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Review: BioShock

Russ Pitts | 5 Sep 2007 16:00
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Several hours into BioShock, you'll be guessing wildly about what picture will be assembled from the pieces you've been given. Halfway through, you'll think you know what's going on. Another quarter way through, you'll realize you were wrong, and by the time you finish you'll wish you could go back to not knowing.

But then something odd happens - and this is at the core of my intense ambivalence over the game's finale - the ending leaves you wanting. As brilliantly and intricately woven as BioShock's story may be, there are holes you can walk a Big Daddy through (and I can't tell you what they are, either), and the ending doesn't even begin to tie up the most critical loose ends. You learn who you are, what happened to Rapture, why it was more than likely destined to fall into ruin and why it should matter to you. But apart from a hasty-looking cut scene, no attempt is made to resolve it all in any satisfactory way. It's like the ending of The Sopranos.

I will spoil this: At the end of the game, after peeking into corners, under staircases and under dead bodies, you'll have assembled all of the pieces and revealed a fantastic story. Then it's time for an escort mission followed by a boss battle. It's as if, having designed the perfect shooter, one that employed genre conventions only when appropriate and even then in ways no one had yet imagined, the designers felt compelled to ground the experience in the worst of them.

I won't tell you who you're escorting and who the boss is you're battling, but both levels are fairly tedious. The escort in particular is the only level in BioShock I was forced to repeat. Partly because of my own obsessive nature, but partly because its design pummeled me worse than any of the Big Daddies.

Perhaps there will be a sequel to BioShock that will pick up where the first left off. Perhaps there simply wasn't any way at all to end such a magnificently mysterious game that didn't involve some amount of bubble bursting, but when I finished BioShock I felt as if I'd come out the other side of a giant and wonderful haunted house and had the lights turned on in my face before I was fully out the door. I can't exactly call this a negative mark. Perhaps it's simply a sign of how deeply the game had ensnared me that I felt abandoned and lost after leaving Rapture.

Before I played BioShock I filled my days reading preview stories, designer notes and as much information as I could find about it. After playing it, I'm still reading everything I can find about it. I want to know what inspired it, how it was created and what my friends think about it.

BioShock is a game that will change the way you think about games. It will make you feel something, and you'll want to tell everyone you know about it. It's not for everyone, like Wii Sports, but if you played games before playing games was cool, you should play BioShock. Maybe you'll find the problems I found to be irrelevant, and maybe they'll bug you more, but you will definitely find something in BioShock that will make you glad you played it.

The first most important thing I have to say about it is that I will be playing it again. The second: It's not a perfect game, but it's the best I've ever seen.

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