The Bioshock Collection includes a huge amount of content. Consisting of three games; Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, they exist as a unique set of games which sit alone in the first person shooter world with a different story than the run-of-the-mill shoot and explosion style of most but also visually. The remastered collection then is an easy one to recommend if you have not played (any of) the originals, but slightly more tricky if you have and are wondering if there’s enough new content or enough of a spruce-up here to warrant returning for repeated playthroughs.
The games themselves all hold up pretty well and remain good experiences. For those not in the know, Bioshock one is set in the 1960s and begins with a memorable scene as you discover the depths of Rapture. An isolated city, built for the elite but upon discovering ADAM (a genetic material) it can grant people with enhanced powers. With great power comes great responsibility and it was abused, folks got addicted and the city turned into chaos. Now it’s inhabited by Splicers, ADAM-obsessed freaks who skulk around rapture looking for more ADAM. Something weird has happened to children who are known as Little Sisters and are out to harvest ADAM – making them a lovely target for the Splicers. Fortunately for them, each Little Sister is protected by a Big Daddy. Unfortunately for you, the each Big Daddy is an absolute beast and doesn’t care that you’re not a Splicer.
As you arrive you’re guided by Atlas, an Irishmen who asks you to help save his family and he will in return get you safely out of Rapture. The voice work here is brilliant, I’d forgotten how good it was. In fact all of the audio is superb, from interesting audio logs to the music playing in derelict halls and screams and moans of Splicers. This really adds to the atmosphere.
Bioshock 1, being the oldest game, benefits most from the remastered treatment. There’s a documentary to collect which adds some interesting video content on how the game was designed and made and visually the upgrade is really nice. However, it still does look like an old game remastered. What I mean by this is at first-person-shooting games have moved on significantly and whilst there are some elements here that make Bioshock unique, it does feel a bit linear and the gunplay isn’t wholly exciting. That said, the Bioshock series is more about the experience of visiting these interesting locations with vivid characters.
All of the games in this collection have reasonable average gunplay. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time around and I remain so today, but the use of plasmids does spice things up. Plasmids are enhancements able to be bestowed upon your character. Notwithstanding the questionable nature of a man who picks up a syringe of coloured liquid and just injects himself with it, plasmids serve to make combat a lot more fun that it would be without them.
For example, in Bioshock 1 the first plasmid you encounter is an electricity one. This basically lets you zap enemies. In normal combat this causes them to have a bit of a stutter whilst you can bash them around the face with a wrench. But it goes to another level when you see a big pool of water and zap that, causing anyone in the puddle to drop dead. Plasmids are used for puzzle solving also; throwing fire can melt ice for example. This gives a different dimension to the gameplay and moves it step away from ‘just another shooter’.
Bioshock 2 had the challenging task of following the success of the first and does suffer ‘sequel syndrome’ a bit. The enhancements to it aren’t as noticeable as the remaster for the first game, and it does feel like a very familiar experience to the first. That said, the first is excellent so this isn’t such a bad thing. Also set in the underwater world of Rapture, this time you get to don the Big Daddy outfit which is nice after being terrorised by them in the first game. There are a number of subtle refinements as well as a moral choice element underpinning the story. Sadly the multiplayer is not included here (although the DLC is) which was surprisingly good.
Finally, Bioshock Infinite. The original team are back and take us to a new location – the City of Columbia, located floating in the sky. This benefits the least from the remastered treatment (being the most recent game) but just the extra resolution and definition help make an already good looking title look even better. Columbia is bright and vibrant – a stark change to the glooms of Rapture. Playing as Booker DeWitt you must rescue a young girl, Elizabeth who has been held captive in Columbia all her life.
Set in 1912, from a timeline perspective it predates the adventures in Rapture but Infinite provides a link to sew the Bioshock narrative together when Booker discovers that Elizabeth can mess with time. To delve much more into the plot would be to spoil some really good stuff – but it continues the theme of interesting characters and narrative present in the series. Sadly, despite the use of plasmids the combat does feel really samey at this point. There are too many big rushes of baddies to kill before you progress for my taste, although the introduction of the Skyhook (essentially a grappling hook allowing you to zip around monorails on the city) does spice things up a little bit.
So, Bioshock Collection. All of the games in it are good and worth playing. The mileage you’ll get from the remaster will likely depend on which of these games you’ve played, where you played them and how much you remember them. The additional content is severely lacking – outside of the documentary they are all just spruced up graphically. The point remains though that they tell a great story, play well and if you can look past some of the limitations of the combat (which to be fair, many are fine with) then it’s a worthy investment.
Reviewed on Xbox One