In the beginning you wake on a boat. A man and a woman are on the boat, and are arguing about something. They are taking you to a lighthouse. Once you reach the top of the lighthouse the light bulb lifts up and a seat appears. Upon sitting, a rocket type contraption is built around you, then you are shot to the sky. In the sky you see Columbia, a veritable 'New Eden' where the chosen people are creating their new new perfect city. They are led by their prophet, Father Comstock. Or so they would have you believe.
As your rocket descends into the city, you see the beliefs of the city in gold lettering above beautiful stained glass windows and gorgeous murals. Being taken deeper into the building, after leaving the rocket, you reach a group of believers in what appears to be a type of church or place of worship. You and the believers stand in hip deep water as you walk through the building. In the heart of this church, you find a leader, a bishop or pastor of some sort. He offers you the chance to enter Columbia. To enter the city you must do but one thing: be baptized a believer.
Once you are baptized, you wake up inside the city, laying in a pool. From there you start working toward finding the girl, which is the whole reason you're up here. As you traverse the city you see that it seems like a utopia, a beautiful, clean, organized, honest town. You also see that there is some sort of celebration happening. Through the carnival games you learn about different functions and abilities, like the weapons and the powers, or vigors. You learn about the history of the town, earn tickets, eat food, and play games. You eventually reach a place where they are raffling away the chance to throw the first stone at a (gasp) interracial couple! A white man had a relationship with a black woman! And as that was against the rules, you had the chance to throw the first stone at these heathens. And oh, what luck, you won the raffle!
All throughout the fair you hear warnings of a false shepherd, an anti-christ type character that carries the brand of AD on the back of his hand. This false shepherd is going to be the downfall of Columbia, and is to be avoided at all costs. As you go to throw the stone (either at the announcer or the couple, your choice) your hand is caught by a guard. On the back of your had is the AD brand, and you are the false shepherd! From there you must fight through hordes of guards to escape to a safe area. Now it's time to not only find the girl, but also to survive.
Navigating the world is quite fun! Moving from place to place you either run or use skyhooks, as shown below. Skyhooks are these grappling contraptions that allow you to use hooks and sky rails. The rails are the main way of transporting sky trolley's or sky trains from place to place. They make for a very useful way to navigate from place to place quickly.
This game is mainly a first person shooter, so it stands to make sense that you'll need a selection of guns to choose from. The further into the game you progress the more of a variety of guns you'll have available to you. This helps to allow for multiple play styles. I like the distance play, so I tended to use the carbine rifle a lot. As you can have 2 weapons at any point, I switched between shotgun, minigun, and sniper, depending on the situation and what was available. Other guns include a pistol, rocket launcher, machine gun, and handheld mortar launcher, among others.
As you progress you also gain powers, called vigors. These are magic abilities that help you to dispatch enemies or to get out of sticky situations. Each of them has a different use and multiple modes. One is a fire based power, which allows you to throw fireballs or set fire traps that explode when an enemy walks over it. Others include a power to summon a murder of crows, another that allows to rush toward people, a lightning power, an ice power, and so on. Each has their uses and take up a different amount of magic power. You can only possess two things for the same energy it would take to throw five fireballs, and so on.
One very useful item in this game is the vending machine. These machines allow you to upgrade the weapons or vigors or buy ammo, health packs, or vigor salts (refill your magic power). You'll find these spread across the map. You can use your possession power to make the machine have lower prices. These are a good way to get supplies if you find that you can't find ammunition for your guns or are low on magic or health. Keep an eye out for these, they'll keep you alive in a pinch.
Another set of items that you'll find in the game are outfit pieces. These pieces of clothing will give you different buffs, allowing for additional health, making it so you can do melee kills from further back, making it so you damage people that hurt you, and so forth. These items can be out of the way, so these items are a bonus worth looking for. These items also help make the game more diverse, so you can build the character to play how you want to play.
Eventually you do find the girl! Her name is Elizabeth, and she is going to be your saving grace during this game. She's not just a non playable character that you have to escort, she's a support character that will help during battles. As you run out of ammo, she'll find some and toss it to you. Run out of salts for your vigors, and she'll find some for you. She'll toss you money randomly when you're not in combat. She also has a useful power of being able to manifest different versions of reality, pulling items from other versions of the world you're in. She can manifest turrets to fight for you, as shown below. She can give you cover, hooks for mobility, health packs, weapon crates, and so forth. She's an amazing help especially in tight spots. Plus, on top of being a great help, she has a sassy personality that adds a nice commentary to the dystopian society you're traveling through.
I only had 2 big problems with this game. One was that you are railroaded by the story. I mean really railroaded. Yes the maps are decently sized battle grounds, but in the end you have to follow the story-line like you're reading a book. You can't deviate or do other tasks first. There are very few small side quests you can complete. You can only do the main quests in order. You can't explore other areas before you should, you can't get better weapons or powers before they allow you. You play their game their way, and that's final. The second thing I disliked was the little or no replayability. Once you've found the girl, killed all the enemies, and saved the day, you know all the twists. You know all the story. Replaying the game will offer no deviation to the singular plot line. Sure there may be little changes here or there depending on how you react in certain circumstances or you can learn more back story about the city, but once it's beat that's it. The only reason I could see to play it again would be to get the rest of the achievements. Or maybe play it again with my kids when they're old enough.
In the end this game is a really great game! It is very fluid with movement and combat. The story is intriguing and has many unexpected twists and turns. The voice acting is well done, and the characters are well rounded with natural growth. The variability of weapons, powers, and power-ups allows for the player to play however they want. The combat difficulty scales nicely in the different areas and matches the areas pretty well. The variation and customization helps make up for the linear story-line pretty nicely. If this game is on sale, or if you're wanting to complete your collection of Bioshock games, pick this up. It's a good play for a lazy or stay at home weekend.
The gameplay is pretty smooth. Whether you use close range or long range weapons or powers, this game caters to your preferred fighting style.
The music is well done. It adds to the story and isn't overwhelming. It doesn't detract from the story. It adds to the atmosphere and matches the era and zone that you're in.
The controls can be a little confusing at first, but become second nature by the end of the game.
The story is well made. It has well rounded characters and surprising character depth. The characters do grow and learn believably throughout the game.
Once you have completed the game there is little replay-ability. I can see wanting to replay it to earn the achievements, but other than that I don't see a reason to play it once completed.
PROS / CONS
- Variety of powers
- Variety of weapons
- In depth story
- Confusing areas
- Slow story progression
- Little replay value