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BioShock Second Opinion

Brad Gallaway's picture

BioShock Screenshot

BioShock is a simple, straightforward first-person shooter (FPS) dressed up in next-generation trappings and superb artistic design. There are numerous distractions attempting to draw the player's eye away from the basic formula at its heart, but really, that's all it is.

Is there anything wrong with this? Well-polished, enjoyably playable games are always welcome amidst the scores of shoddy cash-ins, inspiration-free clones and unrealistically ambitious projects needing six more months of development (but not getting them) before hitting retail. In this context, it's easy to appreciate BioShock as a strong effort.

On the other hand, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that there isn't more to it. In all fairness, there's nothing really wrong with the experience it provides; it just lacks the sort of vision and hook truly memorable games possess underneath the graphics, physics and sound effects. During my time in the undersea world of Rapture, there were many small occurrences that didn't mean much on their own. But, when added together and taken in total, the ability to become engrossed in the adventure was chipped away until all that was left was an underlying desire for completion. It's as good a reason to play a game as any, but perhaps not the most satisfying.

The most serious issue is that BioShock's character development and dramatic narrative never come together. The "silent protagonist" approach is rife with its own set of dangers, these problems only magnified by choices like having an absurd number of passive audio journals waiting to be picked up, or the absence of any real conversations. Even worse, a huge blow was struck against believability in the opening moments, setting the tone for the rest to come:

After arriving in Rapture, my character happens upon a glowing syringe. Rather than questioning its contents or waiting for a clue or verbal order from someone else, this mysterious substance is immediately and illogically self-injected on a whim. Not only does this action fly in the face of common sense, but when the ability to generate electricity is imparted, my character has no reaction and makes no comment. There's no sense of fear, or even of awe. As a player, how can I be expected to give events in BioShock any credence or weight when the person I'm supposed to be playing as doesn't?

Further undermining intellectual buy-in, the much-discussed inclusion of Little Sisters as a catalyst for triggering moral choices falls incredibly flat. Reduced to a repeated resource-gathering scenario, the "good" or "evil" in capturing these carbon-copy moppets seems to be solely based on whether the player has any empathy for the iconic visual representation of a small girl. It may give pause the first time, but when every subsequent encounter is revealed to be an exact duplicate with neither the action nor the individual having any unique quality, all impact is negated.

Although these can be taken as fairly high-level criticisms of things that many games wouldn't even have attempted, BioShock also suffers from other issues that hold it back in ways besides the intellectual.

Seeing the game lapse almost immediately into a series of fetchquests without the proper motivation was offputting. Some may claim that the game accounts for this later on, but to me it was too little, too late. In addition, despite the superb realization of the period through architecture, music selection and voice acting, it was hard to escape the sensation that most of my time was spent in a series of corridors and abstract areas. Since the game failed to create a place where I believed geniuses could congregate under the sea, I was left to admire specific elements while being unconvinced of the whole.

Finally, the egregious multitude of power-ups available could have been a significant addition to the mix, but again, their handling lacked the weight and importance needed to raise these systems above the level of idle toolgathering. Between Plasmids, Tonics, Photos, Inventions, Hacking, Weapon Upgrading, Ammunition Types and simply picking up audio logs or the millions of items strewn throughout every environment, there were too many things to be distracted by, with none of them feeling as vital or important as they should be.

So what does BioShock do right? It looks great, it sounds great, and it absolutely knows which genre it's in. The difficulty is quite reasonable (and adjustable as well) so I'd actually say that it's a great place for beginners or people who don't have a lot of FPS exposure to start. Beyond this, my feeling is that it doesn't do much beside meet the usual expectations. Without the kind of adrenaline-inducing pace that carries action blockbusters or the kind of emotionally involving characterization that can sustain a slower think-piece, BioShock certainly satisfies the standard FPS criteria but falls short of carving itself a place in the top tier. Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PC  
Developer(s): Irrational Games  
Key Creator(s): Ken Levine  
Publisher: 2K Games  
Series: BioShock  
Genre(s): Shooting  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Obvious review, could see it coming from a mile away

Typical gamecritics obvious response to a game which receives praise. If you analyze a game in single blocks instead of like you should(as a whole) its not a whole lot of game anymore and it will fall apart because especially this game revolves around the experience as a whole

seriously, its abit tiresome to see gamecritics come up with such obvious reviews. i could see it coming from a mile away, atleast

Too true.

Good stuff. I haven't completed this one yet, but I certainly feel the same way about it.

The bottom line for me is a game makes the player feel. When I turn off the power after playing this game, I feel like I just punched out, and not like I'm reluctantly putting down a story with its hooks in me.

Like my good buddy said the other day: "The only stop on the Hype Train is Disappointmentville."

( That said, I don't believe that my feelings or any negative reviews are just backlash, however. )

Great read!

It just so happens I'm working my way through Bioshock right now, so I enjoyed your perspective of the game.

Although it's true that Bioshock doesn't generate the same kind of emotionally invested connection that, say, Deus Ex does nor does it have that game's strong narrative, I find that I'm willing to overlook those things just to spend time in the stunning environments. And I'm referring to the tones and flavours of the environments more than the just the cutting-edge graphics.

In many ways, environment IS the game with Bioshock.

In fact, I've noticed that Bioshock can evoke a very immediate subjective response from people, in the same way new food or music can. Based on your tolerance for the environments, you might love it or simply hate it.

I guess I have a preference for dark, dreary, depressing places, being weaned on films like Blade Runner and Alien.

It's not a horrible game.

It's not a horrible game. It's just that the usual 'console tards' proclaim the game as something new and inventive that has never been done before. This is patently false. The game is just an FPS. And, as an FPS, it has flaws- for example, the wrench being the most lethal weapon in the game, and how easy the game is overall. It certainly doesn't deserve the '10/10, BEST GAME EVER' reviews it seems to have received quite a few of.

So refreshing to see a thoughtful review of BioShock

Just came upon this site, found it using Metacritic. It's somewhat of a relief to see a less than rapturous review of BioShock. (Oh. No pun intended, really.) I've been playing through it more for the story than the gameplay -- never been a fan of the story-free FPS, à la Doom -- and after about five hours of "is that all there is?" I wondered if something was wrong with me, not seeing the forest for the trees.

But no, in fact, there's no forest. A forest requires complexity, diversity, the joy and thrill of the unexpected. BioShock's story is the equivalent of neatly planted rows of identical firs in a christmas tree farm. Fetch quest, Rosie, little sister, splicer, 20 randomly-strewn tape players ... repeat ad infinitum.


first off homo reviewer bioshock is awesome. its fun has lots of shooting and blood. the story is entertaining and has twists and turns. did u expect to find out the main character was created on rapture.the fetch quests as you call it are in almost every single game made. alot of rpgs have it where u must get an item for someone to get what u need or to pass a certain part of the game. the audio logs are just for achievements like the flags in assassins creed, the packages in grand theft auto and the other games with find this many things for this. you dont have to get them so there is no need to complain about them. most of the shit u complain about in this game were fine in mass effect. in fact u said no nitpicking. ill just end by saying YOUR A FUCKEN LOSER GET A LIFE GET LAID YOU DUMB BALD BITCH. then maybe games will be fun and u wont notcie stupid dumb shit that doesnt matter

Whoa man.

You do understand that he's just reviewing the game based on his personal tastes right? Nobody said you had to agree, and what in god's name is lambasting him going to achieve? That's right, nothing.

You say the things don't matter, but to some people, they do. It's not Mr. Galloway's fault that to you the audio logs are not necessary thus not worth complaining about. But if you read his review carefully you'd realize that in fact they are important because you're dealing with a silent protagonist. Thus in order to flesh out the narrative development, the audio logs hold some weight. But if there are so many of them, along with all the other things, it becomes somewhat distracting, with none of them feeling important enough to really care. That was his logical complaint. He didn't ask you to agree with him. Regardless, his argument is much more sound than your unimaginative rebuttle.

I can see it now though "Oh you're just him trying to get back at me as if you were someone else...get a life and have sex because then it'll make you start reviewing games with just as much lack of an imagination as I have!! That's what the world needs more of. Macho, brainless guys that have to make fun of another guy's hair (or lack thereof) to sleep better at night.

Just for the record, i

Just for the record, i actually *can* grow hair if i want to, i just choose to keep it shaved. ; )


Thanks for the spoiler dumbass. You should go back to grade school and learn some grammar before embarrassing yourself on the internet.


Brad..ever think your getting a bit too old for games?..in this review it certainly feels as though you have missed many of the nuances which make Bioshock a superb game and a fantastic experience.

Maybe this is why Gamecritics is not popular?..you choose not to make the audio tapes, the aesthetics involved in the story telling important to your enjoyment of the game...which to me seems ludicrous as these are the major sticking points which lead to me having a great experience.

Perhaps Gamecritics see it fit to purposely mark games which have received critical praise from less "intellectual" sites such as IGN lower so to place them selfs on a pedestal of sorts.

Bioshock takes everything from SS2 and refines it to suit the location and ambiance...i guess you never played System Shock 2...which is why you would fail to notice the little touches within Bioshock that make it a masterpiece of a game.

If you for one minute stopped being critical of its small flaws like the apparent console friendly UI you would stop and take note of the expert crafting achieved with the story and Rapture itself.

"After arriving in Rapture, my character happens upon a glowing syringe. Rather than questioning its contents or waiting for a clue or verbal order from someone else, this mysterious substance is immediately and illogically self-injected on a whim"

THIS shows that you have neither played the game in full nor completed it enough to gain an understanding of its core concepts, something which i find abhorrent for a reviewer to do.

I would gladly see Gamecritics die than it produce such misinformed and blind reviews as this, I'll stick with The Escapist and not a page comprised of over the hill gamers with dulled reflexes and obviously cynical views of how a game "Should be made".

If (according to you)

If (according to you) listening to an absurd amount of non-interactive, audio-only logs (which I find impossible to believe would be recorded or left lying around in the first place) or playing System Shock 2 are required to "fully" get the BioShock experience, then I'll leave you to it. AFAIC, my review sums it up-- the game is good but not great, and everyone out there who's so desperate to believe it's deeper or more revolutionary than it really is... please continue to do so. personally, i've got enough faith in the medium to not run around holding up half-full cups while calling them the grail.


Let me get this straight, you didn't want to listen to the audio diaries because there... were a lot... And you didn't like where they were placed?...

Well you're right! Absolutely right! What kind of idea was that? Why should we have to listen to the story of the game, when the story is long and cofusing for our wee sized brains!

And the nerve of placing them in such ludicrous places. And just for that, let's not even listen to the story, and simply assume this game is as straightforward as we played it, simply running to all the goals not even exploring the story or areas other than where we're told.

This was a god awful review, the only reason you're giving the game such a low mark is probably because other sites have praised it so much, so you decided you'd be different and clever and just completely ignore why the game is good, and just try to make it the worst experience you could.

Do you even know why other people like the game? Maybe you should try to find that out, try giving it some thought, before deciding that a game, which pretty much EVERYONE ELSE has praised, and loves, is just an average 7.0 out of 10.
Why do you think people like it? Do you think they're just stupid? Or wrong? And you're right?

Try listening to the audio diaries, and how about paying attention to the story, as it is a step up in gaming, and if you're too blind to see that, then why are you even reviewing games?

canada write

So since McDonald's has served billions and you can find tons of people to "praise" the food, that makes it a great restaurant?

Equating the quality of something with the number of people who praise it is a misleading and often false comparison -- especially so with games, since the vast majority of people get utterly swept up in groupthink and hyperbole without really being honest about what it is they're playing.

If i wanted to listen to an audiobook, i'd buy one and take a road trip. as a critic, i strongly disagree with the decision to put so much of the story as noninteractive audio bits... it just doesn't work for me, and i really don't think it works for games as a medium, either.

my review stands and 7/10 is above average at this site, so if you can't live with that, then i guess you can be content with "EVERYONE ELSE's" opinion.

Wouldn't you say reviewing a

Wouldn't you say reviewing a game objectively is far more informative than singing its praises simply because of hype the way other critics do? Since I discovered it a few weeks ago, GameCritics has in fact become the only review site I truly trust, simply because it is the only one I've seen to compare games with external media, like film and music. If our reviewers don't expect games to do something truly new and do it well, how can the industry expect to evolve?

thats a very fair point that

thats a very fair point that popularity doesnt make a game... but you hav to take into consideration that the average rating is 9.5 across 58 reviews, with a large amount being professional reviewers...

sure a review is an opinion (and i guess the game just didnt do it for you) but in my opinion the game easily justifies a 9.5/10. the immersion is incredible in this game... the sense of a total breakdown... and the audiodiaries are there to add depth and side quests... they arent a major part of the main storyline... as are the tasks of attaining ADAM... its purely an option if you want to get as much out of the game as you can. as for game play, i'm an avid fps fan and i was overwhelmed by the options in the game! how many fps games are there where u can aquire 'powers' and use them to set a table alight... then use a different power to pick up the table and throw it at an enemy... and then watch as that enemy desperately runs off to dive in water and put out the flames?!

there are so many options available... and so many ways of tweaking your character to suit your playing style. the moral choices of the game make u actuali think about what you are doing... and the overal storyline is brilliant... with the whole ryan vs fontaine in his attempt to take over rapture. add on the length of the game (easily 25+ hrs) and the consistent quality through out and u get a very special game. i could clearly talk all day about this game... and i didnt even hav to touch on the visuals (which are superb!) to state how good this game is

also the average score for ign reviews is 68% ... and they gave it 9.7/10 so there is clearly a flaw in your reasoning about justifying a 7/10 in that respect (which was barely above your average score!)

I dunno about IGN, but here

I dunno about IGN, but here at GameCritics, a 5 is a perfectly 'average' score- not good, not bad. it's in the middle.

With this line of thinking, BioShock is clearly 'above average' when compared to the body of GC reviews in the archive using the same numbering scale.

anyway, everybody's got their own take on each game, and that's cool. if you thought it was a 9.5, that's all right with me. as for me, i made my case and i'm still good with what i wrote-- BioShock's a good game, nothing more, nothing less IMO.

the last thing i'll say is that just because a game (or anything) gets a large number of good scores, that doesn't mean much-- there have been some fantastic titles that got lowballed by the games media, and there have been tons that rode a wave of hype to the top, only to come crashing down a month or two later.

with this in mind, people using aggregate scores have to take into account the hype factor-- it always skews everything.

the games that come crashing

the games that come crashing down due to being over hyped are the ones like haze... and just about any movie game

bioshock hasnt 'crashed down' at all,

but i supose ur right, 7 out of 10 does still equate to good... (some people these days seem to think that anything below 90% is terrible...which annoys me)

but id still happily have a huuugeee argument about why its a 95ish% game tho because i think its better than good :)

u can redeem urself by giving mgs4 a 95% score tho! ;)

The state of rating

I've just read through the original review and all the comments, as well as this second opinion, and comments and something just seem to hit me.

Here we've had a reform of how grading works in education. I'll spare you the details but in oral exams, in the old system you'd start low and have to prove you were good to get a good grade, the top grade was technically unachieveable, since if you started giving those away you were saying there was no way to make improvements.
In the new system you start at the top grade and unless you make big mistakes, that's your final grade.
This seems to be a lot of what's been going around with Bioshock and people arguing for higher or lower scores. Arguments for the high score seem to go that it has a good story and fairly good graphics, and it doesn't really make any big mistakes in the FPS department so of course it's a perfect score, whereas others call it as it is and say it's good, but there's room for improvement....I'd like to live in the world where people try to make improvements, not just on graphics.

Anyway, personally I played the demo again now that I have a computer that can handle it, and from the limited gameplay I've had in the demo lots of the review rings true, I've played enough demos to have a frame of reference for what part the demo is. Suffice it to say I've gone back to playing through Prey again instead.

Thank you for an honest opinion, both this and the first review on this site.

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