Plasmids are, to use a unsophisticated but easily understandable description, like magic spells. They give you special powers, like the ability to shoot lightning from your fingertips, at the cost of Eve, which is the BioShock
equivalent of mana.
In story terms however, plasmids are genetic enhancements based on Adam, a genetic material harvested from deep-ocean sources which become clear through playing the game. Adam is then processed by little girls, corrupted by the material and known as Little Sisters, and turned into Eve. The Little Sisters, who are guarded by massively armoured monsters called Big Daddies, are scattered around the city of Rapture. Confronting them is a major aspect of the gameplay, as players must decide how they want to deal these corrupted, parasitic youths.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, which to my mind is a testament to the grand scope and complexity of BioShock
. Even in casual conversation with the rest of the bit-tech
team it’s hard to order the conversation correctly and talk sensibly about BioShock
because the story and gameplay elements are all interlinked so closely and brilliantly.
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For instance, to tell you about the Plasmids I should really talk about the Little Sisters first, since they are the source of Adam and Eve in the game. To do that though, I should mention the Big Daddies, who are guardians of these little girls. But then you’d question why the Little Sisters need guardians and I’d have to tell you about the Splicers, the demented denizens of Rapture who have been disfigured and destroyed by overuse of the Adam. Then you’d want to know all about them though and why Rapture is in ruins, and I’d have to ruin the story of the game and tell you about Andrew Ryan and the various conflicts and battles once held within the walls of Rapture.
People like you are never happy.
What complicates matters further though is that you can’t equip all your plasmids at once and so, by collecting Adam throughout the game and spending it at machines called Gatherers Gardens, you can purchase new plasmids and plasmid slots. Plasmids range from the obvious lightning and fireball powers through to some really very inventive and creative powers like the... (Sigh, I said no spoilers! - Ed.
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Plasmids and weapons cannot be used together, and switching between them isn’t exactly fluid or instantaneous. Again though, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually a strong point for the game as it makes combat a little deeper and more interesting, as tackling an individual enemy is something that requires a good deal of thought beforehand.
Is it best to take down a Splicer with only two or three anti-personnel pistol rounds (which are extremely effective against unarmoured targets, but very rare) or is it better to shock the creature with an electro-bolt and follow it up with a wrench swing? Or, better yet, do you use the environment to your advantage and lead the same enemy into a puddle of water, then fry them with the electro bolt plasmid for more damage?
That makes three options without even touching upon the hacking mini-games or other paths.
As it is though, the hacking mini-games were something which divided the office. Security systems in BioShock
function in the same way that always have in practically every other computer game – i.e. stepping in front of an enemy security camera or doing something the security system flags as illegal will set off an alarm and summon enemies to your location. Illegal activities include breaking in to shops, as well as a few other things.
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The security system will respond by summoning flying turrets to your location and starting an countdown timer which blips away on the side of the screen. Once that timer is up, the enemies will go home and you can limp on. The usual tactics of hiding or fighting work fine, but it’s also possible to turn the alarm off by paying a fine at a Bot Shutdown panel.
Going further though, hacking options can be used to either turn the camera into an ally so it will set off alarms when enemies are near, or to hack enemy turrets and turn them into allies. Hacking is done by completing a simple pipe game where the player has to turn over tiles and build a path for the flow of Adam inside the machine, without letting the Adam reach a dead end.
Failing a hack results in a short circuit, which costs both health and Eve, but succeeding wins worthwhile bonuses.
Honestly, the hacking mini-game feels a little clumsy and time consuming, especially on the 360. That said, while I personally didn’t like the pipe game, Tim loved it and was running around hacking every single enemy, claiming that it was engaging and relevant to the game; “Like how the persuasion mini-game in Oblivion was supposed to be”