BioShock 6-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - January 2, 2014
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Being a first-person shooter, many of the mechanics of BioShock are standard fare, but not all. One of the primary reasons for the differences is the use of Plasmids. You aim, use, and cycle through Plasmids like you do for your weapons, but because you use both weapons and Plasmids, the system becomes somewhat cumbersome.
By default, swapping between guns and Plasmids is mapped to the right mouse button. Fortunately the swapping animation is pretty short, so that is not a problem, but if you just came from a game where RMB is zoom, you may need a little time to adapt. The scroll wheel will cycle through Plasmids or weapons, depending on which you have out at the moment. For the normal weapons, you may not use the scroll wheel much, because the weapons are mapped to the number keys. The Plasmids, however, are mapped to the function keys, so I found myself relying on the scroll wheel for switching between those. This makes it important to know the order of your Plasmids, which is one thing it does not appear you have much control over. You do have the ability to swap out Plasmids at Gene Bank kiosks, but unless you are supposed to empty and refill the slots (a rather tedious process) I did not find any way to change the order of the abilities.
During combat there are multiple numbers you need to be aware of. Two of these are, expectedly, your health and ammo, and a third is your Eve, the substance that powers your Plasmids. Two more would be the number of health packs and Eve syringes you have. Health packs are applied instantly, but the syringes go through an animation before refilling your Eve. In the heat of battle you will likely not enjoy the brief pause in your action, but your enemies will, so always keep aware of your Eve levels.
Another set of numbers you may want to keep aware of concerns the amount of special ammunition you have. All of your weapons are able to use three different kinds of ammunition, which have different properties and are intended for different situations. Switching between the ammo types takes as long as a reload, which is just long enough that you may want to be ready to swap weapons instead.
Two things that can help you in combat, if used intelligently, are the camera and the AI of the Big Daddies. The camera can be used to take pictures of enemies and unlock offensive bonuses against them as a result of this research. The Big Daddies exist for the singular purpose of protecting the Little Sisters from anything that threatens them. This includes you and the Splicers, but as long as you do not actually harm a Little Sister, the accompanying Big Daddy will ignore you while he just destroys the Splicers.
If you die, you have two options of what to do. You can either reload from a save (BioShock has a quicksave system) or you can be respawned at a Vita-Chamber. Aside from possibly being placed far away from where you were, there is no real punishment from using the Vita-Chambers, which is probably why there is an option to disable them. For the most challenging experience that is what you will want to do, but be warned, unless you scour and scavenge everything, it can be easy to run out of resources.
Bodies of fallen enemies and many objects in the environment can be looted for supplies and money, which can be used at vendors to purchase supplies. Some objects, such as safes, must be hacked before you can access what goodies they have inside. Vendors can also be hacked to reduce prices, and make certain items available for purchase. The hacking mini-game involves connecting an inlet and outlet with pipes by swapping tiles. Some pipes will speed up or slow down the flow, while others will cause the hack to fail and even alert security to your presence. At first this is not too difficult to deal with, but eventually you will find it maddening as you realize that your success is not a matter of skill but of luck, as you build paths that lead to dead ends you could not see before, and the flow is too far to make any changes. Or even more irritating, you have a path almost finished and need just one last piece to complete it, only to find that none are left, and you have no time to make a new path that will work.
That just about covers the gameplay mechanics. The structure of the game is mostly that of a linear action game, but the maps are not limited to just where you need to go to complete your goals. There are other rooms and hidden areas to find, if you take the time to go off the path. The game even encourages you to explore Rapture by informing you if you have missed any Little Sisters to collect Adam from. As Adam is what pays for new Plasmids and other upgrades, you do not want to skip much of it.
It took me about 10 hours and 12 minutes to complete a single playthrough of BioShock. That puts it about in line with many other first-person shooters, but there is more gameplay than what I did. To save some time, I did skip many Little Sisters. This may have made the game a little more difficult for me at the end, but it was (obviously) not unbeatable. Guessing, I would say that hunting down all of the Little Sisters would have brought my playtime up to between eleven and twelve hours.
Adding to the replayability of BioShock are the multiple endings it features, based on your decisions to rescue or harvest the Little Sisters. I am not a heartless monster, so I have only gotten the ending for rescuing each Little Sister I find.