Meet the ghoulish Little Sisters of Rapture. Will you save them — or harvest their powers for your own use?
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/24/2007 3:14:03 PM ET 2007-08-24T19:14:03

Go out right now and get a copy of "BioShock."

No, I mean it. Stop reading. Go to the store and get 2K Games' new M-rated shooter/survival horror/adventure/RPG title for Xbox 360 and PC. If you love gaming, if you think gaming can be a form of art, if you like your digital entertainment to be smart, stylish and suspenseful, "BioShock" is for you. It's also a serious Game of the Year candidate.

Why? Because "Bioshock" combines several genres with amazing results. Then there's the smooth gameplay, mixed with gorgeous graphics and some of the best sound direction in ages. What's more, "BioShock" brings with it a fresh energy and intelligence from the opening moments to the ending. 

In it, you play a survivor of an airplane crash in 1960 who stumbles upon the decaying grandeur of Rapture, an underwater city built by rich industrialist Andrew Ryan. Rapture was the culmination of Ryan's dream that the best and the brightest could achieve their goals without interference from society. Sounds good, right?

Well, get this: Ryan's vision has turned into a nightmare. Blood stains the art-deco walls, deformed crazies jabber away and the security system wants to kill you. And then there's the hulking Big Daddies and the creepy Little Sisters, a lethal tag team who gather Adam, the genetic fuel behind Rapture's glorious rise and violent downfall. Get in their way, and you'll end up in a world of hurt.

Immediately, you get recruited by Atlas, a mysterious freedom fighter who wants you to take down Ryan. Along the way, you fight for your own survival against Rapture residents who have gone insane after overdosing themselves with DNA-altering Plasmids. Plasmids can be a good thing, as you'll find. With them, anything is possible, from telekinesis to spraying electricity and lighting fires with a fingersnap. You just wait. You'll need these enhanced powers right quick to survive.

Plasmids aren't the only way you can do damage to the crazies of Rapture. "BioShock" invites players to become amateur inventors by gathering raw materials and using numerous machines around Rapture to create better tools, ammo and weapons. You can even hack the security systems to fight by your side. The amount of customizing you can do is staggering, offering players multiple ways to attack and survive in "BioShock."

But as you fight your way through Rapture, you learn that things aren't all that they appear. Rival factions vie for your loyalty. For example, a genetic engineer who survived the civil war wants you to help save the Little Sisters. After knocking off the Big Daddies who protect the ghoulish pre-tweens, you can either harvest the Little Sisters (killing them, but gaining more power for yourself) or rescue them. Atlas warns you to not to save the girls or you'll be sorry. Who's scamming who, here? What if Ryan (who taunts you along your journey) is really the good guy? And why do you keep having flashbacks?

Weaker games would drop the ball, giving up the plot in the third act for mindless action. But "BioShock" sails above the competition with an unfailing commitment to top-notch writing, sound design and jaw-dropping visuals (the water effects alone are worth the price of admission). Everything about this game is as close to perfect as you're going to get with a shooter. Heck, for any genre.

If "BioShock" has anything wrong with it, it's that the "Easy" setting is incredibly easy. Even the monstrous Big Daddies can be dropped with little effort in "Easy" mode.

Besides being a Game of the Year contender, "BioShock" goes a long way in establishing video games as a viable form of art. By the time you finish the game, you'll see games and gaming differently. "BioShock" shows how good games can be, from how a great story can unfold to how games can inspire genuine emotion. You owe it to yourself to play this game.

Now, would you kindly go out and buy a copy of "BioShock?"

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