Last year, 2K Games released a dark and compelling tale for Xbox 360 and PC owners that was set beneath the sea in the halls of an underwater city known as Rapture. Initially a utopian experiment for artists and scientists, the machinations of Rapture's citizens twisted the city into a nightmarish state of nature -- one that you unfortunately find yourself trapped in. For a while, it appeared that the first-person shooter wouldn't ever see the light of day on the PS3, but thankfully, 2K Games took an extra year to bring the critically acclaimed game to Sony's system. But much more than a basic port, 2K included some exclusive extras for the PS3 as a incentive for users that have had to wait to explore Rapture's halls. Is this the definitive "Director's Cut" of BioShock? The answer below may surprise you.
By now, many people know the premise behind BioShock, if not the entire story. For those of you who have managed to go into a total media blackout for the past year, allow me to provide an abridged summary of the main plot points. Set in 1960, your character is a young man who finds himself stuck in a rather precarious situation when the plane he's travelling on crashes into the ocean.
Escaping the wreckage of the plane, he manages to seek refuge in Rapture, a massive underwater city designed to free people from the relative constraints of society, religion and other restrictive organized bodies to fulfill their potential. This vision was created by a man known as Andrew Ryan, a man whose motives were pure, but whose implementation ultimately failed horrifically. As you move through Rapture, hoping to uncover the secrets of why the city is falling apart, you'll be forced to fight for survival against the remaining survivors. While I could go on and on about the story and some of its themes of genetic and personal manipulation (which comprise one of the most compelling games in recent history), I'd rather point you towards Charles' review
from last year, which sums up the elements of the gameplay beautifully.
Watch IGN's video review here.
For the most part, BioShock on the PS3 is exactly the same as the PC and 360 versions of the game. However, I thought that I'd highlight some of the differences that PS3 owners will experience with this version. First off the bat is the mandatory ten minute install process, during which you'll be treated to the old standard, "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," which is a rather tongue in cheek inclusion considering all of the plasmid and genetic manipulation that runs rampant within Rapture. The decision to acknowledge the addiction to these items by the denizens (and by extension, yourself) is quite a humorous one and worthy of note, especially if you wind up returning to replay the game over and over on various difficulty settings.
Speaking of difficulty settings, the PS3 version of BioShock receives an exclusive mode known as Survivor, whose subtitle, "Every Bullet Counts," is an indication of how the game is structured -- and it's not simply a battle limitation, either. Unlike the other three difficulty modes, Survivor radically confines the bullets and items that you receive over the course of the entire adventure, and while you can switch to another mode if it's too hard, is designed to be challenging. If you pick up a gun, you may find only one round left in it; plus, health items and Eve hypos don't restore as much of your meters as they would on a lower difficulty level, which forces you to ration your supplies to ensure that you can make it through battles.
This is especially true because your cash flow is just as restricted -- when you pick up money from a fallen splicer or a cracked safe, you may only get two or three dollars instead of twenty or thirty. That means that having accuracy with every single shot is important, because you won't always be able to find extra rounds or have the money to purchase bullets at vending machines, especially if you need first aid kits to heal yourself. What's more, the splicers and other enemies that you'll face off against are tougher and much smarter than ever before. Each one will take multiple shots from a wrench or a gun without going down, and they'll frequently seek out cover and fire behind it or hover near a first aid station to immediately heal themselves when they're in danger. Big Daddies, for instance, are truly brutal and shrug off loads of damage before they die.
As a result, you may find yourself using many more of the status affecting Plasmids that have cheaper Eve costs than ever before as you try to make your way through this mode. For instance, using Target Dummy to draw enemies into pools of water before electrifying a group of splicers, or using Enrage to force enemies to pick each other apart before you move in and mop up the remaining group is an extremely useful tactic. However, just be aware that having this sneakier stance can potentially overcome the "Every Bullet Counts" limitation for the mode; by using powers like Security Bullseye and Telekinesis to save my ammunition, I was able to frequently max out my ammunition supply, as well as collect more than enough cash to purchase items throughout this difficulty mode.
It doesn't ruin the mode or the challenge posed by the splicers or Big Daddies by any stretch of the imagination, especially if you're experienced with first-person shooters, but it's a minor thing to keep in the back of your head. However, even with this small caveat, Survivor mode highlights just how flexible and deep the Plasmid system and -- by extension -- the combat of BioShock is, because you can move through the game like a traditional shooter or approach it with a stealthier, more cautious stance.
On top of Survivor mode and full trophy support, a few adjustments have been made to some of the basic gameplay mechanics. For one thing, the hacking mini-game, which you'll use to convert cameras, security bots and turrets over to your side to use against your enemies, is much easier to perform on the PS3. The 360's directional pad was too imprecise to move between the circuits easily, but thanks to the DualShock's D-pad, you can fly through each box and complete your hacks quickly. What's more, the newly downloadable plasmids that were released a few months after the game was released are included within all four difficulty levels of the game, and are easily found. For instance, Sonic Boom, the offensive plasmid that pushes enemies backwards, is immediately accessible at the Gatherer's Garden in Fontaine's Fishery.
Even with these features included, there's one that isn't accessible at this point in time. The PS3 version will be getting exclusive content in the form of downloadable Challenge Rooms, which will present the realm of Rapture in a completely new way, with puzzles, situations and other instances that players will be able to solve. Essentially side stories or alternate history brainteasers, the Challenge Rooms could potentially extend the life of the game substantially. However, none of these rooms are currently available and probably won't be available at launch; we haven't heard anything about when they'll be accessible of if you'll need to pay for them either. As a result, this feature is essentially useless until they're finally released at some point in the future. I wish that I had a chance to check these out beforehand. While it's not something that ruins the BioShock experience by any means, PS3 owners should be aware that they won't be able to fully experience all of the content for a while.
However, what does detract from the gameplay is the fact that there are a number of technical issues that should have been ironed out in the extra year of development time that the PS3 version has had. For one thing, the slowdown that cropped up in the 360 version of the game is still present within the PS3 version, and is inexcusable in just how frequent it occurs. It's strange when you're facing off against one particular splicer and the game's framerate stutters, but when you get into an area with a Big Daddy and a few Nitro Splicers, the slowdown can hitch the game for three or more seconds thanks to the explosions and actions of each creature. That's just horrible, and should've been fixed instead of ported over.
Similarly, object detection issues remain, as you'll find Pep Bars, bags of chips and other items sticking through desks and into drawers, or halfway in and out of crates or other containers. Even stranger is the fact that you'll find some firearms dropped from killed enemies that you can plainly see but not pick up the guns to collect their bullets. While the amount of bodies that twitch after an enemy has been killed has been dramatically reduced, you'll still run into a couple of enemies that will vibrate and shake with post-mortem seizures.
What's more, the Little Sister glitch returns with the PS3 version. This isn't nearly as bad as the other problems that I just mentioned, particularly because you can gain extra Adam to purchase extra plasmids in the game, but it does stand out as a glitch nestled in a load of technical problems from last year's experience. Were this to be considered the definitive BioShock experience, you'd think that many of these bugs would've been fixed, or at least explainable as to why they're still in the game. As they currently exist, they seem to be more like a carryover from a bad port of the title.
This can also be said about some of the visuals within the game, which have received a number of enhancements, but also suffer from older, less impressive texture work. 2K Games went out of their way to make sure that the larger capacity of the Blu-Ray was used to implement higher resolution textures across the title, as well as improve some of the in-game cutscenes. For the most part, you'll see these appear as a slightly sharper Rapture across the board, and you'll be able to pick up some features that look better than on the 360, such as pools of water or neon signage. However, there does appear to be a strange mix of the older textures scattered in the title as well, so you'll find quite a lot of texture pop in that will occur as you move through levels. This isn't solely as you load up a new level; this can occur even as you move through a section. It doesn't ruin the game's beauty in the slightest, but it does stand out as a bit of a sore thumb.
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