The Bioshock franchise offers some of the best games of the previous console generation, and the recent collection of the entire series gives current-gen gamers no excuse not to own them. For a cool $60, Bioshock: The Collection gives three full retail games, two of the most unforgettable video game cities and dozens of hours of versatile gameplay and engrossing storytelling.
At first, Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite may seem like regular first-person action shooters, but they are so much more. The haunting cities of Rapture from the first two games and Columbia from Infinite are terrors and joys to explore. The vast array of guns and Plasmid powers give tons of ways to shoot, incinerate, hypnotize, freeze and shock every Splicer, Big Daddy and Motorized Patriot that comes your way. The three titles are fantastic blends of gameplay and story and definitely games you NEED to play.
Bioshock released in 2007 and quickly cemented itself as one of the best games of its time. Set in 1960, the player controls Jack, the silent protagonist, who survives a plane crash and seeks refuge in an abandoned lighthouse that brings him to the underwater city of Rapture. Deranged visionary Andrew Ryan created Rapture as a utopia for society’s elite to thrive and escape government control, but soon the addictive drug ADAM turned the citizens into psychotic, mutated freaks. Aided by an unseen ally named Atlas, Jack has to travel through the crumbling city, uncover Rapture’s darkest secrets and defeat its terrifying foes to return home.
Rapture is one of the creepiest and most iconic locations ever created in a game. Some parts of the hotels, hospitals, gardens and theaters of this once-magnificent city shine through the grime, but most places have been looted and ravaged by Splicers. The graphics in the remastered collection are gorgeous and it really feels like the entire place could become flooded at any minute. Exploring the locations is a rewarding but frightening endeavor because lurking around every corner could be legitimately horrifying Splicers or worse: a Big Daddy.
Big Daddies are monstrous behemoths clad in scuba suits peacefully stomping around each level protecting the deformed Little Sisters who collect ADAM from corpses. Players use the precious ADAM to buy more Plasmids and upgrades, and the only way to collect ADAM is by killing Big Daddies and stealing it from Little Sisters. These fights are like mobile boss battles, but thanks to the variety of weapons and plasmids, they’re not impossible. Plasmids are genetic superpowers, like Electro Bolt, Incinerate and Telekinesis, and their combinations are endless. You can freeze an enemy then blast him apart with a shotgun, set him ablaze then shock him when he jumps into water, hack turrets to fight for you and so much more.
The original Bioshock laid the foundation for the following two games, and it featured one of the most interesting and complex villains in recent history: Andrew Ryan. An extreme idealist and business magnate, Ryan believed that people should keep what they earn without government interference. He envisioned Rapture as a lawless, free-market haven for industry, business and devoid of left-wing “parasites” who wanted equal distribution of wealth. However, black market trading and civil unrest were Rapture’s downfall. Ryan’s grand ideals and philosophies enriched the game’s narrative and were always fascinating to listen to.
A man chooses, a slave obeys – Andrew Ryan
Taking place 10 years later, Bioshock 2 puts you in the boots of a Big Daddy searching Rapture for a lost Little Sister. The sequel has several gameplay tweaks, like improved hacking, missions to defend Little Sisters, ferocious Big Sisters and the new villain Sofia Lamb. Never fully reaching the heights of the original’s story, Bioshock 2 is still worth a playthrough for fans wanting more of the frenetic combat and exploration of the new Rapture.
Bioshock Infinite released six years after the original and still has fans divided over which is the superior game. Instead of taking place under the sea, Infinite launches you above the clouds into the floating city of Columbia playing as no-nonsense private detective Booker DeWitt. In order to “wipe away his debt,” DeWitt must rescue a girl named Elizabeth who can create tears in reality while being pursued by “Prophet” Zachary Comstock and his religious, racist zealots.
Father Comstock founded Columbia after seceding from the United States in the late 19th century. When the game starts in 1912, the city has become a hotbed for racial tension and a perversion of the Manifest Destiny. DeWitt has to fight his way through a variety of enemies with new Vigors (Infinite’s version of Plasmids) like Devil’s Kiss, Shock Jockey and Bucking Bronco. Combat is as versatile as ever, and now battles are more fast-paced as DeWitt and enemies ride on Sky-Lines, dizzyingly tall transport rails around the city.
The stories in Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite drop hints about the upcoming plot twists throughout the games, but the reveals at the finales are mind-blowing. At a few points, both games make you pause and think “Did that really just happen?” Everything you thought you knew about the stories and characters takes a 180, but it still feels natural and believable in the established worlds. These plot twists take a high place among video game stories, even compared to movies and TV shows.
Bioshock: The Collection is a deal you can’t miss. In addition to the three games, there are three hefty pieces of DLC from Bioshock 2 and Infinite that are worth playing. The gameplay is hectic and riveting, the stories are compelling and unforgettable, and the worlds are beautiful and iconic. As Atlas from the original Bioshock might say, “Would you kindly play these games?”