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BioShock Remastered (PlayStation 4) artwork

BioShock Remastered (PlayStation 4) review


"If Homer Simpson's dream of living under the sea had become reality."


So, first things first: BioShock Remastered is just BioShock spruced up to look all pretty on modern televisions with numbers like 1080p attached to them. Other than that, you'll be hard-pressed to find many differences, unless those film reel collectibles allowing you to view "behind the scenes" videos are new additions. But companies gotta keep making money off their successful franchises, so here we are!

I'm not complaining about this for once because, this time, I benefited from it. On the previous generation of systems, BioShock was a game that I had every intention of playing, but it just never happened. Too much stuff on my agenda and not enough time means some games will fall through the cracks and this was one of those. At the least, I'm happy I finally was able to experience something that got a lot of people buzzing back in 2007.

BioShock is a first-person shooter with all sorts of other elements fleshing things out. There's some dystopian fantasy in the plot, a good bit of survival horror in the execution and, interestingly enough, the guns you can access might wind up being the least important part of your arsenal. Shortly after winding up in the underwater city of Rapture -- a paradise created by angry rich guy Andrew Ryan that has become a hellish nightmare due to the combination of greed, paranoia and a super-drug with the side effect of making people homicidally insane -- you'll get access to magic.

Okay, the game never uses the "M" word, but whatever, I am. Initially, when your only weapon is a pipe wrench, you'll get your first Plasmid serum and next thing you know, you're able to fire bolts of electricity out of your left hand to temporarily paralyze enemies. Later on, you'll get all sorts of other spells…I mean, Plasmids. The power of fire to melt ice, the ability to use telekinesis to grab items and throw them at foes and so on. Other Plasmids will offer passive bonuses to help you hack into machines, enhance your wrench-swinging abilities and whatever else you'd want to accomplish.

When in Rapture, a convoluted story will slowly play out. Initially, all you know is that you're controlling a standard "can't remember much of anything" guy and you're in a strange place full of gibbering lunatics operating on the "kill on sight" principle. At least a few people don't seem to be overcome by insanity, though. Unfortunately, one of them is Andrew Ryan and he isn't overly keen on a trespasser in his kingdom, especially since he's convinced you're part of a plot against him. Thing is, he might be right. The other important voice in your ear belongs to a man known as Atlas, who weaves a tale of Ryan as a despotic dictator responsible for everything that's gone wrong in Rapture. He'll regularly give advice and offer whatever help he can provide, while making sure you're aware that someone needs to do something about Ryan and, well, you're the guy he's trying to kill right now, so let's go!

Rapture is a pretty fascinating place to explore. It's pretty easy to imagine this game taking place in the same universe as the Fallout series due to how the city is stuck in the 1950s or so with its music and overall appearance. I mean, the infrastructure kind of sucks due to how Ryan envisioned his city as a place where artists and scientists could work their wares without any overseers preaching inconvenient nonsense like "ethics" or "morality" to them, but apparently forgot that you need a sizable blue-collar population to actually keep things running smoothly. But it COULD have been a fun place to chill!

Instead, it's a non-stop barrage of decaying architecture infested by murderous psychopaths. While the basic enemies -- referred to as Splicers -- aren't overly imposing, they do have stronger versions. Spiders can crawl on the ceiling to catch unsuspecting players unaware, while Houdinis are capable of vanishing acts and making their presence known with a barrage of fireballs hurled in your direction. Ryan has all sorts of security set up in Rapture, ranging from turrets to security cameras all-too-willing to call down the wrath of flying robots upon anyone caught in their gaze. And then there are the Big Daddies.

Easily the most powerful enemy found within the myriad destinations you'll explore in Rapture, these bulky monstrosities are durable and quite powerful. And you'll likely have no choice but to challenge them because they guard Little Sisters -- small girls serving as fountains of ADAM. While ADAM is the super-drug that's the reason all those Splicers are trying to kill you, it also serves as currency allowing you to purchase Plasmids, as well as additional health and Eve (aka: "magic points"). Collecting a lot of ADAM is essential to your success and to do so, you'll have to dispose of any Big Daddy you see escorting a Little Sister, no matter how daunting that appears to be.

BioShock is a pretty cool game due to its setting. Unfortunately, if you take that and the game's high-quality production values out of the equation, it's hard to not shake the feeling it's a mediocre offering propped up by those elements. It's just too easy to transform your character into a near-unstoppable powerhouse and that just shatters the illusion of isolation and all the other survival horror trappings that play such a huge role in its presentation.

Early on, this is a pretty freaky game. Splicers will scream, mutter or sob their dialogue, only to go ballistic the moment they see you. Big Daddies are so durable that bringing one down can cost the lion's share of your ammo. Said ammo is pretty sparse, as is money to purchase more from vending machines. You would rely on your electricity attack and wrench to preserve your bullets…except for how shocking enemies does cost Eve and you don't have many options to restore it other than scavenging the occasional hypodermic. About the only saving grace is how plot armor prevents your character from suffering from the same ADAM-induced insanity everyone else is going through.

But time will pass. You'll get superior plasmids and more money and ammo will be found, allowing you to get more and more comfortable with your surroundings. Early in the game, you'll get a camera and can use that to take pictures of enemies in order to gain combat bonuses against them. And BioShock suffers from this. In the early levels of the game, I can remember skulking around like a thief in the night, looking for a way to strike first against every enemy because I NEEDED to get through those fights unscathed. A ways farther into the game and those struggles were a distant memory. I'd go through entire levels loaded up with Plasmids that enhanced my wrench's power, boosted my defense and regenerated a bit of health for smacking enemies with melee attacks and, just like that, I'd gone from a stealthy skulker to a berserker warrior with nothing to fear from anything weaker than a Big Daddy. And as for those, well, the money and ammo I'd saved up by this point gave me all the tools I needed to take them down, even if they never truly became easy pickings.

While BioShock still has the capacity to amaze -- with the level devoted to insane artistic "genius" Sander Cohen and your eventual encounter with Ryan being highlights --once you've lost the horror aspect, it's just another action title. An action title where you spend way too much time being sent on fetch quests so one person or another can get you a couple steps closer to Ryan's stronghold. There were enough cool moments, twists and turns in this game for me to appreciate it and I'm glad that after all these years, I finally got around to visiting Rapture, but I could also say those cool moments, twists and turns were the only thing preventing me from feeling I was playing something pretty pedestrian.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 09, 2021)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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