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Bioshock Story & Game Features
Bioshock is set in the underwater city of Rapture, which was intended to be a place where scientists could experiment and work without worries of morality. The game starts out as you fly on an air plane on your journey to Rapture, but before you get there the air plane crashes leaving you to swim to the old lighthouse that holds the bathysphere that takes you underwater to Rapture itself.
As soon as you reach the entrance to Rapture you know something is wrong, the city is crumbling, the sea is coming in through leaks all over, and lunatic scientists and researchers roam the halls looking for anyone they can kill. The setting in Rapture is both futuristic and decrepit 1950’s style. From the beginning of the game you have assistance form Atlas who says he needs you to help find his family and bring them to him.
Atlas talks with you and helps you along the way via a two-way radio you find in the bathysphere. You have to fight with different weapons along your way from a simple pipe wrench to a shot gun, a pistol, a machine gun and the more interesting Plasmids.
Plasmids are a main element of your fighting prowess in Bioshock. These plasmids require you to give up your own humanity, but at the same time are required if you are to survive Rapture. Plasmids can be combined and have many different varieties. The two you find earliest in the game are the Electro Bolt and Incinerate Plasmid. Other plasmids you find include the insect swarm Plasmid, telekinesis Plasmid, winter blast Plasmid, cyclone Trap Plasmid, and security beacon plasmid.
Using plasmids requires EVE, which is similar to mana in standard RPG titles. You find EVE in syringes scattered around Rapture and you can buy them from twisted vending machines arrayed around the city as well. To buy EVE or anything else from the vending machines requires money, which you find as you adventure through the city.
Gene Tonics and Plasmids together are part of ADAM. While the Plasmids are weapons to be used in your defense and to attack NPC in the game, gene tonics are passive upgrades to your character that can enhance physical attributes allowing you to process toxins are making you resistant to damage. Engineering tonics that enhance your intellect and dexterity along combat tonics that improve your reflexes and strength round out the available gene tonics you find as you move through Rapture.
As you use your Plasmids your level of EVE decreases and when it runs out you automatically inject your self with an EVE hypo, if available, to replenish. You can also find other items around Rapture like food and cigarettes. The smokes increase your EVE slightly, but cost you some health. You can hack things in the game like security robots, safes, vending machines, and health stations. Hacking the security robots turns them against your enemies, hacking a vending machine reduces prices and can unlock hidden items and hacking health stations reduces the price of healing and makes it turn the stations against your enemies causing them damage when they use them.
Weapons in the game are customizable with bigger and you can increase fire power by using the U-Invent vending machines. These machines combine different types of scrap found in Rapture and turn them into objects to help you along your quest. Vita Chambers are scattered around levels and respawn your character if you die in combat. You don’t have to save your game to respawn; it is an automatic function that revives your character at the last station he passed.
Test Machine Specifications
Before we talk about gameplay it’s important to mention the machine I used to play Bioshock. The test machine has the following specifications:
With a bit of background on the story and setting of Bioshock and system specifications out of the way we can talk about gameplay. I opted to play Bioshock on XP rather than Vista for this review. I will probably revisit the game and update the review with Vista DirectX 10 features later. However, running on a DirectX 9 based system with the muscle for all the details Bioshock looks great. The game has some of the best water rendering I have ever seen.
The sheen effect as you walk through water running over entry ways and doors is very cool. I ran the game maxed out at 2560 x 1600 on my test system. I found that at these settings the game locked up very frequently. At least every ten minutes of game time I would get a lock up and have to press reset to recover. This is very frustrating to say the least. I could find no patches that addressed this issue and even with updating DirectX 9 to the latest version and using the beta NVIDIA drivers that offer better compatibility for Bioshock I still had crashes during game play.
I reduced the screen resolution in game to 1920 x 1200 and was able to play for a solid two hours without a crash. I’m not ready to say that the crash issue I was seeing was resolution based at this point, but it seems that could be the issue. I also noticed that every time I start the game up the settings from my previous sessions are reset to default. For instance every time I start the game the screen resolution is 1024 x 768 and my inverted mouse preference is back to default. It is a crying shame that Bioshock has these very significant playability issues because it looks simply fantastic and the gameplay is the most original I have seen in years.
I particularly like the way you can combine weapons and environmental obstacle to you needs. For instance early in the game you learn to use the electro bolt to stun an enemy and then whack them with the pipe wrench. You can also catch multiple enemies standing in water and electrocute them with the energy bolt.
All I can say is that right now I have seen some significant playability issues with Bioshock. All I can hope for is that 2K will put out a patch for the game that fixes these issues with crashing. Perhaps bigger issues for some users will be the limit to two installs of the game, which pretty much makes being able to use Bioshock in my line of work impossible. Anyone that reformats frequently or runs multiple machines needs to be aware that you can only install the game on five machines simultaneously and you can only reinstall five times on each machine.
Personally I think that allowing you to install the game on five separate computers is a gift from 2K. The vast majority of users out there will have one computer; some may have two with a gaming laptop or the like. A family might have more machines, but I think that most people will never have an issue with the amount of computers they can install the game on. I think that more users will have an issue with the amount of installs of the game can be done per machine.
Another possible issue for some is the use of SecureROM which is said to install a root kit on your computer. Personally, I had not one problem with installation of the game. I don’t like the idea of being limited to only five installs of the game, which may only get power users that reformat frequently through a couple months. Hopefully 2K will at least allow more installs of the game via call in like Windows does with Vista.
In the end I can’t help but wonder how all the bulk of other reviewers that have reviewed Bioshock to date have not seen the issues I have. All I can say is that Bioshock is a fantastically rendered game with epic gameplay that is badly in need of a patch to fix stability issues. This game would easily rate a 9.5 or maybe even a 10 IF I could play without crashes at the full settings my machine is capable of.
The last time I played a game that made me go, WOW, like Bioshock does was when Far Cry launched. Bioshock has the best gameplay, graphics and environments along with a real story line that sets the game apart from everything else. Tragically all these great things are eviscerated by severe game stability issues. Never have I seen such a fantastic game so badly in need of a patch.
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