Kris Wall reviews Bioshock: The Collection…
Another month and another remastered collection, and whether you’re a fan or not it looks like remastered games are here to stay. The bigger question now is whether there is enough in these remastered games to tempt back old fans for a second purchase, as well as attract new gamers that may have missed it the first time around, with the Uncharted : The Nathan Drake Collection currently being the best example of a remastered collection done right. The Bioshock trilogy were three of the most ambitious games of the last generation, critical darlings juggling complex themes that were championed and adored by press and fans alike. The Bioshock Collection has been one of the worst kept secrets in video games this year with several sites having leaked its existence months before the official announcement was made, with the idea of a remastered version of the original Bioshock being the biggest draw to this collection now that the game is almost 10 years old.
The original Bioshock saw you as the sole survivor of a catastrophic plane crash in the middle of the ocean. Descending into the city of Rapture beneath the sea, an underwater utopia created as a vision of the future, free from the rules of society. The city has now become a nightmare of fallen ideals, crazed citizens, body modifying Plasmids, and hulking Big Daddies looking to protect their ADAM harvesting Little Sisters, as you find yourself trapped in a power struggle between the charismatic creator of the city, Andrew Ryan, and the enigmatic freedom fighter, Atlas, seeking to liberate Rapture from Ryan’s grasp. There’s so much more to this story than this initial outline but to say any more would be to reveal too much. However, it remains one of the most powerful and enthralling stories told in a video game so far.
Bioshock 2 returned players to the underwater city of Rapture, but cast you as a Big Daddy codenamed Delta, revived 10 years after being separated from your Little Sister and tasked with finding her again. After going up against the frightening and fearsome power of the Big Daddies in the original Bioshock, it was an interesting switch to now be able to harness that power for yourself. Being able to dual wield weapons and plasmids was a significant game changer too, making the combat of Bioshock 1 feel slow in comparison. It also offered a thought provoking insight into the nature of the care and protection the Big Daddy had towards their Little Sister as the need to protect your own was now at the forefront of your priorities, as well as your need to harvest from Little Sisters roaming Rapture that weren’t your own in order to improve yourself.
Bioshock: Infinite cast you as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent given a simple task, ‘Bring us the girl, settle the debt’, before blasting you up to the floating city of Columbia in the skies. The girl in question is Elizabeth, a woman who has been held captive in Columbia for most of her life, a woman in possession of a mysterious power. Booker and Elizabeth soon find themselves caught in the struggle between the rich founders of Columbia and the poor rebel Vox Populi as they fought to escape. The combat in Infinite was given a much faster pace than both games before it, Plasmids were swapped out for Vigors, clothing now had special boosting attributes, and the newly included Skyrails meant battles could take place over multiple tiered areas as you and enemies used your skyhooks to zip around and get the drop on each other, or even gut your enemies.
To say anything more about the stories would already be spoiling too much, but it’s impressive just how quickly these stories can sweep you up in their engaging narrative all over again, despite knowing all the twists, turns and reveals. Before long you’re completely lost in the struggle between Ryan and Atlas in 1, the all consuming instinct to reunite with Eleanor and protect your Little Sister from harm at all costs in 2, and the need to rescue Elizabeth from Columbia and settle your debt in Infinite. The opening sequence of Bioshock still holds an almost overwhelming sense of wonder and dread as you enter into the lighthouse and descend into Rapture, the first glimpse of the city itself still having the power to take breath away, especially with it looking better and brighter than it ever was before in this makeover. For the big fans of the original, new tapes called ‘Imagining Bioshock’ have been hidden around Rapture, these tapes are a series commentaries from Irrational Games’ Creative Director Ken Levine and Animation Director Shawn Robertson, which offer a hugely fascinating insight into the creation of Rapture and development of Bioshock. Though it’s disappointing to see this feature doesn’t extend to Bioshock 2 and Infinite, I’d definitely have liked to hear about the creative process behind the creation of Columbia. Though it’s definitely worth noting that all three games come with their DLC included on the disc, which includes Bioshock: Infinite’s brilliant Burial At Sea Part 1 & 2 add on.
Bioshock 2 was unfairly dismissed at the time of its release, with many people seeing it as a retread of the original. It’s the unsung hero of this trilogy though, lost between the dazzling depths of the original and the dizzying heights of Infinite, it’s definitely worth replaying and judging it on its own merits, of which there are more than enough to deserve its place in this trilogy. Bioshock: Infinite left the ocean floor and took to the skies with the floating city of Columbia, the change of location was a great refresh for the series after two games in the dank corridors of Rapture, and the initial reveal of Columbia was just as impressive as Rapture as you broke through the clouds to see the city sprawled across the skyline. Infinite also featured one of the absolute best A.I characters ever featured in a game in the form of Elizabeth who was a wonderful delight to travel the city with, watching her develop as a character as you fought to protect her and she began to learn more about herself, her powers and the world around her. I’d go so far as to say that Elizabeth would be right up there with Ellie from The Last of Us as the most impressive example of a traveling companion I’ve seen in video games so far.
Graphically, the first Bioshock benefits the most from the restoration work here. Rapture looks just as mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful as it always did, but the improved textures, lighting and resolution, along with the now mandatory 60fps boost, add an impressive visual overhaul that makes revisiting the game a real treat for the eyes. In the middle of this package, Bioshock 2 mostly benefits from the improved lighting techniques, but given that Bioshock 2 was more combat heavy than the original, the 60fps update makes all the gunplay and plasmid hurling smoother too. It’s highly impressive just how well both games are managing to age, based solely on their gorgeous graphical style instead of the technology that was used to create it.
Bioshock: Infinite was already a breathtakingly beautiful game to begin with, released as it was towards the end of the last generation when developers had learned to harness every ounce of tech from those consoles. The floating city of Columbia was as far away from Rapture as you could possibly imagine, painted in strikingly bright and vibrant colours that seemed to leap out of the screen to massage your eyeballs at every opportunity. There’s not a lot that can be done with Infinite to make it look better than it did, so the improvements here are simply improved textures, higher resolution and the smooth 60fps makeover.
The Bioshock Collection finds itself in a tough position to pitch to the public. It’s undeniable that this is one of the greatest trilogies in video game history, and playing through it again it’s quickly clear all over again just why this is such a special and beloved series to gamers. However, all three games remain quite linear affairs, and while the wonderfully written stories still carry the same weight and resonance they did before, there isn’t much here extra here outside of the graphical overhaul of the original Bioshock to reel old adventurers back in, unless you’re really excited about finding the hidden ‘Imagining Bioshock’ tapes. On the other hand, players who don’t know their Rapture from their Colombia are about to bombarded with the ‘must have’ Infinite Warfare’s and Battlefield’s of the Christmas months, with Bioshock risking being lost in the rush. If you’ve never played a Bioshock game before then add another 1 to my final score and make it a 9/10 as these are the definitive versions to play, and you owe it to yourself to pick up this trilogy to discover and experience these three incredible games in one great value package. Now, would you kindly…………
Bioshock : The Collection was reviewed on PlayStation 4
+ Three brilliant games in one package
+ Bioshock 1 benefits hugely from the restoration
+ ‘Imaging Bioshock’ offers fascinating insight into the creation of Bioshock
+ All DLC from the trilogy, including Infinite’s excellent Burial At Sea Parts 1 & 2
– Nothing new to tempt back old fans
– Extras across the package decline rapidly after Bioshock 1
Rating: 8 /10