Bioshock: The Collection Review: The Ultimate Bioshock Experience
With this review I decided to devote more attention to Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite. I made this decision simply because I already reviewed the first Bioshock game back in the day when Cynosure Gaming was taking its first babysteps out of the internet woodwork. I also referred to it in my System Shock retrospective that wrote back in the Summer, you can check out my articles for both of these games here: Bioshock/ System Shock. There is really nothing I can say about the first game that I have not already mentioned in the aforementioned articles; however, I can briefly discuss some of the new features included in this re-release.
First off, Bioshock, as well as Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, include all their downloadable content and are fully remastered in HD with a 1080p resolution, meaning that the cities of Rapture and Columbia look more dazzling than ever. Normally, I do not mind if a game is in high definition or standard but seeing all the Bioshock games with gloriously enhanced textures makes both cities seem twice as atmospheric and twisted as before. To get back to the original Bioshock, some other new features include: a harder difficulty setting called Survivor, which greatly limits the amount of ammunition you can find, hidden reels of commentary from the creators of the game, non-canon challenge rooms where your puzzle solving skills are put to the test, and a room where you can view scrapped ideas and concepts during the development process. All of these features let you dive (pun intended) deeper into Bioshock even more and let you experience it as if you were playing it again for the first time.
With Bioshock out of the way, it is time to take a look at Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite and offer my opinion on these two titles. Bioshock 2 is not a terrible game by any means, die hard fans of the original have often categorized it as the black sheep of the series because they felt that the first game did not warrant a sequel. I was also on the bandwagon about Bioshock 2 but as I played it I began to see that the games is more innovative than we give it credit for because it lets players return to the immersive world of Rapture and it delivers some new gameplay tweaks that surpass even that of Bioshock.
The plot begins eight years after the first game where you control a big daddy prototype named Subject Delta who must explore the ruins of Rapture to locate his long lost Little Sister Eleanor Lamb. Rapture has deteriorated drastically since Bioshock, with many sectors being completely flooded and splicers looking even more monstrous than before. The city is now under the total control of a woman named Sophia Lamb, Eleanor’s mother, who serves as the main antagonist throughout the game. Gameplay in Bioshock 2 is nearly identical to Bioshock with a couple of big differences. One change that is a definite improvement over the original is the ability to use a weapon and a Plasmid simultaneously, this eliminates the tediousness of constantly shifting between the Plasmid and weapon wheel when in combat. Another big improvement is the new hacking mini-game, back in Bioshock hacking was conducted through a mini-game that involved arranging networks of pipes, greatly disrupting the flow of battle but now in 2 hacking takes place in real time and it simply requires you to stop a needle on green and blue spaces to successfully hack turrets and vending machines.
Since you play as a Big Daddy, you have access to a brand a new arsenal of weapons, such as the rivet gun and the drill, weapons previously used by Big Daddies in the original game. Using these weapons makes you feel empowered and truly makes you a force to be reckoned with. All weapons aside, Delta’s relationship with the Little Sisters is a bit more complicated this time around, after you kill a Little Sister’s Big Daddy you are given the option to adopt the child, you can then place her next to a corpse and she will gather Adam for you. Doing this attracts the attention of Splicers, so make sure you prepare for a big battle once she begins the Adam extraction. Even though Bioshock 2 does not include anything groundbreaking compared to it predecessor Bioshock, it is its gameplay innovations and narrative that give the game its own distinct identity.
Now we move on to Bioshock Infinite, which is perhaps the weakest of the three Bioshock games in my opinion. Now don’t get me wrong, on a story and thematic level, Infinite is amazing and it deeply examines the notion of choice and its ramifications. I will not say anymore about this concept without spoilers so I will clue you in on the premise of the game. You play as a man named Booker DeWitt, a 38 year old former Pinkerton agent who is in debt due to reckless gambling. He is given instructions from an anonymous source to travel to a mysterious city in the sky called Columbia to save a girl named Elizabeth and bring her to New York to effectively wipe away all of his gambling debts.
The city of Columbia itself is a total inverse of Rapture, appearing as a heavenly and idyllic paradise where American exceptionalism is all the rage. Underneath Columbia’s idealistic exterior lies a place that is morally decrepit and xenophobic; Columbia exploits its working class and openly discriminates against other people based on their ethnicity or their sexuality. I found this presentation of Columbia to be another one of Bioshock Infinite’s stronger elements because it makes the city a place with its own fascinating history and its own disturbing horrors.Unfortunately, this is where the goodness of Bioshock Infinite ends for me because the gameplay, although ambitious, is really bland. One aspect of the gameplay that I found to be ambitious is the ability to latch on to the Sky-Line, what is Sky-Line you ask, well it is basically a series of interconnected rails that Booker can latch onto with his Sky Hook for added mobility during combat, making battles chaotic and fun. I also liked that Elizabeth is not a passive character, she will actively help Booker while exploring or fighting and she will sometimes leave Booker to uncover answers about her own identity. I will stop there because unveiling anymore about Elizabeth will once again lead into spoiler territory. Like in Bioshock 2, Booker can use Vigors (the Plasmids of Infinite) and weapons simultaneously which again makes switching between Vigors and weapons easier; the problem with this is that Booker is only allowed to carry two weapons at a time and many of the weapons are very boring. Columbia is also a much more open and brightly lit space compared to Rapture so as a result a lot of the tense and claustrophobic feelings that the first two titles capitalized on is lost.
Moreover, battles are big and grandiose with hordes upon hordes of enemies trying to take you down. For me this stripped down the complexities of battle from the first two games where your approach can be executed through a variety of options. Bioshock Infinite tries to utilize that variety as well and fails at it. For example, sometimes on the battlefield you can find a puddle of oil to burn up enemies in or a puddle of water to electrocute them in but the areas that you fight in are so big that you will mostly find yourself mindlessly shooting everything that moves, forgetting about the parts of the environment that you could have used to make the battle easier. Despite these big flaws, Bioshock Infinite has its good aspects and it definitely has a place on the Bioshock canon but its boring and forgettable gameplay make it a weak entry the gives it no replay value whatsoever.Bioshock: The Collection is true to its name, it is a wonderful package that includes all things Bioshock and wraps them all up in a bloody, spliced up bow. This compilation is far from perfect though, perhaps the biggest gripe I have for the collection as a whole is that it does not include any bonus material for Bioshock 2 and Infinite. Bioshock is the made the crowned jewel of the collection while the other two are tacked on to its coat tail. Even though I do not love the other two games as much as the first they still deserve a lot of respect for their contributions of the Bioshock lore. I would have appreciated some Director’s commentary on Bioshock 2 and Infinite as well as concept rooms and new difficulty settings. Whether you are getting into the Bioshock games for the first time or if you are a complete fanboy like myself, this collection has everything you can possible want from the Bioshock series, it is definitely worth your time.