Bioshock Xbox 360 / PC

Bioshock Xbox 360 / PC
Bioshock is a merciless game; it grabs the player within the opening minutes and doesn’t let go until the whole exhausting experience is over, something few games are able to accomplish. Bioshock tells the tale of Rapture, a spooky underwater city your character discovers after a plane crash. But rather than the intended Utopian society, something went horribly wrong and the inhabitants have taken on monstrous qualities, and are joined by disturbing female children ("Little Sisters”) and their protective minders clad in diving suits ("Big Daddies”), who like nothing better than maiming folks with giant drills and rivet guns. Or to put it another way, it isn’t a friendly place. The game looks stunning; the level of detail is so incredible that it acts as a distraction from the missions at hand — it is hard not to examine every aspect of your surroundings. That is in part due to the art deco style that defines Rapture, but it is mostly because of the game’s wonderful sense of atmosphere, which is incredibly engrossing. Add to that the eerie versions of ’50s pop songs and the compelling plot (and its twists) and it really does begin to look like Bioshock might be one of the rarest of beasts: a flawless game. There are several ways that Bioshock stands out from the competition. The system of upgrading abilities using Plasmids has more in common with RPGs than FPSs, helping to add a new dimension to the in-game action. As your powers evolve, they allow new methods of dealing with enemies, and so the designers’ promise that no two players will play the game in the same way pretty much holds true. Plus, it helps immensely with the replay value. The game, although tough, is well balanced thanks to a save system that is very generous, and although relatively linear, there is still plenty of room for exploration and individuality. There are also some other interesting aspects, such as the ethical dilemma about how to collect the energy required for purchasing powers, and the overall imagination, and care, that has gone into the whole experience is breathtaking. And it doesn’t become completely apparent until afterwards either — there’s no time for reflection during the intense action. The only slight complaint is that there’s no online multiplayer option, but that’s just fine because nothing could possibly be added by a few clichéd arenas that could never compare to the main game. Instead, Bioshock is one of the most perfect one-player experiences on any console and it has made the FPS genre interesting again, just in time for Halo 3 to take all the credit. (2K Games)