Why Bioshock is my Favorite Game of All Time: An Ode to Bioshock’s 10th Birthday

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite games are JRPGs. I prefer turn-based ones like Earthbound, Persona, and Final Fantasy 10, but there’s a fair share of action ones I love, too, like .hack and The World Ends With You. So it therefore might be surprising to hear that I’m also really big on the horror genre in general–not just in games, but in media overall. I grew up on classic horror movies–mostly the Universal monsters and Vincent Price movies, and it’s a love I’ve kept close to me all my life in movies, TV, books, and of course, games. Most notably Silent Hill 2 and 3, which are 2 of my favorite games of all time, and stand out quite a bit in my otherwise mostly anime-filled list of favorite games. But perhaps what stands out more is my number 1 choice:
Despite what many people may guess, and believe me I don’t blame you for these guesses, it’s not my favorite JRPG of all time, Earthbound. It’s not any of my other favorite JRPGs like Persona 3, 4, or 5 or .hack//G.U. It’s not even any of the other stellar JRPGs that dominate best JRPG of all time lists like Skies of Arcadia, Suikoden 2, or Chrono Trigger even though they’re all definitely fantastic games. No, my favorite game of all time is the incredible, critically acclaimed Bioshock.

Did I mention that I once got to meet Levine? Because I did.

I think it’s a safe bet that most of you reading this know what Bioshock is since it’s so well-known, but just in case you don’t, it was a game made by Irrational Games in 2007. It was led by the one and only Ken Levine who was very involved in a similar game, System Shock 2. Bioshock is a horror game about a man named Jack who gets into a plane crash and finds his way to the once-illustrious, underwater city of Rapture which is now being torn apart from the inside out by the once-human Splicers, Big Daddies, and Little Sisters all seeking one of Rapture’s most incredible scientific creations, Adam, which essentially grants the user various super powers (often at the cost of their humanity or sanity).
Levine would also create a sequel for Bioshock, the more recent Bioshock Infinite which is also a wonderful game. Some of you may be wondering about Bioshock 2, but contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t made by Irrational or Ken Levine and the number of main series contradictions it contains combined with the ending of Bioshock Infinite suggests that Bioshock 2 didn’t take place in the same universe as 1 or Infinite, but we’re not here to talk about the Bioshock timeline or canon today.
We’re here to talk about the original Bioshock, which dominated game sales charts when it first came out August 21, 2007–exactly a decade ago as of when this article is being written. Practically overnight it became one of 2007’s most acclaimed games–not an feat considering Portal, Team Fortress 2, Halo 3, Modern Warfare, and Super Mario Galaxy all came out during the same year.
I would’ve been just starting 8th grade when it came out, but I wouldn’t play it until my sophomore year of high school–so about 2 and a half years later. As a matter of fact, it was around the time Bioshock 2 came out. A friend of mine at the time was working at Gamestop and used her employee discount to buy it. I thought it sounded cool so I asked her if I could borrow it when she was done. I didn’t know too much about Bioshock at the time, just that it was a horror game that took place in an underwater city and that there were Big Daddies and Little Sisters, but that was the limit of my knowledge aside from the fact that this game was pretty much universally adored. I went in to it with high expectations, expecting a game that was really good, but probably not as good as say, Silent Hill 2. I was dead wrong.

via polygon.com

Bioshock blew away my expectations in pretty much every way possible. From the minute I started to the minute I beat it and immediately went back in for a new ending, the sheer artistry in this game, was juts mind boggling to me. Before I played Bioshock I didn’t really have a concrete favorite game, just kind of a group of favorites, but it became immediately clear to me that this was, by far, the best game I’d ever played. It’s now 7 years later and this game still never ceases to amaze me. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve replayed it, but I can tell you that it’s at least 4 or 5. But what is it about Bioshock that always keeps me coming back for more? I’ve played so many amazing games in my day, but what is it about Bioshock that makes it so much better than the others for me? How does Bioshock relate to me, and why is it able to do so more than other games?
There are many reasons why Bioshock is my favorite game of all time. It’s very well-made, well-researched, the graphics are some of the best of their time and hold up pretty well, gameplay is solid, it’s a game oozing with creativity and originality, but so is Earthbound. So is Persona. So is Silent Hill 2 and 3. These are all the expected hallmarks of a masterpiece. So what, to me, makes Bioshock stand out among them? Is it just because it’s especially well made? I thought about it a while, and I think it mostly boils down to one thing:

I love a good story.

I love a good story that I can sink my teeth into that’s well-researched from top to bottom. One that leaves no stones unturned and has an incredibly well-made universe–even if that means it’s the one we live in. One with engaging characters. One with great conflicts–I’m especially a big fan of conflicts with moral ambiguity where you’re the judge of who’s the good guy and bad guy, despite who the protagonist may be, or if there’s even a good guy or bad guy. One with symbolism that means to convey a heavier message. Things like Star Trek the Next Generation, Shiki, Earthbound, Death Note, and LISA would be a few other examples of fiction that I think exceed at this 5-star storytelling. If these are examples, then Bioshock is a textbook definition.

via wccftech.com

Unparalleled environmental storytelling, audio diaries that show the dark underbelly of the politics of Rapture, the most graceful breaking of the fourth wall ever executed, characters that fall into the deepest and darkest extremes, even the advertisements seen throughout Rapture–every single facet of Rapture–serves to further tell the story of Rapture and what’s happened there. The symbolism that it bleeds–even what it references (EX: Atlas Shrugged)–only further tells the story of the morals, philosophy, and general attitude Rapture once held and is holding. A few other games have managed all of these things, but none even close to the degree of Bioshock, which has effectively fleshed out is whole universe more thoroughly than any other game I’ve played. What I’m trying to say is, both its environment and writing are exceptionally immersive of their own rights–when combined, they effectively create an immersive experience unlike any other. One that made me think about this game in a way that, when I first played it, I’d never thought before. One which every gamer owes themselves to try at least once.

I’d never experienced a universe as creative and thorough as Bioshock’s when I first played, and to this day, I still haven’t. I’ve never been more immersed in a given game universe than that of Bioshock’s, which is in fact so thorough that I feel like I could write a school paper on it (like a history paper or a column on the politics). Rapture is truly a place unlike any other, one that was crafted with the utmost love and care. Bioshock’s is a world I continue to get lost in no matter how much I play it, one that continues to surprise and impress me in its meticulous details and careful planning. To some, the addition of such painstaking and unnecessary details might seem excessive, but to me they make Rapture come alive in a way I’ve never seen in any other game.

To me, Bioshock is more than a game, it’s a piece of art unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Beyond being incredibly well-made, it’s a testament to how much a game can immerse you and impact you in ways you never thought possible. Through its exceptionally creative and thorough storytelling, Bioshock is the first game that made me think critically about games, made me seriously think about its philosophy, made me think about the symbolism and want to analyze the story, hell it made me read Atlas Shrugged. It’s a game that made me question myself through the sheer grace in which its message was conveyed. It’s my favorite game of all time.

Would you kindly understand why I love this game so much now?

via nerdist.com

 

 

Would you Kindly Read my Thoughts on Bioshock: The Collection?

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t hate the recent glut of collection games that have been coming out in the last ~5 years. And just so we’re all on the same page, a collection game is a re-release of a game or several games, now in an HD format. I do wish that a lot of the studios remastering their old games would make new content, yes, but now that gaming is making such graphical and technical leaps faster than ever, I think it’s important that older, beloved games aren’t left behind and get forgotten, and eventually unplayable because there’s simply no other way to play them unless you have their original console. For both new and old fans, it’s a hassle unless a re-release of the game is made. Bioshock is an interesting case: It was released in 2007 on the PS3/360. It’s almost 10 years old, but in the grand scheme of things and the typical age of games that get re-released on collection discs, it’s not that old. Additionally, Bioshock is a beautiful game. Despite being an early title in its console generation, graphically it remains one of the most beautiful games on the PS3/360–both it and it’s sequel Bioshock Infinite that came out late into the PS3/360’s life in 2013. So why re-release them?

Personally, I don’t think that the creation of the Collection was necessary right now. Make no mistake, I’m very happy to see these games re-released: Bioshock is my favorite game of all time. Bioshock Infinite is another one of my all time favorites. The only qualm I have about re-releasing these games is the timing. The oldest game in this bunch is the first Bioshock, which will be 10 years old next year. Especially considering how graphically advanced Bioshock was at the time it came out, I just don’t think it needs to be remastered in HD just quite yet. It’s only one console generation behind, after all. Bioshock Infinite, on the other hand, is barely 3 years old–it’s plenty recent enough that people still remember it, love it, talk about it, and play it all the time. If that wasn’t enough, there’s several packs on the PS3 and 360 available right now with 2/3 games on it (Bioshock 1+2, Bioshock Infinite+1), and a version of Infinite you can buy with Burial at Sea already on it as well. To me, it feels as though the Collection was just released so there could be a PS4/XBOne port of the series. Personally I don’t think most games need to be remastered or ported–especially when they’re so readily available on Steam, as each Bioshock game is–until they’re at least 2 console generations behind.

via store.steampowered.com
Does this look like it needs to be remastered in HD? Honestly? via store.steampowered.com

So let’s get into the meat of this review: Is buying the Collection worth the sweat of your brow? Allow me to first make the disclaimer that I bought the physical PS4 version of this game since my PC isn’t powerful enough to run any of the Bioshock games–even if it was, I don’t have 70GB available to put it on. In any case, as far as my experience with Bioshock: The Collection goes, the short answer of my earlier questions is yes, it’s worth it if you’re a fan of the series and you see yourself replaying any of these games at least a few times, or you want everything on 2 convenient discs rather than 2-3. If this is your way of getting into the franchise, however, you’d probably be better off buying the games separately on Steam/PS3/360 until the price goes down.

The Collection is currently $60 and contains Bioshock 1 and its DLC the Museum of Orphaned Concepts and Challenge Room, Bioshock 2 and its DLC Minerva’s Den and Protector Trials, and Bioshock Infinite and its DLC Clash in the Clouds, Columbia’s Finest, and Burial at Sea episodes 1 and 2. In addition to all that, there’s interviews about Bioshock with Ken Levine (creator of the Bioshock series) and Shawn Robertson (animation lead and director in Bioshock 1 and Infinite respectively) sprinkled throughout. In other words, you’re getting every Bioshock game, all the DLC, plus some interviews. The only corner the Collection cuts is the multiplayer options in Bioshock 2. The reasons behind the cut of the multiplayer hasn’t yet been clarified, but as someone who never particularly cared for the multiplayer options in Bioshock 2 (or Bioshock 2 in general) it doesn’t particularly matter to me. It does, however, leave me extremely curious about why 2K would put so much effort into including literally everything else plus extras and leave that out.

The multiplayer aside though, each of the Bioshock games can be bought at a decent price if you’re buying physical copies–usually around $10-20 used, depending on the condition. In theory, you could buy Bioshock 1, 2, and Infinite separately and only spend slightly more than half of what you would on the Collection–and that’s if you buy them all singularly, rather than buy them in a pack, as I mentioned earlier. Regardless of what you do, if you’re buying physical copies, you’ll likely be spending $30-40 on the whole series. On Steam it’s harder to gauge the price since they each go on sale so frequently. My best advice would be to wait for them to go on sale, and if you’re lucky, you’d probably be spending about the same price that you would if you’d bought physical copies–possibly less depending on the sale. In any case, although the Collection has graphics that are only slightly improved, exclusive interviews, and the convenience aspect of having the whole series right there, if the price of a game is your selling point then the Collection probably isn’t worth it unless the graphics, interviews, and convenience are worth an extra $20 for you.

via youtube.com
via youtube.com

Another thing several fans are critiquing the Collection for is that it hasn’t fixed some of the glitches in Bioshock Infinite. Although Bioshock Infinite isn’t necessarily a glitchy game, it does suffer from a few hiccups here and there. It’s usually just simple things like the occasional clipping graphics and textures, but there are a few small glitches. None of them are major, none of them break the game, and there’s not that many to begin with. Most of them are simply clipping graphics. Although none of them major flaws, they do feel very out of place in an otherwise gorgeous game. Most fans, myself included, expected that most of these small glitches would be patched up in the Collection, but so far, people are reporting that there have been no changes. The PC version, on the other hands, seems to have a few issues of its own that aren’t present in the console Collection, or the original versions of the games. For that reason and because as I already mentioned, the console ports are likely the entire reason 2K made the Collection in the first place, I’d recommend the console version of the Collection over the PC version.

If you’re already a huge fan of Bioshock who wants a new way to immerse yourself in the elaborate universe(s) of the game, I think the Collection is incredible. It’s convenient, has lots of extra content, and at the end of the day, it’s a current-gen port of 2 wonderful games, their DLC, and Bioshock 2. If you’re not a huge fan of Bioshock but a fan nonetheless and just wondering if this is a good port, it can be if you’re wanting a PS4/XBOne port of these games–otherwise, it’s probably a better idea to wait for the price on the Collection to go down. The current price tag of $60 isn’t outrageous, it’s the standard price of a new triple-A console title right now and is honestly a fair price for all the content you’re getting in the Collection, I just think it’s odd to pay that much when you can just as easily get the entire series ~$20 cheaper without missing too much of the content. If you’re not a fan of Bioshock and wondering if you should use this to get into the franchise, although you can if you want and should if you really like the idea of having all the games, DLC, and extra content on 2 discs, I wouldn’t recommend it solely because the graphics are only slightly better, I’m sure the extra content will be available online eventually, and you can buy each of the games individually with the DLC for a grand total of  ~$40.

Again, I’d like to emphasize: Bioshock 1 and Infinite are my favorite games of all time. As a huge fan of Bioshock, the Collection was worth it for me. I love the extra content and the convenience of the Collection, I just wish that they had waited longer to release it–until a time when the graphical changes could be noticeably better, until they could patch the hiccups in Bioshock Infinite, until the Bioshock games aren’t as extremely accessible as they are now. Until it were at least 2 console generations behind. These are games I will (and am, in fact, currently) replay time and time again. Additionally, listening to the interviews and learning more about the production of Bioshock has been a very fun experience for me. If you’re as big a fan of Bioshock as me, I can’t recommend the Collection enough. If you’re not that big a fan and just looking for an easy way to play the Bioshock games, it’ll likely be more budget friendly for you to buy them all separately or wait a few months for the price of the Collection to go down. Regardless of your decision, these games are astounding. If you’re reading this to find out whether or not I’d recommend the Bioshock games, Collection or no Collection, the answer is yes, I’d recommend them more than any other game ever made.

via platstation.com
via platstation.com

Moral Choices in Games, Why do we Love Them?

We’ve all had to make tough choices in games that will affect the story and the characters we care about. Weather it be to save something for ourselves or use it for the benefit of everyone. Moral choices are EVERYWHERE. Most often times they can affect the ending you get. This adds a layer of replayability, but it always gives players a sense of real control over the story. It allows them to react to it a little closer to how they would in actual life.

Oftentimes this can be done very well. Certain moral choices can be hard and not always lead to a good outcome However there are times where obvious black and white scenarios are presented. This you would see in games like Spiderman: Web of Shadows. Worst of all, the times where moral choices are done the worst are when they have very little impact on the story, such as the case in Telltale’s Game of Thrones. It doesn’t work to have a choice that doesn’t matter. Bioshock Infinite however takes that idea and spins it on its head.

No matter how you choose, Bioshock Infinite shows that the choice is yours, but no matter what you pick, another you chose differently. Image Source: videogamesuncovered.com
No matter how you choose, Bioshock Infinite shows that the choice is yours, but no matter what you pick, another you chose differently. Image Source: videogamesuncovered.com

Within that game, the game presents some choices where good and evil are obvious. However, it also presents choices that are meaningless. The brilliance of this is that the game is built around the fact that no choice matters. The one you did not make in this universe, you made in another. This isn’t cheating away the importance of a choice, but strengthening the theme of the game, so much so that you actually experience it and see that nothing changes as a result.

Adding the element of choice also helps make the playable character different depending on how you play the game. This can be seen most especially in games like Infamous. Cole Macgrawth of Delsin Rowe can either be saviors for the cities they are fighting in. Although, they can also choose to

Infamous Second Son has you choose weather you want to do something for yourself or for someone else. Image Source: gamerheadlines.com
Infamous Second Son has you choose weather you want to do something for yourself or for someone else. Image Source: gamerheadlines.com

be feared and become the most powerful. The moral choices you make also effect how you play in the game: using more neutralizing and acrobatic powers for good or more lethal and destructive powers for evil.

Weather they’re done well or not, it seems that moral choices aren’t going to be going away any time soon in the gaming community. And why should they? They invest players in the story. Add more control over the narrative. And make the protagonist feel more like the player themselves. Choose good or choose evil, but we can all agree, its a hell of a time making the choice.