If you’ve never played any of the BioShock games, the collection is something you should definitely consider. It features the whole trilogy; BioShock 1, 2, and Infinite, and every bit of accompanying DLC; Minerva’s Den and Burial at Sea, in one neat, remastered package that brings it all up to today’s standard of gaming in both the visual and audio department. Hell, even if you have enjoyed the franchise from the very beginning, BioShock as a whole is so dense with content to mull over that every facet of it can, and should be revisited multiple times.
Having only played each main game through once myself, I welcomed an excuse to dive into BioShock 1 and 2’s dank, underwater Rapture, and fly to Infinite’s sky-high Colombia again. The fact that I missed all the DLC the first time around too gave me even more incentive to go back.
All this time later, how does it all hold up? Seeing as Infinite only came out a few short years ago, it’s a little harder to really appreciate all its discerning differences (of which there are few, truth be told). With regards to BioShock 1 and 2 though, well, let’s just say that Rapture has never looked better, and the topics it tackles are no less pertinent today.
It’s hard to believe that BioShock 1 came out almost ten years ago. The introduction – the descent into Rapture, is quite nearly as chilling today as it was back in 2007. The city shoots up from the floor of the ocean with a neon glow, and despite its cold surroundings, it looks warm and welcoming. As we soon gather though, not everything is peachy in this sunken paradise.
Under Andrew Ryan’s objectivist vision, the city and its dwellers, free from government interference, free to explore and experiment and do as they please, have descended into complete anarchy. You might realise this just by roaming through the claustrophobic hallways, but it’s the audio logs and people you encounter that truly flesh out the history and story of Rapture, which is easily the star of the show here.
In that regard, I really did appreciate the visual improvements applied to BioShock 1 in this collection. I remember roaming Rapture in wonderment nearly a decade ago, amazed that so much detail could be packed into a game. Thanks to the upgraded textures, a higher resolution, and a buttery smooth frame rate, every corner of the 40s/50s aesthetic is just as enthralling to explore today as it was back then. I never saw any slowdown in performance apart from the odd, minor FPS drop here and there during combat intensive segments.
Speaking of which, while BioShock’s most important traits are undoubtedly its story, setting, and characters (for me anyway), its gameplay is not to be forgotten. Making use of old-school weapons along with a fistful of abilities (the likes of fires, ice, lightning, and a lot more thanks to a variety of plasmids) is as fun as I remembered it being.
Though compared to the others, BioShock 1 is mechanically archaic. Playing it back then made it hard to notice, but after playing 2 and Infinite, the inability to dual wield really does stand out, and it was sorely missed on my replay. The hacking mechanic deserves a dishonourable mention too. To be quite frank, it’s absolute garbage, to the point where I stopped bothering with it wherever I could. Cheaper prices from vending machines? Nah, I’d rather pay full price. A security camera to send security bots after my enemies? Maybe… actually, I think I’d rather just shoot everybody myself, rather than having to assemble a pipe in the minigame for the umpteenth time.
Those annoyances are honestly overshadowed by the sheer size and scope of Rapture however. Visiting it a second time around was well worth it for me for the simple fact that I could now fully appreciate the twists that were to come, of which there are many. If you’re not interested in The Collection, at least consider getting it for BioShock 1. It to me is arguably the best game in the entire franchise.
For some reason, I have little to no memory of playing BioShock 2. After experiencing it again now in The Collection however, I know why exactly that is.
BioShock 2 is by no means a bad game. In fact, it is severely underrated. The only flaw it has that I can think of really, is its story. It just isn’t… as grand as the first. The characters have less resonance, and the twists just aren’t as shocking.
This could merely boil down to the fact that BioShock 2 is more of the same, in the sense that Rapture doesn’t seem as intimidating or mysterious a second time around (even replaying BioShock 1 again managed to give me some sort of sense of unease). We’re no longer some random stranger who finds himself in the city’s watery confides, and who has to face unknown enemies. Instead, we take on the role of a big daddy, who is huge and armoured, and who has a giant drill to boot. That, and we also know exactly what sort of splicer horrors await down in the darkest of corners. The magic of the first game is somewhat lost unfortunately.
The saving grace of BioShock 2 comes thanks to its actual gameplay and improved mechanics. Dual-wielding! Hacking-that-takes-literal-seconds-instead-of-hours! Those changes were appreciated greatly back then, and they were yet again in the collection.
Other general improvements come in the form of new enemies, and new bits of gameplay. Defending a little sister while she harvests ADAM for example, is one of my highlights. There’s something super satisfying about setting up for quick bouts of wave-based assaults, surviving whatever the splicers have to throw at you, and yielding ADAM as a reward to fuel that plasmid addiction.
Oh, and did I mention that BioShock 2 has big sisters too? Forget the big daddy, he’s a walk in the park by comparison!
My favourite part of BioShock 2 by far though, came not from its main campaign, but from its DLC, Minerva’s Den. Geoff refers to it as “the perfect BioShock experience”, and I must say that I agree. It only took me around four hours to complete, but in it is everything I could’ve ever hoped for in a BioShock. Strong characters and story? Check. A great twist? Check. Every existing weapon, enemy, plasmid, and more, contained in nice bite-sized adventure? Check!
If you’ve got no interest in revisiting BioShock 2 (you really should, it’s actually rather good), you should at least consider playing Minerva’s Den. Having the DLC present in The Collection is a really nice bonus, and I’m thankful that I finally got around to playing it.
BioShock Infinite isn’t that old (it came out in 2013), so playing it again today when it’s still somewhat fresh in my memory felt a bit odd. Experiencing it alongside the first two BioShock titles however, yielded in unexpected surprise. I’ve only now realised that Infinite is my least favourite out of all the games in this collection.
Not that there’s anything wrong with it, don’t get me wrong. By all means, Infinite is still a fantastic title. It just has issues that weren’t immediately apparent to me when I first played it.
Let me just get this out of the way quick – with regards to the remaster, it is genuinely hard to notice improvements over the original game that came out three years ago. That’s hardly an issue though, because Infinite still looks great by today’s standards.
Right, moving on. In terms of actual setting, I do think Infinite deserves every bit of praise it has received. Colombia genuinely is a beautiful place to behold. Gone are the dull grey and green palettes of the dark ocean floor. They’ve been replaced instead with gorgeous popping colours that really bring the flying city to life.
But what makes the game really feel alive is its characters and the themes that they face/present. Zachary Comstock, the leader of Colombia, and the self-titled prophet, has put together a theocratic environment that’s both interesting and tough to explore. Yolanda explained it quite nicely in her original review:
BioShock Infinite makes no apologies for its back-story and pulls no punches. It’s the raw depiction of political repression and the heinous consequence of religious extremism. The game explores subjects most development studios and writers dare not touch. Unlike the previous games in the franchise, it is not an exaggeration of our world or an ideal as such, but closer to a true interpretation than most care to admit. The honesty in every aspect of it is refreshing not only for a video game, but for any medium of entertainment in our society.
The opening hour of the game for example, sees what looks to be the stoning of an interracial couple. Amidst the happy jolly carnival like setting, it feels awful to stand there helplessly to witness an issue that’s, sadly, a problem that some parts of the world still face today.
My real issue with Infinite stems not from its setting (which is genuinely excellent), but rather, from its gameplay. The game seems to forego the stuff that helped make the first two BioShocks standout with modern mechanics that I’m just not fond of.
Ammo for example, is a complete non-issue. In BioShock 1, I remember having to ration out whatever I had, using only what I needed to against specific enemies. I had to count out my coins when I found vending machines, and I needed to make sure I spent them all on meaningful supplies. All that, and I had to be smart with my plasmids and EVE too. Splicers and big daddies were tough enemies that needed certain strategies to take down. In Infinite, you essentially get full ammo for your first weapon right from the get-go, and the possession vigor too( which is pretty damn strong). This sets the tone for what quickly becomes a mindless shoot fest.
The action in Infinite has been dialled up to eleven, which I just don’t think suits a game of this nature. The real focus should be on setting and story, and I’m afraid that gets lost with all the droves of enemies trying to murder you at every turn.
Would you kindly buy it?
But that’s just how I feel. Overall, I think I can safely say that every one has their own feelings toward all three games, but there’s very little debate when it comes to whether BioShock, the entire franchise, is worth playing or not.
The answer is yes, yes it is. If you’ve not yet had the joy of experiencing Rapture or Colombia, I’d strongly suggest you grab The Collection and make the trip. If you have already, heck, all three games and DLC in a bundle for the standard price of a new game is hard to ignore.
Last Updated: September 27, 2016