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Review: Intense 'BioShock' one of year's best

  • Story Highlights
  • "BioShock" a first-person shooter with moral issues
  • Player must decide whether to hurt children to get new powers
  • Game also features challenging puzzles
  • "BioShock" set in utopian society gone wrong
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By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Microsoft Xbox 360 owners in search of an intense 3-D shooter need not wait for Halo 3.

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Players use ordinary weapons and superhuman powers to destroy enemies in 2K Games' BioShock.

Instead, pick up a copy of "BioShock" from 2K Games for an exhilarating adventure that breaks new ground in interactive storytelling and digital art design.

The game begins with a plane crash in the North Atlantic. You're a survivor, and must swim your way through flaming debris to the shore, where a lighthouse stands. Inside, an elevator takes you on a one-way ride down into a hidden underwater city, Rapture, that has been torn apart by civil war. This once idyllic society that served as a secret refuge for the world's elite is now dominated by biologically mutated citizens, robotic enforcers and little girls who steal life-giving fluid from the dead.

Not only must you find a way out alive in this non-linear underwater world, but you will solve the mystery about what happened here, how and why.

"BioShock" can best be described as a "genetically enhanced" first-person shooter that lets you biologically modify your body to create superhuman weapons, including bursts of energy that fly out of your fingertips, freezing enemies solid, or using your mind to turn one enemy onto another.

In order to adapt and survive, dozens of unique plasmids and gene tonics must be found and consumed to enhance your abilities. In many cases, you'll advance through Rapture by combining regular weapons, such as a machine gun (activated by pressing the right trigger on the Xbox 360 controller), with your newfound powers by pressing down on the left trigger. You will also solve challenging puzzles, such as hacking into computers to unlock doors and open safes, bypassing chained areas and disabling turrets.

In fact, a hacking mini-game has you swapping pipe shapes to create a flow of liquid from one end of a machine to another. Or you could accumulate enough money to override the machine or find an "autohack" tool that immediately hacks for you.

Speaking of machines, dispensers can be found throughout Rapture: Some vending machines are full of resources such as hypodermic needles and health kits; ammo Banditos are for ammunition only; Gatherer Gardens can be used to buy more plasmids or gene tonics; and so forth.

Along with money, resources in the game are made up of Adam and Eve; the former are special cells used for character growth, while Eve allows the use of these plasmids for special abilities. You will face moral choices in the game, such as whether to extract Adam from the young girls known as "Little Sisters," which may risk their life -- which you can only do after getting through their huge "Big Daddy" robotic bodyguards.

While the game takes place in 1960, Rapture enjoys a 1940s art deco style, with neon signs, hand-drawn advertisements and classic architecture, as well as crackling recorded messages and fitting music (composed by Garry Schyman) you'd swear was playing on an old phonograph record.

More so than any other game in recent memory, "BioShock" is dripping with atmosphere and intrigue, and it's one of those rare titles where story, dialogue and character development are just as important as the action sequences. Xbox 360 players who are 17 years of age or older will not want to miss out on this extraordinary interactive adventure. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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