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jalexbrown

Bioshock Review

By: jalexbrown Sep 19, 2009 | 6 Comments

My review of Bioshock for the Xbox 360!

After I finished playing Bioshock, I knew immediately that I'd played an amazing game. That feeling after finishing a game where the game just sticks with you, I felt that with Bioshock. It was an incredibly emotional game. The mystery of the world of Rapture sticks with you long after the game ends. And yet, frankly, at first I had a hard time summing what it was that made Bioshock so amazing. It really left me at a loss for words, and I had to postpone writing this review for several days so I could actually figure out what made the game so amazing.

For starters the atmosphere in Bioshock is amazing. And by atmosphere I mean more than visuals. Sure, the visuals are amazing (a bit on that in a minute), but the whole game's presentation is just immersive and amazing. I don't think I've ever felt so totally involved in a game before. The world of Rapture is just so intriguing and well conceived that, despite it's obvious sci-fi setting, it seems almost plausible. The world is well developed; it's as if the developers actually mapped out every square inch of Rapture. The problem with all of this is that, while the city of Rapture is presented as being this huge underwater world, you really feel confined to the small corridors and buildings the game lets you into. A breathtaking opening cinematic makes Rapture feel huge, but you'll quickly feel disappointed once you find out you're constrained to the path the developers put you on. With all the attention to detail in the world, it's a shame that they confined you so much.

Bioshock is visually a treat. The moody lighting is just so well done, and many of the creepy set pieces will stick with you long after you've passed them up. The models are textures are equally impressive, and I never noticed any major frame rate issues. The game is littered with special effects, and none of them feel cheap or lazy. The way the world interacts with you, and with itself, is also quite amazing. The visual appeal (not to mention gameplay appeal) of being able to send a bolt of lightning at a puddle of water and fry the person standing in it is just so pleasing. Even today I think that Bioshock is a testimony to what the Xbox 360 can do visually when a group of talented developers are really up to the challenge.

The audio never goes wrong, either. Eerie sound effects, spooky music, and amazing voice acting is aplenty in this game. One of the more interesting things about this game's soundtrack (a tip of the hat to Half-Life, perhaps) is the fact that your character never speaks. And, just as in Half-Life, this only ramps up the immersive factor of the game. Putting some generic voice on the hero would really only cheapen then soundtrack. Guns sound satisfying to shoot, and the sound effects when you're shooting fire or lighting are also very satisfying. The whole soundtrack is a tight package used to wrap you up in the game's immersive environment.

The gameplay is also well done. The way this game so seamlessly fuses the audio and visuals into the gameplay makes this game easily one of the most satisfying 360 games you can buy. As you go through Bioshock you'll acquire things called plasmids. These plasmids are used to, literally, modify your genetic code. These modifications are used to allow you to do special things like shoot lighting or fire, or give you telekinesis. The plasmids also often times are necessary to complete some of the game's puzzles, although it will mostly be immediately obvious if you need a certain plasmid to progress. The way the plasmids allow you to interact with the environment makes for some of the most fun there is to be had in Bioshock. Shoot some lighting at a puddle at watch anyone in the puddle shock to death; send some fire towards a path of gasoline and watch the whole path burn, taking anyone in or around the path with it. It's really these small details that make the plasmid system so fun and entertaining. Really, though, the shame is that most of the time you'll discover the easiest way to kill an enemy is the most boring. Shocking an enemy will temporarily stun them, and a solid hit with the wrench will take most basic enemies to the ground without problem. Unfortunately, this means that often times you'll throw creativity out the window in favor of discarding the basic enemies faster. It would have been better had the developers put you in more situations where you were encouraged to use the plasmids in a creative manner. Even at that, though, the plasmids are still satisfying enough that this is only a minor gripe. The weapons, on the other hand, lack the satisfaction of the plasmids. Most of the weapons feel sort of underpowered in comparison to the plasmids. For most of the games your weapons will be your secondary means of attack. This does admittedly make the game feel a bit unbalanced at times. The game also incorporates a hacking mini game into the fun. Basically, the hacking mini game consists of flipping and switching tiles to send some ooze from one spot to another. These hacking mini games can range from incredibly easy to maddeningly hard. Hacking is never required to progress, though, so if you start to feel too frustrated with one of the hacks you can proceed without it.

Difficulty can be a major concern for some games, and this is one of Bioshock's biggest weaknesses. The game is too easy. The game world is littered with Vita-Chambers, and should you die, you'll respawn in one of these Vita-Chambers. To make matters worse, any damage you've dealt to an enemy prior to death will still be in effect, meaning that you can haphazardly shoot away at enemies until you kill them, and dying will never be a concern. Luckily the Vita-Chambers can be turned off. In either case, even with a difficulty on the easy side it doesn't mess too much with the game's overall quality.

The story of Bioshock is one of intrigue. Unfortunately, it's too hard to easily put into words. Thankfully, though, the game does an excellent job pushing you along through the story without having it intrude too much into your fun. An interesting note is that throughout the game you have the opportunity to save or harvest things called Little Sisters. The problem, of course, is that Little Sisters are protected by Big Daddies. After killing the Big Daddy (these are pretty much the hardest things in the entire game to kill), you'll have a moral choice to make. You can either harvest the Little Sister (essentially getting more adam but sacrificing the Little Sister in the process), or you can save her (this will give you less adam, but you'll get the moral satisfaction of knowing that the little girl is alive and no longer possessed). Throughout the course of the game this decision will come up many times, and you'll never be tied to the same decision you made before, so if you decide you want to harvest one Little Sister after saving another, go ahead. This whole moral aspect of the game can be quite interesting at first, but over time it seems to get more in the way.

One of my biggest gripes about Bioshock is its total lack of a multiplayer component. Being able to play through parts of the story with a second player would have been awesome, but I suppose co-op was a worthwhile sacrifice to give you that immersive experience. Bioshock wouldn't have lent itself at all to deathmatch multiplayer, though, so I suppose perhaps the lack of a multiplayer component was for the better. Still, in 2008 a FPS game feels unfinished if there isn't any sort of multiplayer included.

At the end of the day, Bioshock is just an incredible experience all the way through. The story is a bit short-lived, but you'll never feel cheated by it, either. Bioshock has created one of the most immersive worlds of any video game I've played to date. The whole game just drips with atmosphere unmatched by anything else out there. If you're in the market for a good, worthwhile FPS game, Bioshock should definitely be your top purchase choice.

Gameplay: 9.5
Visuals: 10
Audio: 9.5
Fun Factor: 10
Overall: 10

Community Blog

jalexbrown

Wii Gets Price Drop

By: jalexbrown Sep 18, 2009 | 6 Comments

In coordination with Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has already dropped the price of their Wii console.

According this recent Best Buy circular, the Wii has taken a $50 price cut.  Was this done simply because all the other console manufactures have dropped their prices?  I'd say that's a big Yes!  That's not to say that it wasn't a smart move on Nintendo's part, because I'd have to say it's one of the best moves they could make.  The appeal of the Wii when this generation started was the price point; it was affordable enough to buy for a kid for Christmas.  In other words, it wasn't a $600 or even $400 system.  So when the generation launched, $250 seemed like more than fair.  Now that Microsoft has slashed their prices, and Sony has done even heavier slashing on their prices, Nintendo has to either keep up or get out.  Certainly a price cut makes the most sense, because their price point is the driving factor behind their success.

I hate to wander too far off track, but I have to wonder something while we're on the subject of price cuts (I would normally refrain, but it involves price cuts and the Wii, so I'll go for it).  Now that the Wii has taken a price slash, why the hell are we still paying full retail price for two-year old games?  Super Paper Mario is now two years old, as is Twilight Princess, and both games are still retailing at $50!  How does it happen that a system takes a price slash before it's own launch titles?

Anyways, with that off my chest, I'll bid you adieu.  And if you don't have a Wii, it might be more worth it at the $200 price point.

Community Blog

jalexbrown

Persona 3 PSP

By: jalexbrown Sep 18, 2009 | 2 Comments

Persona 3 is set to hit the PSP!

Okay, so yesterday I did a write-up on the upcoming release (or should I say re-release) of Revelations: Persona, now for the PSP.  Now I've stumbled across a little bit of news that, while old, may still excite.  Apparently, Atlus is bringing Persona 3 to the PSP.  There's not much in the way of details available at this time, although an apparent Japanese release date of November 1 does seem to be floating around.  A Famitsu scan also suggests that there may be a new, female character thrown into the mix.  Furthermore, it seems that you'll now be able to manually control your entire party.

So we've got Revelations: Persona: check.  We've got Persona 3: check.  Now where the bloody hell is Persona 2?  It seems that somewhere in the mist, the second installment in the Persona series has been forgotten.  It's a sad, sad shame, but here's to hoping that someday we can play all four games in the Persona series on our loved portable.

Community Blog

jalexbrown

World of Warcraft Might Just Be the Glitchiest Game Ever

By: jalexbrown Sep 18, 2009 | 3 Comments

According to a report from Blizzard, the mega-popular MMO is littered with glitches galore.

According to wow.com (and also discussed to some length at the Game Developers Conference), Blizzard is reporting that World of Warcraft is plagued with almost 180,000 glitches that they're tracking.  What that means in layman's terms is that there's almost 180,000 problems with the game that are either fixed, being fixed, or not yet in the process of being fixed.  Unfortunately Blizzard didn't give a breakdown of where these glitches stand, but given the immense number of patches that have been released - and certainly the almost certain prospect that a ton more will be on the way - I'd say a good number of the glitches are in some stage of being fixed or being worked on.  However, each new expansion pack is bound to breed a whole slew of new glitches in the process of fixing the old.

Is it surprising that World of Warcraft is plagued with that many bugs, or is it more surprising that Blizzard would come right out with such a staggering number?

Community Blog

jalexbrown

Capcom Wants Your Input

By: jalexbrown Sep 18, 2009 | 4 Comments

Capcom wants to hear your ideas for future cross-over fighting games.

Gamers are a vocal group of individuals.  They all have their opinions, and there's not a single one that's afraid to say what's awesome and what...well...isn't so awesome.  Capcom has decided to get ideas from the place where ideas brew up best: from the gamers, of course.

If you hope on over to Capcom Unity, then you can give them your ideas for the next cross-over spectacular.  The company is encouraging all ideas, from the amazingly serious to the absolutely comical.  You get some cool Capcom swag if you happen to be their favorite.

I don't know if they're actually going to end up using any of these ideas or not, but either way it should at the very least be a humorous thing to read.

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