Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
The original BioShock, for me, is one of those games that can never be praised enough. Although at heart it hasn’t actually done anything radically new, being as it is a spiritual successor to the simply stunning and objectively superior System Shock 1 and 2, it took the core ideas of the sci-fi series and twisted it into one of them most compelling gaming narratives we’ve ever seen, and one that took place in an equally fantastic setting.
Irrational took the complex action RPG formula of System Shock and turned it into a more action-oriented, console-friendly title, but one that came with its own truck load of ideas and design. Rapture, the underwater dystopia in which the game is set is without a doubt one of the most memorable game worlds ever, and the game struck a near-perfect balance between gorgeous wonderment and horrific repulsion. The story of the downfall of Rapture, although not experienced by the player, arriving as they do after the fact, is told brilliantly through recordings and detail in the world, and the splicers make for an intimidating foe. Then, of course, there are the Big Daddies and Little Sisters, and that plot twist.
It was the perfect storm of ingredients, and whilst some aspects haven’t aged well, such as the sub-par gunplay, BioShock remains every bit the masterpiece today. This is good, as we now have access to the entire BioShock collection, remastered for current gen hardware with all of the DLC. Yes, it’s quite the package.
BioShock: The Collection consists of all three BioShock titles will all of the DLC present, including BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea, now in one part instead of two. Art galleries and some other touches are also included, and it all runs faster and smoother than it ever has.
The most love and attention has, of course, been lavished on the original BioShock. Being the oldest game in the trilogy, it’s the one that needed the most work, and the remaster has done a great job of bringing the classic up to date, if in a limited fashion. The textures, lighting, and overall performance have been improved, and it looks much better than the original incarnation. The usual, Unreal engine texture pop-in issues remains, though, which is a shame, and tarnishes an otherwise beautiful game.
There’s little in the way of any major changes to the actual game, though. It’s basically the exact same title it was originally in terms of content, and this is reflected in the stiff and awkward shooting, which just doesn’t hold up today. Luckily, although guns are used quite a bit during your undersea adventure, they’re not really the focus, and plasmids are the main draw. These are as good now as they ever were, and still one of the most original and well-executed form of magical abilities in a game (yeah, they’re not actually magic, but you know what I mean).
The various tactics and combinations of plasmids and weapons you can use make for always-interesting encounters and thanks to the vast number of plasmids and tonics, you can spec your character differently, making for a lot of experimentation. It’s a system that’s not been bettered in the genre yet, including its own sequels.
Speaking of sequels, BioShock 2 also returns with a new lick of paint, albeit not as noticeable as the first game. BioShock 2 features better overall textures and lighting, and is a definite improvement over the original release. It also packs in the DLC, and whilst the story of the game just isn’t as impressive as the original, and struggled to deliver the same feeling of wonder and awe as the first, it’s still a very good game. It’s certainly the weakest entry of the series, though.
Lastly we have BioShock Infinite. Taking the action from Rapture to the floating city of Columbia, Infinite is a definite change of pace for the series. Infinite is far more about fast-paced combat, and the plasmids, now called vigors, whilst still great fun aren’t as central to the core experience. Guns are now the focus, as is the teamwork with Elizabeth, the companion for new protagonist, Booker DeWitt. The story is also thematically different.
Whereas the original BioShock was all about Andrew Ryan’s mission to create a true, utopian society free from the shackles of governments and laws, giving people the freedom to do as they pleased, Infinite is more about control and racial tensions. It focuses heavily on race relations, the class system, and the greater political arena. The antagonist, Zachary Comstock, created the city of Columbia to help America, but eventually withdrew from the United States to form his own free country. The eventual story arc ends at one of the most ambitious and potentially confusing climaxes you’ll ever see, dipping into temporal travel and alternate realities. It’s great.
Unlike the first two games, Infinite hasn’t had all that much work done to it for the collection. It is, after all, only three years old. The visuals for console owners are definitely improved though, as it’s been brought up to PC standard of the time, and so you should notice an overall improvement. Aside from that, the game is much the same, which is no bad thing as it’s still a great title.
For me, Infinite leans too much towards out and out combat, ditching the slower, more atmospheric approach of the original, but as the combat is far better in the third game, it’s not all that bad, and is still a very good shooter. The setting of Columbia, although not as impressive as Rapture in terms of design and feel, is great, with some truly amazing sequences. The addition of the aforementioned Burial at Sea DLC, some of which is integral to the whole series, is a major boon for those who haven’t experienced it yet.
BioShock: The Collection is definitely one of the better remaster jobs I’ve played, even without any major new additions and just an overall lick of paint. Despite being nine years old, the original game is still able to stand toe-to-toe with any release of today, and the sequels are great games in their own right. Having all three remastered titles in one package with all DLC is just brilliant value, and if you’ve never played BioShock before, you really do need to go out any buy this right now. You really do. If you have played the games before, aside from the graphical overhaul, there’s not much new content here, and so you may want to wait for a price drop. If you’re keen to replay the game, though, this is the best way to do it.