Bioshock is a game that received lots and lots of praise over the years, yet I couldn’t find any of these great things when I played. It’s a boring, predictable, and painfully tedious game that doesn’t hold up at all. Shallow, generic plot, uninspired characters, and one of the worst combat systems I have tried; Bioshock falls flat in almost every aspect, to the point where I couldn’t even force myself to finish it. It’s really that bad.
A Game of ‘Almost’
What a mess. I find it hard to believe this game received so much praise over the years; perhaps everybody is in on something I’m not, but I refuse to believe so many people claim this mediocre-at-best title ‘fantastic’ or ‘phenomenal’.
I think the best way for me to describe this game is ‘almost’. This game ‘almost’ does things right. The ideas were good on paper, I’m sure, but the execution is so lacking that the entire package is just a one big miss. This game could be great, but it’s only ‘almost’ so. It misses most of its shots, and the result is a tiring, clunky experience that I can only imagine being praised for the nostalgia.
I tried to like this game. I really did. With so many people saying great things about it, it has to be something else. A true classic! A masterpiece of gaming! Yet as my prematurely-interrupted playthrough shows… this game is none of neither of these things, nor anything else good. Let’s dive exactly into why.
Bad Fights, Worse Tales
The combat system is an unrewarding, clunky mess. Sure, it looks cool with all these special powers and plasmoids and weapons, but in reality it’s terrible. Your weapons either dominate your opponents in a single hit or feel like paper against stronger foes. The weapons are uninspired and lack a punch; yet above all is how utterly pathetic ammo is in this game. Not only ammo is so scarce it’s impossible to use your weapons half the time, you’re also only able to carry a tiny amount of reserves. This means you can’t plan further than one or two magazines ahead, which makes combat very unreliable. A good chunk of my combat was whacking things repeatedly with the wrench since all my magazines were empty. That’s not fun. Switching between your weapons and magic powers is painfully annoying. I found myself fighting my controls more often than I fought my enemies. The default ones make zero sense, and you can’t really change them much.
Then we get into the story. The opening was great, I’ll give it that: the entire intro sequence felt pretty neat, though I think it had too much going on for a start. Still, it certainly got my attention, and it seemed we’re off to a great start. What followed, unfortunately, is a generic and predictable tale that I couldn’t recall even if I tried to. The plot (up to the point I managed to force myself to play) is shallow and unmemorable, with pathetic ‘twists’ and laughable one-dimensional characters. Rebel tough guy? Check. Smart science lady? Check. Evil corporate antagonist? Check. All the ingredients for a yawn-inducting story are here. The bosses I fought, supposedly key people to the story, were as uninspired as the next generic NPC I killed, only more bullet sponge-y. The one right thing this game has lore-wise is the recordings you can collect throughout the world, which are actually quite interesting. A lot of the lore of the game is unlocked through them - it’s not great - but the voice acting and the presentation are superb. Honestly, I think the game would’ve been far more interesting if the lore was told solely through these recordings, instead of the utter nonsense the main plot is.
A World of… Well, Nothing
The world itself, which is one of the most praised elements of Bioshock, is (for the most part) very lovely indeed… or so I’d probably think if I could see the damn thing. The levels are almost entirely pitch black, everywhere. The brightness slider in the menu doesn’t do anything either (yay broken features), so I had no choice but to play the game partially-blinded. At first I thought this has to do with setting the atmosphere and such, but when every level I got into was as dark as the last one, and when I had to face enemies that I practically couldn’t see - that’s when I figured something is wrong.
Exploring and looting is seriously disapoointing. The world is littered with containers you can search and loot - but 90% of them are empty. What’s the point of having them, then?! Eventually I just gave up and sticked to only looting my enemeis’ corpses, which as I mentioned before yielded very little value. Going off the main route also rarely yielded anything of value. There are many detours and areas you can explore, but practically none of them actually offer anything interesting or useful - only more enemies to chew up your precious ammo and medkits.
Hacking… ugh. Such a tedious and boring mechanic. There’s nothing challenging about it, it’s just super annoying to deal with. All the unnecessary clicking and clutter is a pathetic way to artificially gate it. It’s clear hacking was meant to be tedious rather than challenging. Also, I don’t know if this is a bug or actually intended, but half of the time you end up with unsolvable puzzles. And I mean actually unsolvable: all paths are blocked with alarms or bombs. Health down the drain. Woo.
Vendors are crappy, located in awful spots, overpriced, and understocked. The Adam system is complete trash that offers things you won’t need 90% of the time, because you can only use so many upgrades at once. Crafting is a joke - finding the ingredients impossible and the options are useless. Vita-chambers are located in awful places. Cameras and alarms are such a pain in the ass, since you often can’t even see them until it’s too late. I can go on, probably.
Bioshock is not a good game. It’s a poorly executed, confusing, uninspired mess that tries to be atmospheric and challenging but instead ends up laughable and tedious. I couldn’t get myself to play beyond the first half; I was so bored and annoyed that I quit the game and uninstalled it. After hearing so much praise on this title, I couldn’t expect how much of a let down it will be.
Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe everyone is onto something that I’m not, that makes this game so ‘legendary’. But for the life of me, I can’t find the appeal in Bioshock, nor more than one or two things I can vouch for. I got the rest of the series waiting in my library but after such an introduction, I’m not sure if I ever want to visit Rapture again - perhaps only if I’m really having a hard time falling asleep.