Does it hold up? A feature where I have a look at games from the past and see if they are still as fun and playable now as you remember or if they are simply rose tinted memories.
Every time I’m asked to list my favourite top 10 video games I always forget about BioShock then lament afterwards that it should be in there. It’s strange how I always remember the first game as the best example of a story driven singleplayer fps game and yet it fades back into memory. I still have my embossed steel-box PC copy of BioShock 1 somewhere, residing next to the not-such-loved artbook edition of BioShock 2. As much as I love BioShock I’ve never liked 2 and never managed to complete the story. With the Remaster on PC, ports to all modern consoles and port to Switch, it was now time to dive back into Rapture on the PS4 and finish them both with all the trimmings.
Do they still hold up though? Or do they deserve to be left on the ocean depths?
I was a little worried sinking back down into Rapture. I doubted it had aged well and I had a feeling my memory of it would be tarnished somehow. Originally I upgraded my PC simply to play BioShock and it was setup as my only source of respite in a small crowded house on the dining table. Headphones on, no other focus and a blessed immersive escape from ‘I’m a Celebrity’ based TV. Loading up the Remaster though I shouldn’t have worried. The story in BioShock is full of so many twists and little pockets of brilliance that it has really aged well. Even knowing what is going to occur later in the game, it’s still a wholly enjoyable experience. Unlocking developer commentary by finding little reels was a nice extra and it turns out I still really enjoy the hacking mechanic, tinkering with plasmids and clearing the linear experience.
Taking pictures and shooting splicers is still a fun gameplay loop, managing of ammo and resources is still a little tedious but crafting mitigates this later on. The game does suffer from some padding in areas but overall the experience is still incredibly well polished. Unlike playing back in the day I no longer sprint through burst pipes and standing water, worried that the room might fill and the sense of urgency is diluted. The pleasant side effect of this slower pace is taking time to appreciate just how well created everything in Rapture is. Every inch of every level has magnificently crafted designs and the diaries are still a treat to collect and flesh out the world as you go. From the way the game introduces you to the first big daddy to the entry into Rapture itself, the game is in a class of its own. Stupid simplistic final boss and all.
Does it hold up? – Yes and then some! 9/10
BioShock 1 DLC
This is where things start to go a little off the rails for BioShock. I hadn’t even realised the original game had DLC until the remaster. A short collection of puzzles that doesn’t really add anything to the main experience. Although it does have some interesting ideas with the puzzles and a sense of challenge that requires a bit of creative thought, the entire DLC can be passed over and you won’t lose out on much. The only enjoyable experience to be had after the main game is over is a very interesting Museum mode. Once loaded you are dropped in with no weapons into a Rapture styled museum which showcases dropped ideas, concept art and models. It’s a fascinating idea to show off what could have been although technically not DLC as this was part of the remaster.
Does it hold up? – Not really. 3/10
Here we go. I never finished BioShock 2 until recently. I’ve always tried (I’ve had it since launch for PC) but each time gave up about halfway, when the grind for ammo and survival became almost impossible. It always felt unbalanced and never quite up to the highest points of BioShock 1. How do you follow up one of the biggest and best FPS story titles of all time? Apparently the plan was with a multiplayer mode that was largely forgotten and a very heavy focus on the shooting. The first improvement revisiting BioShock 2 now was going into the options and turning the helmet hud off. The sense of immersion is important but so is being able to see what you’re doing. You’ll want to see everything as well, despite BioShock 2 requiring ridiculous amounts of backtracking and exploration, it does have some striking art design and brilliant writing to boot.
The story in BioShock 2 is still enjoyable. It’s not as striking as 1 and the moral choice system feels incredibly arbitrary but the characters and the side stories are fantastic. BioShock 2 still has big issues with gameplay balance throughout. The big sisters are still overpowered bullet sponges that take everything you have to take down. Searching each level for the 3 little sisters to then have to protect them while they extract Adam feels like a massive chore and each sister does this twice. Despite there being some fantastically unique levels and incredible moments in the characters development, every positive feels wasted by multiple amounts of backtracking for scraps of Adam. There are good pockets of BioShock magic here but the non-combat undersea walking, the grind for everything to progress and arbitrary moral choices makes BioShock 2feel like the good BioShock moments really were stretched far too thin.
Does it hold up? – So-so, depends on your love for the combat. 5/10
BioShock 2 DLC
Here’s where things get interesting. There are two bits of DLC for BioShock 2 and the first ‘The Protector Trials’ is a little throwaway experience for hardcore FPS players that really enjoy the tedious wave nature of protecting the little sisters. With minimal weapons and plasmids it highlights the dullest aspect of BioShock 2 but with the Minerva’s Den DLC you really get a glimpse of what BioShock 2 could have been. Minerva’s Den is a standalone story and area from a different perspective and loosely tied into the main story in the way you’d expect from a spin-off series. Released from the shackles of a larger story it really shines with new weapons and plasmids that pack a punch. Minerva’s Den is a surprisingly large area but designed with small hub-like structures that help lessen the grind from backtracking to save the little sisters. The story is worth a go alone and the single ending results in a much more powerful result.
Does it hold up? – Yes! Minerva’s Den is better than BioShock 2 – 8/10
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