In 2007, I became enraptured by BioShock. I didn’t know very much about the game before, I just knew that it was meant to the spiritual successor to System Shock 2. At the time, my friends and I (and roughly half of the online, South African game-playing population) played almost nothing but Gears of War’s online multiplayer (something that changed drastically with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s release later that year).
I was so engrossed in the undersea yarn, and its warnings of the perils of Randian objectivism that the group of friends I played games with online started wondering if I was still alive. Naturally, being able to play that game from the comfort of my bed (that weird, ambitious but misguided mobile phone port notwithstanding) is a wonder. It’s a weird and surreal feeling playing the game that graced my first HD TV over a decade ago, only this time on a diminutive screen attached to a portable device.
The BioShock Collection, a remastered assemblae of the three games in the series, has found its way to Nintendo’s handheld after launching on the current consoles in 2016. It bundles together Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and the late-last-generation BioShock Infinite along with each game’s DLC. That means you get the superlative BioShock 2 DLC Minerva’s Den (which is such a perfectly encapsulated standalone BioShock experience, that expertly captures everything that Bioshock is and has ever been about into a single episode). You also get both chapters of Bioshock Infinite’s redeeming Burial at Sea DLC, which neatly ties the whole series up.
I don’t think there’s too much point in getting into a nitty-gritty discussion of all three games – which still stand as some of the most talked-about games in the history of the medium. There are opinion pieces, reviews and dissections on each of the games spread all over the internet. To sum up my personal feelings though, I think that the first game, with its old New York, Art Deco style and its Randian themes of objectivism, is the best game of the bunch narratively; like the one-two punch of plasmids and the wrench, it tells a compelling story, wrapped up in an interesting gam within an unusual and intriguing setting. While not as fresh, interesting or memorable, Bioshock 2 is a better game mechanically. By fixing up some of the first game’s missteps, it’s a more enjoyable game to actually play – especially given that it puts you in the oversized, creaking boots of a Big Daddy. Its story DLC, Minerva’s Den stands as the single best bit of Bioshock that you can experience today.
Bioshock Infinite is a bit of a divisive game. Some herald it as the second coming (a theme touched on in the game itself, of course), while others found it to be a pretentious bit of nonsense that wasn’t half as clever as it thought it was. I’m firmly in the latter group; I saw the shock twist ending a mile off, and I found the gameplay itself a bit too streamlined. It was a decent enough action FPS with some Bioshock elements, but I found Columbia’s old-timey charm wore off long before Rapture’s claustrophobic atmosphere did. Thankfully, the Burial at Sea DLC – playable from the onset from the main menu – makes up for Infinite’s missteps perfectly.
BioShock: The Collection joins an veritable onslaught of new Switch ports of games old and new. It is, much to developer Virtuous’ credit, one of the better ones. Though there are the obvious graphical concessions, it’s plain to see that this is more a port of the remastered, current generation editions of these games than the original games from the last systems. The textures are improved, there’s some impressive (though baked-in) lighting and every game in the collection runs at an almost unwavering, rock-solid 30fps, even in handheld mode.
It makes them all a delight to play, save for a few things. The Switch’s Joy-Cons aren’t the best controllers for FPS games, so there’s always the threat of cramps and aches. The Pro controller is, of course, better for the job, but that usually means playing docked. While it runs at 1080p (dynamic resolution) at 30fps docked, the poor anti-aliasing and less impressive texture work is more apparent. It also removes the technological thrill of playing these games on the go.
They’re really good ports for the most part, and Virtuous has done a fine job of wrangling Unreal Engine 2.5 (Bioshock and Bioshock 2) and Unreal Engine 3 down to the confines of Nintendo’s hybrid machine. Very nearly rock-solid 30fps performance all around, while being some of the best-looking third-party games available on Nintendo’s hardware. Importantly, each game still holds up.
If you haven’t played a Bioshock game and want to jump into to its new home on the Switch, you’re in for a treat. If you’re already a fan, these are the games you love, as you expect them (with those few graphical concessions).
Last Updated: June 9, 2020