By the time the player gets on the scene the city of Rapture is in ruins. Atlas tells us how Ryan and his brethren found a new species of sea slug in the depths which gave them access to a substance called ADAM. In its processed form, ADAM can rewrite genetic code and bestowing users with new powers, which Ryan was able to develop into a technology known as Plasmids.
However, the method by which ADAM is processed isn’t exactly for the faint-hearted and involves children, called Little Sisters, filtering the substance, which they extract from corpses, through their own body and passing it out in the usual way.
Not everybody in Rapture is agreed that using the children this way is the best thing to do, especially as overuse of ADAM is slowly driving the citizens of Rapture insane. It isn’t long before the city crumbles and faces destruction as a result of their greed and addiction, and players must investigate the details of the fall of Rapture as they search for a way to get out and get home.
Billed as a genetically enhanced shooter, Bioshock has gained a lot of attention for being the spiritual successor to System Shock 2 and it’s this very claim which has caused me to get so excited about the game in the past. I am arguably the biggest System Shock fan ever, after all.
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However, after playing both versions of the game extensively, I’m left thinking that the similarities between the two aren’t actually all that many and that Bioshock is a game with no precedent or ancestor to descend from. In a good way.
While the game does take a hybrid form, combining RPG and FPS elements, it clearly leans more to the shooter side of the equation than System Shock 2 or Deus Ex, to which it has been compared in the past.
The focus on combat and action is largely evidenced by the lack of an inventory which forces players to use some items ‘there and then’ or leave them alone. Gone are the days of carrying twenty candy bars around with you to heal minor injuries; in Bioshock you either eat it when you find it or you hope you can find it again later.
The tone of the game is also shifted to give more of a focus on combat, with ripped-open corpses littering levels rather gruesomely and enemies yelling taunting the player before attacking, goading you into making mistakes before the slash at you with beautiful, genetically improved nails.
ADAM is 'processed' through the Little Sisters
Role-playing elements are still heavily featured in the game however and players can equip all sorts of power-ups and boosters to...uh, boost their abilities. Power-ups generally appear in the form of Plasmids, which are made of the processed ADAM and which function as weapons and tools. There are around eight or nine plasmids to choose from, as complements to the nine weapon arsenal (each with three types of ammunition), and Plasmid powers include things like telekinesis, which is handy for throwing grenades back at enemies, and incinerate, which is used to burn away ice and set enemies on fire.
However, only a handful of plasmids can be equipped at once and they cannot be used at the same time as conventional weapons, so a lot of the gameplay depends on your selected array as you can only swap plasmids over at certain machines. Players can customise themselves further through the use of various tonics which add health or extra abilities to your arsenal.