BioShock (2007, remastered 2016)

BioShock (2007, remastered 2016), story by Ken Levine, developed by 2K Australia, 2K Boston, published by 2K Games

A man chooses, a slave obeys. Andrew Ryan, equipped with ego and his philosophical visions of a genuinely free, capitalistic society, decided to build his city of dreams beneath the waves of the ocean, away from the prying eyes of the world, that either insist that all should be equal, or things should be shared or that everyone is entitled to the produce of other man's sweat. His wealth, and the wealth of those living within his utopia, would be for those, who generated it, not for the parasites asking for handouts. Out of the laws and morals of the old world, Ryan's city, Rapture, grew prosperous in wealth and in science. 

Yes, the truly free people started to steer further away from the morals of the old. Why should a plastic surgeon waste his time doing the same fixes time in and out for the people? Why would he not see his patients as his way of expressionism, turning them into something entirely different?  Indeed, if there are no morals, no greater glory than profit and self-expression, then why not?`

Years, decades, later after the birth of one man's paradise, a plane crashes into the sea. A single survivor swims to the surface, the only safe place in sight, a tall tower rising from the sea. Inside, he is greeted by Andrew Ryan's motto: No Gods, no Kings. Only Man. No other way in sight, the sole survivor enters a submarine, that takes him to the Rapture, where he is contacted by radio by a man calling himself Atlas, who tells him the lay of the land, how all in Rapture has gone to hell with people gone insane by modifications and a serum called ADAM, that can alter human genetics, giving them abilities, like telekinesis, lightning and fireballs. 

Atlas tells a story of how his family is stranded in another submarine and how he'd love it if the survivor would help him. He asks, would you kindly help him. Would you kindly, indeed, walk into the hell hole that once was the art deco paradise of the free. No gods, no kings, only man.

Of course, the survivor has to inject himself with Plasmids, which grants him the powers, but he'll need more ADAM and here, even more, morality play comes in. See, ADAM is gathered by beings called Little Sisters, who, quite literally, are little girls infused with the genetics of a sea slug that was originally found as the source of ADAM. Protected by their hulking guardians, Big Daddies, the girls scrounge ADAM from the corpses littering Rapture, while the survivors do their most damn to capture the girls to suck all the ADAM from them.

Atlas tells the survivor, that a girl must die for him to get the full dose. But, their creator, doctor Tenenbaum, suggests another way: he should free the girls and take less essence from them, thus leaving them alive. So, the question becomes: are you greedy and want it all or are you willing to wait for a bigger reward after a while?

After horrific sights, the survivor finally finds Andre Ryan, who tells him, that Atlas has played him. Would you kindly indeed, a secret trigger phrase, that makes the survivor do everything Atlas wants. And he wants Ryan dead, out of his way, so that he can take over the city, and all its wealth.

Ryan is now dead, but Atlas needs to die. He is too dangerous to be left alive. So, helped by Tenenbaum and the Little Sisters, the survivor does just that and kills Atlas. And, if he was good enough, he leaves the Rapture behind him, taking all the saved Little Sister with him, whom he then raises in peace, far away from the hell they were born in. For all the horrors he endured, the survivor, Jack, might gain a family as a reward.

While  BioShock could be chalked as just another FPS game, that would be doing it a disservice. It was among the first in the genre to bring a truly great story to the mix, accompanied by light RPG elements in the gameplay. Sure, there had been serious FPS games with plots before, but BioShock rises the bar by tying one story and gameplay mechanic into a morality question. This is, of course, the Little Sisters, whom you can either save or destroy: for faster progress, you can consume the ADAM from the little girls, thus killing them or you can choose to take the minimum, leaving them alive.

And the monsters you fight against? They are merely the poor people of Rapture, who have lost their minds. People, who were trapped under the sea, with no way out, with two megalomaniacs fighting for what they thought was theirs. The more you think of it, the worse you feel about killing the poor bastards standing in your way, but in the end, it's either you or them. And, at least you can choose to save the Little Sisters. That has to count for something. 

Your arsenal is built from your standard machine guns, shotguns and the like, but those can be pimped up in terminals. They can gain more damage, speed and so on. But to really beef up, you need the Plasmids, which you can buy from the dispensers if you have enough ADAM. See, morality, do you want it all now or later. The Plasmids give you abilities, like fire and lightning, but also give you thicker skin, better hacking skills and so on. Like I said, light RPG elements, all in all.

As an FPS game, BioShock has endured time quite nicely. Of course, its biggest story twist might have been spoiled for many people, even if they haven't played the game. Would you kindly is something of a famous phrase, but still, even if you know the story, it is a great one, told very well through radio conversations and data logs scattered all around Rapture. 

While BioShock owes a lot to games that came before it, mainly System Shock and Deus Ex, it's not shadowed by them either. It stands tall on its own, bringing a great story and great design to the mix, offering a truly fascinating experience that people should still play. It's well worth it.

You can get BioShock Remastered from GOG and Steam among other places.