Bioshock
Released n/a
Details
BioShock is a video game by 2K Boston/2K Australia—previously known as Irrational Games—designed by Ken Levine. It was released for the Windows operating system and Xbox 360 video game console on August 21, 2007, in North America, and three days later in Europe and Australia. A PlayStation 3 version of the game, which was developed by 2K Marin, was released internationally on October 17, 2008 and in North America on October 21, 2008 with some additional features. A version of the game for mobile platforms is currently being developed by IG Fun. A sequel titled BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams will be released in 2009.

Set in an alternate history 1960, the game places the player in the role of a plane crash survivor named Jack, who must explore the underwater dystopian city of Rapture, and survive attacks by the mutated beings and mechanical drones that populate it. The game incorporates elements found in role-playing and survival horror games, and is described by the developers and Levine as a "spiritual successor" to their previous titles in the System Shock series.

The game received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and ranks as the twelfth best video game on Game Rankings based on reviews from critics. It was particularly well-reviewed in the mainstream press where its "morality-based" storyline, immersive environment and Ayn Rand-inspired dystopic back-story were all singled out for praise.



Gameplay
BioShock is a first-person shooter with role-playing game customization and stealth elements, and is similar to System Shock 2. Early indication of the style of gameplay and some of the artificial intelligence (AI) was revealed by a 13-minute video released on September 20, 2006.

A Big Daddy defends a Little Sister from two Splicers, while the player watches.

The player takes the role of Jack who aims to fight his way through Rapture, using weapons and plasmids that give him special powers such as telekinesis or the ability to electrocute, incinerate or freeze foes. Some plasmids even unleash an insect swarm on your foes or enrage them. Security cameras and foes can be evaded by stealth; alternatively, security cameras and turrets can be destroyed using weapons or hacked to use them to the player's advantage. Hacking, which is based on the Pipe Dream game concept, can also be used on health dispensers and vending machines to gain extra benefits, and on locks and safes to gain access to the secured contents.

The main resources in the game are ADAM, EVE, and money. ADAM is a mutagen, which allows genetic changes. Quantities of ADAM can be used to purchase plasmids and other genetic mutations at special "Gatherers Gardens" vending machines throughout the game. ADAM can be obtained in several ways, most prominently the harvesting of "Little Sisters" after defeating their bodyguards, the "Big Daddies," who are large, heavily armored, genetically enhanced humans wearing armored diving suits. EVE acts as fuel for "active plasmids" in a manner similar to magic points in other games, while money allows the purchase of items and ammunition, as well as paying to override security elements, such as bots or turrets.

It is here that morality is implemented as an aspect of the gameplay; the player can choose to either rescue the Little Sisters, or harvest their ADAM (resulting in their death). While both choices have their advantages, this element of conflicting morals has an impact on the storyline, and, among other things, on the difficulty of the game itself.

To adapt and advance the character, the player can purchase plasmids, using ADAM. These are grouped under the Combat, Engineering, Active, and Physical technology trees. The "Active" plasmids are abilities that function as alternate weapons; they are powered by EVE, and require activation by the player. The other classes of plasmids, referred to as "Tonics," are passive abilities that work as long as they are selected as equipment ("equipped").

Plasmids are versatile, and can be used by the player both in concert with each other and with the environment to create numerous effects. For example, "telekinesis" can be used on all loose objects: the player can catch and redirect grenades, rockets, thrown items, or hold large objects to form impromptu shields, or use those same objects as projectiles. Other types of plasmids have different practical uses; for instance, using an "electro-bolt" on a body of water electrifies not only the water, but also any beings and machines within it. The player is also encouraged to use critical thinking in the use of plasmids; for instance, a player may use "incinerate" to set an enemy on fire, and when the enemy jumps into a body of water to smother the flames, use "electro-bolt" to kill the enemy instantly. An element of choice is present: since not all plasmids can be equipped at once, the player must decide which plasmids to use, and which to place in storage.

The hacking minigame in BioShock, which requires the player to construct a complete pipe system between two points while avoiding obstacles.

Most plasmids alter the character's appearance, in keeping with the theme of "sacrificing one's humanity," referenced by Ryan in one of the game's trailers. For instance, the incinerate plasmid causes the character's hand to glow red, take on a charred appearance, and radiate flames from the fingers. However, selecting a weapon will cause these changes to revert to normal, suggesting that any physical changes conferred are temporary. Higher levels of the same plasmid will cause more extreme changes; for example, the highest level of incinerate causes a heavier glow, more severe charring, and more prominent flames. In all, there are over 70 unique plasmids and tonics varieties.

Via single-use weapon-upgrade kiosks called "Power to the People" machines, the player can customize weapons to hold larger magazines, consume ammunition at a slower rate, or cause more damage. Each weapon has a selection of three different types of ammunition: normal, anti-personnel, and armor-piercing bullets are available for the weapons found early in the game; later weapons such as the crossbow have more diverse types of ammunition. There is also a "research camera" in the game that analyzes enemies. After taking enough pictures of any given enemy, the player is granted increased damage, plasmids, and other bonuses when facing that type of enemy in future battles. The quality of the photograph determines the rate at which these advantages are rewarded.

The player can also access several types of vending machines: the "U-Invent," which combines retrievable spare parts into ammunition, tools, etc.; "The Circus of Values" vending machine sells everything from cakes to first aid kits to EVE hypos; the "El Ammo Bandito!," a machine that vends both normal and specialty ammunition; and other more specialized machines, such as health stations. Most vending machine varieties can be hacked, allowing the player to buy "hack-only" items, and reducing the cost of the previously available merchandise. Glass-walled "Vita-Chambers" can also be found throughout the game, which the player does not use directly. Instead, should Jack die, his body is reconstituted at the nearest one, retaining all of his possessions, but only a portion of his full health.



Plot Summary
BioShock is set during 1960, in Rapture, a fictional underwater dystopian city. The history of Rapture is learned by the player through audio recordings as he explores the city. Secretly built in 1946 on the mid-Atlantic seabed, Rapture was entirely self-sufficient and powered by submarine volcanoes. Constructed by business magnate Andrew Ryan (voice by Armin Shimerman), Rapture was envisioned as the solution to what he saw as increasingly oppressive political, economical, and religious authority. The city was populated by those whom Ryan believed exemplified the best in humanity. Because it was full of the cream of mankind, there were several breakthroughs in technology in Rapture, such as the rapid advancement of genetic engineering technology, as well as the wartime invention of steampunk style upgrade stations. It was revealed in an audio log that Ryan wanted Rapture to become an "Eden," a concept furthered by the resources ADAM and EVE, which are named after the biblical inhabitants of Eden. During the early 1950s, Rapture's population peaked at several thousand, though an elite emerged, discomforting many of the inhabitants.

The development of ADAM—stem cells harvested from a previously unknown species of sea slug—by Dr. Bridgette Tennenbaum further upset the social balance. ADAM's prevalence greatly accelerated genetic engineering research, creating a plasmid industry that sold everything from a cure for male pattern baldness to skills like telekinesis, with non-passive types like the latter requiring a serum, EVE. In order to improve ADAM yields, Rapture scientists created the "Little Sisters," young girls, each with a slug embedded in her body. Although initially just ADAM "factories," during the war that later broke out, they were repurposed via mental conditioning to extract ADAM from the dead, and recycle it within themselves. At the same time, the scientists created "Big Daddies" (voiced by Stephen Stanton), armed and highly enhanced humans in diving suits, to defend the Little Sisters as they worked.

For several years, Rapture was what Ryan originally intended it to be: a paradise of freedom and wealth. But ultimately, the very reason it was created—Ryan's hatred of authority—caused the city's downfall, and the ideals Ryan had envisaged to be corrupted and lost. To keep his utopia a secret, Ryan passed a single law: contact with the surface was prohibited. This edict made smuggling profitable, resulting in the formation of a small black market. This market came to be dominated by a man with just as much determination as Ryan: former mobster and accomplished con-artist Frank Fontaine (voiced by Greg Baldwin). Unlike Ryan, however, Fontaine wanted control. His wealth, combined with his monopoly on Tennenbaum's research, soon gained Fontaine enough power and followers to challenge Ryan for control of the city.

In late 1958, Ryan lost patience with the conflict and had Fontaine killed, an action that proved useless as another figure, Atlas (voiced by Karl Hanover), took Fontaine's place as the leader of the opposition. On New Year's Eve that year, Atlas and his ADAM-augmented followers fomented a riot involving the lower and upper classes. This sparked a civil war between Ryan and Atlas that eventually spread to all of Rapture, crippling the city. As the war progressed, Ryan began to betray his ideals. The former advocate of reason and self-determination began using torture and mind control in his battle with Atlas. Eventually, he became so unreasonable that a number of his supporters attempted to assassinate him. By the time the player enters Rapture, only the "Splicers"—citizens with severe mental and physical problems caused by excessive ADAM use—are left, scavenging throughout the city. The remaining non-mutated humans have managed to barricade themselves in the few remaining undamaged areas, although most of these people are nonetheless mentally unstable or dangerous in some way.



Story
At the start of the game, Jack (the player protagonist) is a passenger on a plane that goes down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1960, after ordered society in Rapture has collapsed. After surfacing, Jack finds himself the only survivor of the crash, and swims to a nearby towering lighthouse sitting in the middle of the water, where he finds a bathysphere which he uses to descend into the ocean and enter the failed "paradise" of Rapture. Atlas assists Jack via the service radio found in the bathysphere in making his way to safety, while Ryan, believing Jack to be a government agent (though he's not sure which government), uses Rapture's automated systems and his pheromone-controlled Splicers against him. Atlas tells Jack that the only way he can survive is to use the abilities granted by plasmids, and that he must kill the Little Sisters to extract their ADAM. Overhearing Atlas' words, Dr. Tennenbaum intercepts Jack, and urges him to save the Little Sisters instead. She gives him a special plasmid that will kill only the embedded slugs while leaving the girls alive and restoring their humanity, albeit with a much smaller reward of ADAM for Jack. Tennenbaum promises to repay him if he does as she asks. As Jack works his way through the city, he learns about Rapture's fate and history through audio logs, genetically-induced ghostly playbacks of past events, and radio messages. Atlas says his wife and child have been hiding on a submarine, and just as Jack and Atlas reach the bay where it is located, Ryan has it destroyed; an enraged Atlas tells Jack that Ryan must die.

Jack makes his way to Ryan, who offers no resistance to Jack's efforts, but instead reveals why Jack has come to Rapture: Jack was actually born in Rapture a mere two years ago, genetically modified to mature rapidly. He is Ryan's illegitimate son by an affair with Jasmine Jolene, an entertainer. Ryan further reveals that, after purchasing Jack's embryo, Frank Fontaine designed him to obey orders that are preceded or followed by the specific phrase "Would you kindly." Jack was then sent to the surface when the war started to put him beyond Ryan's reach. When the conflict between Fontaine and Ryan reached a stalemate, Jack was sent instructions to board a flight with a package. At a designated time he opened the package to discover a revolver like the one found in the game, and instructions to hijack and crash the plane next to the lighthouse, enabling him to return to Rapture as the cat's-paw of Atlas. Ryan calmly demonstrates Jack's lack of free will by forcing him to follow his commands using the trigger phrase, "Would you kindly…" which the player then realizes Atlas has been using since his arrival. Ryan then orders Jack to kill him, so as to die on his own terms. Atlas, in complete control of the city as a result of Ryan's death, reveals himself to be Frank Fontaine, having faked his own death and adopted the alias and persona of Atlas to throw Ryan off his trail. With Ryan dead, Fontaine no longer needs Jack, and leaves him at the mercy of the reactivated security systems. Nevertheless, Dr. Tennenbaum and her Little Sisters help Jack escape through the vent system, where he falls and loses consciousness.

When Jack awakes, Dr. Tennenbaum has already deactivated some of his conditioned responses and assists him in breaking the remaining ones, among them one that would have eventually stopped his heart. During their subsequent pursuit of Fontaine, the doctor predicts that the only way to get through the last few obstacles would be to assemble a Big Daddy diving suit and follow the rescued Little Sisters through the passageways that only they can open. By the time Jack reaches him, Fontaine has injected himself with vast amounts of ADAM, becoming an inhuman monster. Jack and Fontaine battle, and Jack eventually prevails, allowing the Little Sisters to subdue Fontaine, by swarming over Fontaine and stabbing him with their needles, killing him by draining all the ADAM out of his system. Here the game ends.

Three endings are possible depending on how the player interacted with the Little Sisters, all narrated by Dr. Tennenbaum. If the player rescued all the Little Sisters (therefore saving their lives), the ending shows the rescued Little Sisters returning to the surface with Jack and living full lives under his care, including their graduating from college, getting married, and having children; it ends on a heart-warming tone, with an elderly Jack surrounded on his deathbed by all of the adult Little Sisters. If the player harvested (and therefore killed) more than two, but not all, of the Little Sisters, the game ends with Jack turning on the Sisters after defeating Fontaine, presumably killing them all and taking their ADAM. Tennenbaum's voice narrates what occurred, condemning Jack and his actions. Later in the second ending, a ballistic missile submarine carrying a nuclear missile comes across the wreckage of the plane and is suddenly surrounded by bathyspheres containing Splicers. The Splicers kill all hands aboard the submarine and take control of it. If the player harvested all of the Little Sisters, the player is shown the same movie as the second ending, though the tone of Tennenbaum's voice is a more disappointed and angrier one.



Original Story
Originally, BioShock had a storyline which was significantly different from that of the released version: the main character was a "cult deprogrammer"—a person charged with rescuing someone from a cult, and mentally and psychologically readjusting that person to a normal life. For example, Ken Levine cites an example of what a cult deprogrammer does: "[There are] people who hired people to [for example] deprogram their daughter who had been in a lesbian relationship. They kidnap her and reprogram her, and it was a really dark person, and that was the [kind of] character that you were." This story would have been more political in nature, with the character hired by a Senator. By the time development on BioShock was officially revealed in 2004, the story and setting had changed significantly. The game now took place in an abandoned World War II-era underground laboratory, which had recently been unearthed by 21st century scientists. The genetic experiments within the labs had gradually formed themselves into an ecosystem, centered around three "castes" of creatures, referred to as "drones," "soldiers," and "predators." This "AI ecology" would eventually form the basis for the "Little Sister," "Big Daddy," and "Splicer" dynamic seen in the completed game.

While the gameplay with this story was similar to what resulted in the released version of the game, the story underwent changes, consistent with what Levine says was then-Irrational Games's guiding principle of putting game design first. Levine also noted that "it was never my intention to do two endings for the game. It sort of came very late and it was something that was requested by somebody up the food chain from me."

In response to an interview question from the gaming website IGN about what influenced the game's story and setting, Levine said, "I have my useless liberal arts degree, so I've read stuff from Ayn Rand and George Orwell, and all the sort of utopian and dystopian writings of the 20th century, which I've found really fascinating." Levine has also mentioned an interest in "stem cell research and the moral issues that go around [it]." In regard to artistic influences, Levine cited the books 1984 and Logan's Run, representing societies that have "really interesting ideas screwed up by the fact that we're people."

According to the developers, BioShock is a spiritual successor to the System Shock games, and was produced by former developers of that series. Levine claims his team had been thinking about making another game in the same vein since they produced System Shock 2. In his narration of a video initially screened for the press at E3 2006, Levine pointed out many similarities between the games. There are several comparable gameplay elements: plasmids in BioShock serve the same function as "Psionic Abilities" in System Shock 2; the player needs to deal with security cameras, machine gun turrets, and hostile robotic drones, and has the ability to hack them in both games; ammunition conservation is stressed as "a key gameplay feature"; and audio tape recordings fulfil the same storytelling role that e-mail logs did in the System Shock games. The "ghosts" (phantom images that replay tragic incidents in the places they occurred) from System Shock 2 also exist in BioShock, as do modifiable weapons with multiple ammunition types. Additionally, Atlas guides the player along by radio, in much the same way Janice Polito does in System Shock 2, with each having a similar twist mid-game. Both games also give the player more than one method of completing tasks, allowing for emergent gameplay.



Game Engine
BioShock uses a highly modified version of the Unreal Engine 2.5 technology used by other previous Irrational Games titles including SWAT 4, and SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate. In an interview at E3 in May 2006, Levine announced a switch to a modified Unreal Engine 3.0. However, despite Levine's claim, BioShock is still built on Unreal Engine 2.5 technology. Irrational/2K Boston/2K Australia integrated some Unreal Engine 3 features into BioShock, but at its core, it's still Unreal Engine 2.5. Levine emphasized the enhanced water effects, which he claimed would be very impressive: "We've hired a water programmer and water artist, just for this game, and they're kicking ass and you've never seen water like this." This graphical enhancement has been lauded by critics, with GameSpot saying, "Whether it's standing water on the floor or sea water rushing in after an explosion, it will blow you away every time you see it." The Windows version of BioShock can utilize Direct3D 10 (DirectX 10) features and content, if the system meets the hardware and software requirements, but it will also run on DirectX 9, if these requirements are not met, or if the video options are changed. There are a few differences in image quality between the two APIs, such as additional water reflections and soft particle effects, but are otherwise subtle from the player's perspective. BioShock also uses Havok Physics, an engine that allows for an enhancement of in-game physics, and the integration of ragdoll physics, and allows for more lifelike movement by elements of the environment.



Demo
A demo was released on Xbox Live Marketplace on August 12, 2007, and the PC demo was officially released on August 20, 2007, and announced during Larry Hryb's (Major Nelson) interview with Ken Levine on his podcast. The demo contains the first 45 minutes of the game and includes a cinematic opening sequence that established the setting and initial plot lines, and the tutorial phase of the game. The demo also contained some differences from the release version such as an extra plasmid and weapons, alongside an earlier security system presence. These were introduced to give players access to several features of the full game. In nine days, the BioShock demo outperformed every other demo release on Xbox Live and became the fastest demo to reach one million downloads. The Steam demo was released on August 20, the day before the Steam release, and the Playstation 3 demo was released on the Playstation Store on October 2, 2008.