Everything's a trade-off and there's always a decision to be made, but that means you can play however you want. Finding cash by trawling through lockers means that you can treat yourself later on by blowing your wad on hacking abilities or some fancy ammo supplies. There are also physical and mental 'tonics' to buy - they're earned with Adam and gradually upgrade your abilities, combine them wisely and you'll become an unstoppable Splicer killer.
On paper, this array of skills and currencies sounds bewildering but as soon as you're in the game, it all makes perfect sense. Besides, you'll never make such a bad decision that you'll completely scupper yourself - it's effectively impossible to die, since all you do is respawn at the nearest Vita-Chamber. In a way, this is the ultimate gameplay decision, since you can just scuff your way through whole chunks of the game by shooting a bad guy a bit, then dying, and then dashing back to chip away at their health more until they're dead. It's an un-gentlemanly way to play and the chambers are spaced out just far enough for it to be a bit of a pain in the arse, but the option's always there if you need it. Still, there's always the super-hard Survivor mode - available as standard on PS3 - which actually disables the Vita-Chambers completely.
Crawling between Vita-Chambers will be an unsatisfying compromise for most gamers though. The real way to tackle Bioshock is to be inventive, daring, and make up your own play-style as you go along. The story might be well told, but the real moments of magic are the ones that you've created yourself. In one memorable moment, we hacked a medical terminal, shot a boss to near-death, then chuckled as he sprinted off to use it.
He got fried instead of healed. In another, one of the game's bosses blasts Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers out over the tannoys as he sends hordes of rabbit-masked Splicers after you - we danced around them, setting them on fire, until the room was stuffed with blazing, shrieking bunnies and beautifully haunting music. Other moments are too good to be spoiled, but believe us when we say that the plot keeps you guessing right until the penultimate level. But then there's the biggest choice of all - what are you going to do about the hulking Big Daddies and the vulnerable Little Sisters?
If you've ever heard of Bioshock you'll recognise its stars - an army of innocent corpse-molesting girls and their giant, diving-helmeted protectors, docile until provoked, and then lethal. They're tough, well-armed, and terrifyingly fast, but must die to enable you to harvest Adam from the sisters. You'd think that fighting variations on the same gigantic monster would get stale, but different environments force different tactics. In one instance, you'll find enough Splicers to pit against the Daddy by manipulating them with Hypnotise or Enrage commands before mopping up the rest with a burst of Electric Buckshot.
In another, there might be enough security turrets and chopper-bots to put a dent in a Daddy with some simple hacking. Elsewhere, a narrow corridor will provide the perfect opportunity to create a maze of tripwires and proximity mines - just enough to slow down the big lad while you hose him with electric gel. Then, after each battle you're presented with the games toughest choice - do you 'Harvest' the vulnerable Little Sister to get more Adam but kill them in the process or 'Rescue' the girls, sacrificing combat ability but scoring a moral victory? Just like the rest of Bioshock, there's no 'right' answer - just different things to take into account.
In fact, there's only one decision you don't really have to think about too much: whether or not to pick up a copy of Bioshock. With so much invention, intrigue and genuine brilliance packed into twelve hours of game-play, you just can't afford not to.
Overall As fresh today as it ever was, BioShock's an essential PS3 play.