Sunday, January 20, 2008

BioShock Completed for the 3rd Time, New Content

What an amazing game. Seriously, if you own an Xbox 360 and you have not yet played through BioShock, you are completely denying yourself the most engrossing and unique single player shooter experience on the platform.

I could go on and on about how deep the game is, how atmospheric, but that's what my review was for, and overall I think it did a pretty good job. Right now, I'm going to discuss my recent play-through of the game, specifically because it featured the game's third Title Update as well as some new content.

The first Title Update for BioShock was the single worst software patch I'd ever experienced period. It horribly broke the game and put me into a world of grief and panic that my Xbox 360's DVD drive was breaking down just prior to the release of Halo 3. I had to perform maintenance on my HDD to remove it, and was forced to play-through BioShock offline for my second play-through.

At some point there must have been a second Title Update which I missed, however I'm glad to say that this third Title Update has corrected the horrible caching issues the first Title Update introduced to the game. Not only did it fix that travesty, but it also added true wide screen support, which looked so much nicer (you can compare the wide screen the game shipped with to true wide screen with the switch of an Option), and since it carried over the bug fixes from the previous Title Updates, Splicers now made proper use of Health Stations, which I wasn't prepared for at first (Damn you Steinman!). Needless to say, I quickly began hacking any and all Health Stations on sight.

The huge addition to the world of BioShock, however, is the free Ryan Industries Plasmids and Tonic pack that was released for free over in early December via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. This extra content adds 1 new Plasmid and 3 new Tonics, a new Secret Achievement worth 100 Gamer Points (for a total of 1100 GP for the game), and most importantly of all, an option to disable Vita-Chambers. Finally, my biggest criticism of BioShock has been dealt with; without Vita-Chambers, the game is actually challenging and so much more fun.

This play-through, I actually decided to add to that new challenge. I played on Hard with Vita-Chambers disabled, I rescued every Little Sister, and I never once used the overpowered Chemical Thrower. I also made little use of Hypnotize Big Daddy and Incinerate, and I didn't even purchase Enrage until the very end.

Since I could no longer whittle enemies down by abusing Vita-Chambers (My God were Big Daddies ever a real fight now), I needed to play smart. This meant making excellent use of Hacking and Security Bulls Eye (this Plasmid is one of the best Big Daddy killers ever if you have the patience), hucking everything and anything at enemies, including corpses, with Telekinesis (heck, corpses worked great at disabling enemy Trip Wires), and taking excellent advantage of the new Plasmid, Sonic Boom. Like all the new Tonics in the Ryan Industries Plasmids and Tonic pack, Sonic Boom only costs 1 Adam. That's right, it's all but free, and Sonic Boom 2 is one of _the_ most powerful mid-game Plasmids available. Simply put, it's Force Push from Star Wars, and you will be knocking Splicers back against walls and off balconies, and often killing them outright in a single attack. It's raw power is balanced by its cost in Eve, and you only get about 2 shots before you need to use an Eve Hypo. If you purchase the great new Eve Saver Tonic for 1 Adam, however, you can get three shots.

The other new Tonics are Vending Expert, which automatically reduces the cost of items at Vending Machines, and Machine Buster, which allows you to deal more damage to Turrets, Security Cameras, and Bots. Since Money is so plentiful and Bots are not _that_ difficult to deal with (I prefer to Hack them), I did not touch these two new Tonics, however I suppose for a 4th play-through I can limit myself by not Hacking Bots and such, in which case Machine Buster would come in handy.

Weapon wise, I really played strategically, placing Trap Bolts and sniping with the Crossbow, placing Proximity Mines, and I also found that I _love_ Exploding Buck. I also really needed to use First Aid Kits and to continually keep one eye on my Health, as carelessness would have me sent back to the game's main menu and loading my last Save. I was actually able to play up to Neptune's Bounty, and my first death occurred in the post office because a Hacked Bot got stuck behind me preventing me from moving, which let a Spider Splicer kill me.

Without exaggeration, with the 3rd Title Update and the Ryan Industries Plasmids and Tonic pack, BioShock is one of the best games on the Xbox 360, more so than before. Not only is BioShock an amazing game, but it is the single best example I've ever experienced to demonstrate how far video games have come, to truly show how games can be a compelling and immersive story telling medium. BioShock is not only the future of first-person single player shooters, but also a solid look at where interactive media can go if developers and publishers really work to create something of substance, instead of just throwing together a blast-fest for a quick buck.

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