Unlike many games that bore you with tiresome exposition, Bioshock turns it round 180 degrees by making you crave it. So don't be fooled by Bioshock's pretty looks; this burlesque horrorhouse is ten times more frightening than the more conventional 'yarrgh, I'm a zombie' method videogames use to frighten you up. But slowly, you adapt. You manage to piece together how Rapture's ecosystem works, both by observing the other inhabitants and from learning by doing. The premise is gripping, no doubt about that. But what can you actually do in Rapture? What kind of game is it?
What we will say is that, underneath all the cleverness, Bioshock is a very traditional FPS at heart. The mission structure is as linear as a tube of Smarties, and the actual tasks themselves read straight from the bible of FPS cliches - hold off some forces here, build this bomb there, and there's a very protracted trawl around Arcadia's Farmer's Market for a pile of junk. But if you start treating it like a regular FPS, you'll soon find yourself in big trouble. At first, this is a problem, because you can see no other way to go about things. But that's merely because Bioshock leaves you to figure things out for yourself. It's a gruelling game of resource management, and as the ammunition dries up, you end up having to improvise. And more often than not, Bioshock will reward you heavily for thinking outside the box.
Let's talk about the much-talked-of 'AI ecology' for a second. It's not quite as it's hyped up to be. Essentially, aside from the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters, every other enemy in the game is out to get you in standard FPS fashion. Sometimes they squabble among themselves, and they've got the common sense to make a break for the health station when they're injured, but make no mistake about it - once they spot you, they're as single-minded as any of Doom's corridor-dwellers. The only characters out of the ordinary, then, are our unlikely Daddy/Sister combo. But believe us when we tell you that that's easily more than enough.
These fascinating characters are the axis around which the plethora of Bioshock's hidden depths revolve, and here's why. The Daddies clunk around acting as the guardian to the Sisters, who simper around from corpse to corpse draining them of a valuable resource called Adam. Adam is Rapture's currency - a rare sea slug that allows the holder to modify their genetic structure at DNA level. All you have to do to harness its power is to kill the protective Daddy - which, plainly, is easier said than done.
Neither Daddy nor Sister are aggressive - you can wander up to a Daddy and even touch it, but approach the Sister and she'll recoil in fear. The Daddy will give you ample warning to step away from his 'client', but push your luck, or fire at him, and his visor will turn a shade of ANGRY RED and he'll want you dead. Which, generally speaking, doesn't take him that long.
Taking these monsters out is a massive drain on resources you don't have, so you have think smart. Once you've got some Adam in your pocket, a wise spender at one of the vending machines can make future Daddy hunts a lot easier for themselves. There are many different types of RPG-esque statistical upgrades you can buy - more, in fact, than can be afforded with the scarce amount of Adam located in the game, so you have to be a discerning shopper. However, the bulk of your spend will be on the
Plasmids, as detailed elsewhere on these pages, and it is with these powers, mapped to the left trigger, that you can really start to have fun.
Hypnotise a Big Daddy into thinking you're a Sister, for example, and you've got your own personal bodyguard - excellent for killing swathes of splicers, but that ain't gonna get you any Adam. Cast Enrage on a number of splicers, and they'll gang up on anything that moves - and while you're watching them get murderised by ol' Big D, you can either finish him off at a safe distance, or use the distraction to get by and save your neck.