, but it could not erase all the game’s problems.

BioShock solves the problem of limited computing power that many shooters had those days by being set in a really cramped world of small, dark corridors with very few open spaces. It’s part of the premise, but it affects the gameplay as well. I found that a large part of the game is running down corridors in which you can hardly see anything. The darkness, the tight spaces and the relatively mediocre textures can be a bit disorienting at times, making it much harder to play for the modern player than, for example, a game from about the same time like Borderlands, set in an open world. BioShock‘s great innovation – being a shooter and an RPG at the same time – is now more or less standard, and measured against today’s yardstick your option are annoyingly (and really unnecessarily) restricted. The environmental storytelling feels a bit clunky because there are very few objects. Enemy character models are relatively samey. Etc. I still really love the game, and I think there are certainly people for whom it is worth picking up, but I would think twice before recommending it to anyone thinking of picking up the series now.

Having said that, it hurts to come to that conclusion – because even now some elements hold up so well. The setting, the story, the weird societal critique, the plottwists, the horror-elements… If you can look past its age, those elements of BioShock are certain to blow you away as much now as they knocked my socks off in 2007.

You can read more about my doubts and Lotte’s love for the game in our collection post.

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