There’s always a game. There’s always a remaster. There’s always a review.
Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: September 13th, 2016
What can one say about the BioShock series that already hasn’t been said? One of gaming’s most well-recognized and critically beloved franchises has now arrived in a remastered package, featuring BioShock, BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite, not to mention all their respective DLC content and some bonus extras too.
In short, if you haven’t played any of the BioShock games, or even just missed out on one or two, this is a highly recommended purchase. It offers you the chance to play some of the finest in interactive entertainment in the best quality available. If you’re already a huge BioShock enthusiast, then you’re probably well aware that all three of these games offer a ton of replay value, making the collection a worthwhile investment even for the fan, if not a must-buy.
The original BioShock, which represents the first and best title in the trifecta, has definitely been given the preferential treatment here. Not only have Blind Squirrel Games and 2K worked to improve the quality of the game’s textures and visual effects, but a brand new director’s commentary series – “Imagining BioShock” – has been produced exclusively for the collection.
This show boasts a high production value, featuring extended interviews with both Ken Levine (Creative Director) and Shawn Robertson (Animation Director) on the development of the game, and are worth a watch for anyone with an interest in the franchise’s origins.
Annoyingly, watching each segment of the interviews requires finding golden reel collectibles hidden throughout the game itself. They aren’t particularly difficult to find, but it still feels like an unnecessary limitation on the only new content to come out of the remaster. At least it gives returning players another reason to enjoy this classic once more, as every revisit to Rapture always seems to result in discovering something new. That said, BioShock did originally release back in 2007 – almost a decade ago – and even the visual upgrades can’t hide some of the game’s more dated design aspects, particularly the control scheme (at least on PlayStation 4) and user interface.
BioShock 2, on the other hand, is the only title in the pack to be missing a significant feature that had previously been available with the original game; namely its so-so online multiplayer component. Granted, BioShock 2 was developed during a time when multiplayer was the moneymaking flavor of the day, and so the feature felt pretty shoe-horned for a franchise that largely dealt with singe player storytelling. Still, it was a fun addition that allowed BioShock 2 to stand out a little more from its predecessor, and it’s a shame it doesn’t come included here.
On a lighter note, this sequel exhibits more contemporary design sensibilities compared to the original, including tighter controls and enhanced visuals (you can practically feel 2K throwing money towards the game’s budget following the success of BioShock). BioShock 2’s main narrative doesn’t quite hold the staying power of the masterpiece that came before it, but new developer 2K Marin admirably took the series in an interesting direction, placing players in the hulking boots of a Big Daddy. Plus, the “Minerva’s Den” DLC represents one of the best stories in BioShock history, so don’t skip out on this underrated middle child of the pack.
And then there’s BioShock Infinite. Time has not been kind to Irrational Games’ own successor to BioShock, and the high praise that the game received at launch has been soured by years of re-evaluative think pieces. Despite Infinite’s clear issues regarding tone and pacing, the world of Columbia still represents the most aesthetically pleasing environment ever conjured up by Irrational Games to date. It remains an absolute joy to explore this city in the sky even to this day, and the sublime art style holds up impressively well three years on, despite the fact that the game has only been up-scaled for the collection.
While the repetitive combat may take up far too much of the spotlight than it deserves throughout the main campaign, Infinite has important things to say about the franchise itself, with a thought-provoking denouement that hasn’t lost its impact since 2013. What’s more, the “Buried at Sea” story expansion might as well be considered another game in the series entirely, albeit one that only lasts around five hours. If Infinite made you reconsider everything you thought you knew about the BioShock mythology, just wait until you play as Elizabeth in this crime-noir thriller set in a pre-fall Rapture.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.