Video games aren’t often likened to novels. However, some titles do, infrequently, share deep philosophical ties to great works of literature. Books such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged intellectual analysis are interwoven into the BioShock series, making it one of the most scholarly collection of games in history. Now BioShock is back, and all three games are jammed-pack with an ocean load of downloadable content and a HD makeover.
Upon first glance, one may be forgiven for overlooking the narrative’s academic roots, for the story is coated in a thick crust—a layer of gameplay that gets thicker the more you cut into it. Initially BioShock may seem like a run-ofthe-mill first-person-shooter with RPG and horror elements introduced throughout, yet there is far more to this experience than that. The game has more gameplay components than a watch has gears, but these mechanisms work as a result of the well-crafted story. The first two BioShocks take place beneath the ocean in a submerged city called Rapture. Designed by industrial genius Andrew Ryan to isolate its people from the world’s tribulations and government control, creating a utopian society for the foremost artists and freethinkers, Rapture appears to be the perfect paradise. Unfortunately, the game’s protagonist discovers the city in a state of disarray, a far cry from an idealistic haven dreamed up by a visionary. After a plane crashes into the middle of the Atlantic during the 1960s, a man named Jack emerges from the waves to find a lone lighthouse, the proverbial gate to hell. Through this lighthouse Jack descends to Rapture, uncovering a metropolis rife with horrors wrought by a civil war and Adam abuse, a drug-like substance that can change one’s physiological makeup. Do you have what it takes to escape Rapture with water pouring in from above and unspeakable madness lurking around every corner?
Adam and Eve
Adam is a major gameplay element, affording the player great powers. Through the use of Adam, gamers can sprout electricity, fire, ice, and even bees from their hands. But you can’t have Adam without Eve, the ammo which makes Adam work, like a bullet to a gun. Speaking of weapons, BioShock boasts an extensive collection, including shotguns, machineguns, flamethrowers, and grenade launchers— quite the recipe for fun. But it’s the way in which this formula is used that really makes things interesting. Rapture is overflowing with bizarre characters, most of whom seek the powers Adam offers. However, in order to gain Adam’s benefits you must either save or harvest a little sister, a young girllike creature that produces Adam from the city’s deceased. These small girls have been transformed into shimmering eyed zombies that gather Adam at Andrew Ryan’s behest, thus making Rapture run on a second hand drug. Choosing to take the moral high ground by saving a little sister yields inferior Adam compared to harvesting her, so the less conscientious among you may find yourselves with greater power than the more honorable. Nevertheless, sometimes the right road is harder than the easy one. Harvesting or rescuing is not as simple as it sounds though. Each little sister has a powerful guardian in the Big Daddies, a hulking giant outfitted in a diving suit. This is a big risk and reward system. You either gamble death by fighting the big daddy, or risk continuing with less Adam, the game’s lifeblood. Bio-Shock also has many other apparatuses working for it, like the ability to hack security cameras and turrets that can attack foes at your command. There is so much interlaced into these games it’s impossible to list them all here.
Garden of Eden
Even now, all these years later, BioShock looks fantastic. The Art Deco designs, the astonishing water effects, and Rapture’s run-down appearance are still aesthetically pleasing. The first game’s character models show their age in their antiquated detail. However, this isn’t the case for the preceding two games. BioShock Infinite, the third and my personal favorite in the series stuns, both visually and in terms of sound design. The music and encyclopedic tone of these games cannot be outdone, to this day.
BioShock: The Collection is as close as you can get to the perfect HD collection. From including all three games in the series and their DLC, to containing commentary from the games’ makers and a virtual museum in which to gain insight into the creative process. This series is among the most fun and intelligent available today. This game is rated M for mature.