2K Games BioShock review
There aren't many games that marry hitting people in the face with a wrench and intellectual pondering upon the nature of man.
BioShock is the most important shooter in years because of it. On the surface, it's a superior action game, allowing you to tailor your weapons and abilities to best suit you. Genetic modifications called Plasmids grant you new attacks and abilities. These can often be used in devilish ways, like electrifying a flooded room to kill multiple foes with one blast. Underneath, BioShock is telling a story, which, though never completely free of B-movie sensibilities, offers a depth that is almost unheard of in video games.
Much of it works precisely because BioShock is so aware that it's a game. Thus, its setting isn't mere scenery; the underwater city of Rapture is a creation of genius, and one that you really experience and explore rather than simply look at. The gorgeous and haunting Art Deco styling and early 20th-century soundtrack give Rapture a unique aesthetic.
Combat is the core of the game, but even that goes to places other shooters never consider. This is certainly true of the foes that you encounter, such as Splicers, which are humans that have been turned insane by self-imposed genetic modification. BioShock goes to great lengths to add visual and vocal tics that hint as to the sort of person that the Splicer once was. There's less of this in the game's final stages, but when it is there it goes a long way to making Rapture feel like a real place, and one where a genuine tragedy took place.
Throw in a gut-wrenching moral dilemma or two, a lot of genuinely effective frights and some of the best dialogue you'll ever hear in a game, and BioShock is an instant classic. There are a few narrative blips, and the game occasionally resorts to tired, unlock-the-locked-door challenges, but on the whole this game represents an impressive leap forward.