BioShock (2007) is an FPS (first person shooter) set in a fictional 1960s. The game begins when your plane crashes in the Atlantic Ocean, forcing you to take shelter in what appears to be a lighthouse; this lighthouse, however, also serves as an entry to Rapture, an underwater city constructed and populated by intellectuals and governed by a man named Andrew Ryan. The city is a technological wonder, as are many things inside of it. Unfortunately, as you progress further in the game, you discover that something has gone terribly wrong, and you must fight your way through numerous enemies to survive in this dystopia. I have played several FPS games, some that are multiplayer and some that are single player only. I generally prefer multiplayer because I used to believe that my money's worth came from playing online against others. BioShock was different. The story really got me interested in the game, which is helped by the soundwork.
Over the course of the game, you pick up audio diaries, which contain the recorded thoughts of the citizens before and during the war that erupted in the city before your arrival. The diaries flesh out the world of Rapture in a way that I feel is lacking in other game narratives. The voicework is phenomenal, and you can feel the distinct personalities of each person whose diary you obtain. Even though I have played the infamous Half Life 1 and a little bit of Half Life 2, I did not become as engaged with those stories as I did with BioShock.
Some people criticize the gameplay of BioShock as being too repetitive, but I like the overall system. You are able to switch between standard guns and Plasmids, which are special abilities. The Incinerate Plasmid, for example, allows you to set people on fire, which makes for a useful skill.
Your skill set is not limited to these weapons of warfare though. You can also hack security cameras and drones to aid you in your fight against the enemies that attack you. These options can be mixed with each other, allowing you to create your personal preference of fighting. Combined with the Havok physics system, a large amount of fun can be had. I think the boring aspect of the gameplay is the limited types of enemies you encounter, not the weapon system itself.
Though the visuals are not as detailed as other modern games, the art design of Rapture and the people in it make up for that flaw. The cinematic events and the general macabre atmosphere are presented wonderfully as well. Much has been written about the game's integration of philosophical issues, such as Ayn Rand's objectivism, which provides another example of the depth of story involved.
There are some negative aspects of the game. Many have criticized some of the mechanics, such as the vita chambers that populate most of the levels in the game. These chambers revive you if you happen to die in Rapture. Although this is obviously a device to assist new gamers, advanced players do not really need it or want it because it reduces the challenge of the game.
In addition, unless you are playing on the hardest difficulty, the game becomes relatively easy after the first two levels. I felt that the first levels had a palpable sense of fear and anxiety that really got me emotionally involved, but after I acquired more weapons and money, that feeling dissipated. By no means did I feel invincible, but most of the obstacles in my path seemed less dangerous than before.
Replayability is another factor to consider. After playing through the game twice using different Plasmids, I did not feel the need to play through it again. A released patch for the game introduced new Plasmids and other additions, but I did not download it; I assume it imparts a little more interest to the game.
On a side note, BioShock requires an Internet connection to activate and has an ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating of M for Mature. The game depicts graphic deaths, disturbing images, harsh language, and copious amounts of blood, and it is not a game tailored for children.
Despite these drawbacks, I do not regret purchasing the game. I obtained a copy at Best Buy for $24.99 in December of 2007; currently, BioShock can be procured for $20.00 or less. I am currently awaiting the 2010 release of BioShock 2, which has both single player and multiplayer components, with great anticipation.