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YMMV / BioShock

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Andrew Ryan, a Control Freak out to commit suicide on his own terms... or a father trying to save his son? ...Or even both by allowing said son to kill him? By the time he realizes Jack is his son and under mind control, he's basically confronted with his own flesh and blood turned into something worse than a "parasite" and turned against him. He could easily have killed Jack using his control phrase, but what does he do? He orders Jack to kill him, maybe in an attempt at forcing a Heroic Resolve to break the Mind Control. While it didn't break through immediately, Jack does seem to take an awful time deliberating his swings, and with a little help later on manages to resist his kill switch phrase. Keep in mind, Ryan had the control phrase, and could have easily neutralized Jack. Observant players will note Ryan shut off his Vitachamber to make sure he was Killed Off for Real. On that note, with all of this in mind, It's not entirely hard to interpret his “The Reason You Suck” Speech to Jack as a cryptic warning of what Atlas has really been doing with him, and that it's his own decision on wether to keep following him.
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  • Awesome Music: Pretty much applies to all of the BioShock games, but "Cohen's Scherzo No. 7" stands out due to its energy as a solo piano piece and its diegetic use in context.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Unless you're fighting a Big Daddy or the Final Boss, nothing will be as effective as stacking Wrench Jockey 1 & 2, Armored Shell 1 & 2, and Bloodlust, and just aimlessly swinging your wrench around like a maniac. No splicer can stand up to your huge damage and any damage you take will get healed every time you smack somebody in the face. And if you are fighting a Big Daddy, then your two best options are Electric Gel and Electric Buck. Referred to in this Three Panel Soul comic, and Kalon Zombie of Something Awful did an entire Let's Play doing it here.
  • Awesome Music: The main theme, "The Ocean on His Shoulders" is as somber, menacing, and sweetly moving as the game itself.
  • Complete Monster (Fontaine and Suchong are also in Burial at Sea):
    • Frank Fontaine, aka Atlas, is the Arch-Enemy of Andrew Ryan. Seemingly providing shelter for orphans and the poor, in reality he was subjecting them with ADAM, a deadly substance he forcibly extracted from little girls, turning them into dangerous and insane Splicers. He would use these Splicers to start a civil war that would engulf Rapture in flames; during that time he forced Elizabeth to help him, first by torturing her then by torturing a child right in front of her, and later kills her after she gave him the means to control Jack. He would program Jack to kill his own father Andrew Ryan while he usurps the latter's position, and tries to kill him once he has served his purpose.
    • Dr. Yi Suchong was commissioned by the aforementioned Frank Fontaine to assist him in his takeover of Rapture. In Rapture, Suchong performs a variety of cruel experiments on innocent people, and is the one who pushes so hard for children to be used in ADAM experiments. In BioShock itself, Suchong experiments on dozens of young girls, turning them into "Little Sisters," as well as adult men, tortuously turning them into "Big Daddies". Suchong is the one in charge of raising and brainwashing Jack, who he conditions and torments to such a point that Suchong is able to force him to snap his beloved puppy's neck. Meeting his demise after physically abusing a Little Sister, Suchong commits his crimes only for science, having no remorse or hesitation, even remarking he has no concern or desire to know how a conscience works.
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    • Dr. J. S. Steinman is a plastic surgeon obsessed with his own twisted idea of beauty and purity. On the surface a twisted sociopath who managed to restrain himself from dabbling in his cruel desires, upon traveling to Rapture, Steinman decides to embrace his vision of the world, and force it onto the citizens of Rapture. In Rapture, Steinman begins brutally mutilating and killing any stray Splicers he finds, before beginning to kidnap innocent civilians and perform his surgeries on them. Slicing off faces, carving up genitalia, and using ADAM all the while to keep his victims alive and in pain for longer amounts of time, Steinman even murders his assistant nurse when she tries to expose his crimes. Steinman soon enough succumbs to insanity thanks to overuse of ADAM, and goes on to murder countless more people in his delusional psychosis.
  • Demonic Spiders: Due to the use of Enemy Scan making everything easier to kill, most enemies start out as this and get knocked down to Goddamned Bats. For a few specific ones:
    • Rosies, the first standard Big Daddy you face following the first one. Unlike the Bouncers, which don't have a ranged attack, their rivet guns and proximity mines are an absolute nightmare.
    • Houdini Splicers, who appear from thin air, hurl a barrage of fireballs, and disappear, giggling. Research makes their teleportation/"disappearing act" more obvious. Before that, better hope you spot them in time.
    • Spider Splicers, who like to crawl around on dark ceilings before attacking in a storm of thrown meathooks or gymnastic kung-fu. They're also a lot tougher than other Splicers, even with wrench upgrades, and shake off plasmids faster.
  • Disappointing Last Level:
    • How some fans feel about the last levels of the game after the scene regarding Andrew Ryan's death and Atlas revealing himself to be Frank Fontaine. Nothing, aside from getting revenge, drives the storytelling through the hotel suites and Little Sister factory levels.
    • Opinion is at least split for the hotel suites level; some enjoyed the Character Development for Dr. Tenenbaum seen throughout this portion of the game, and coming across the cause of Yi Suchong's death got a laugh out of quite a few people.
    • Another complaint about the latter part of the game is that, despite the fact that the preceding climatic scene makes the point that “you're not a hero, you're a mindless drone doing what he's told,” the gameplay doesn't change to reflect this. You’re still taking orders from a Voice with an Internet Connection, albeit a much nicer one. The criticism of such a commonplace gameplay mechanic rings hollow when the game itself is seemingly unable to come up with a better alternative. The counter argument, in turn, is that the critique is not against the game mechanic, but of Blind Obedience and Freedom from Choice. This is a fundamental tenet of Existentialism- the unenlightened person follows an order out of obedience. An enlightened person may still follow that same order, but only because they choose to.
  • Ear Worm: "In the garden we are growing, many changes will be flowing, if you wanna be a-ma-zing, see the flowers we are raising!"
  • Ending Fatigue: On account of the Disappointing Last Level; there's still several hours of gameplay to go through after the emotional climax.
  • Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: The game attracted much praise for its story, setting and themes, but also received criticism for its radically simplified game mechanics in comparison to the game's spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2, which were widely perceived as having been intentionally "dumbed down" for the benefit of the console market. It also attracted significant criticism for its heavy use of fetch quests and its Disappointing Last Level. Edge magazine went so far as to describe it as "an uninspired FPS with inspired presentation".
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Sander Cohen seems to be very popular among the fans, if fanart and the like is anything to go by. It may be in no small part to his memorable lines, Large Ham persona, and being completely insane, even by Rapture's standards. There's also the fact that he doesn't betray the player (aside from that one outburst), even allowing him to leave in the end (in truth, Jack has the potential to betray him).
  • Evil Is Sexy: If you can believe it, Frank Fontaine has amassed quite a few fangirls. It's probably the voice, the Foe Yay with Jack, and the fact that he spends his entire boss fight all muscled up and completely naked.
  • Fanon/Urban Legend of Zelda: One Audio Diary recorded by Suchong is interrupted by a Big Daddy killing him. After the release of BioShock 2, a lot of players began thinking this Big Daddy was Subject Delta, as a removed audio diary indicates was once the case. Burial at Sea shows otherwise; the Big Daddy looks extremely different to Delta, and had two little sisters bonded to him, and neither of them was Eleanor.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • The Electro Bolt plasmid. The bolts will usually drop mooks in a single hit, and even for tough enemies like Big Daddies, the stunning effect will keep them helpless while you pound on them with your other plasmids or weapons... at least until you have to reload. Just don't rely on it in the sequel.
    • The Static Shock tonic. If somebody touches you, they are electrocuted. The tough ones can rapidly be dispatched with your wrench. The weaker ones just die on the spot - difficult for camera shots, good for not concerning yourself with people sneaking up on you.
    • There's a unique quirk of the Lot 192 MacGuffin that you come across in Olympus Heights and Apollo Square - when you take the first dose of Lot 192, your plasmid structure will start randomly changing. You won't be able to control what plasmid you have equipped and you can't use Gatherer's Gardens or alter your plasmids at Gene Banks (tonics can still be changed to your likings), but every time your current plasmid randomly shifts, your entire EVE meter will be refilled. Every single time, until you receive the second dose of Lot 192. Not to mention that you can randomly gain access to plasmids you don't ordinarily possess, like Hypnotize Big Daddy 2 if you're on a harvester playthrough.
    • You can obtain many, many tonics that enhance the wrench's power, as well as one which when you're hit in a melee attack causes electricity to shoot out of you and paralyzes your attacker, and yet another which heals you whenever you deal damage with the wrench. Taking all of these together means that you can make the game a lot easier by running up to enemies and hitting them with the wrench.
    • The crossbow is a fairly powerful weapon, yet the standard steel-tipped bolts cost almost half as much as the 00 bucks for the shotgun or frag grenades for the grenade launcher. There's also a slight chance that the bolts won't break upon impact and an upgrade that significantly reduces the likelihood of that ever happening (save for the trap bolts), meaning you re-use the bolts again after picking them off the Splicers or Big Daddies. Combine all this with the ability of Lag Canceling each shot fired by switching to your plasmid and you have a weapon that can drop Big Daddies in seconds, even on the hardest difficulty.
      • Trap Bolts are incredibly easy to craft (given that it uses Glue, which is only otherwise used for a Gene Tonic that can only be made once), making them ideal for taking down Big Daddies.
    • Insect Swarm plasmid can be an improvement over Electro Bolt as it uses less EVE and can travel to other splicers (it's a swarm of bees after all) while still rendering them as "unaware", which lets you get a bonus to your wrench strike along with the Wrench Lurker Gene Tonic boosts for over 1000% more damage. The drawback is that you don't get it until you reach Arcadia, it doesn't work on Sentry Bots and Turrets, and it attacks Big Daddies whether you want them to or not.
  • Genius Bonus: Andrew Ryan's story about burning down his forest rather than letting the US government nationalize it reveals more about his character than he intended, if you're aware of Eminent domain in the United States; that that the government can't seize property without compensation. Ryan would have been paid for his land, but chose to destroy it outright rather than "sell" it against his will. This is actually an ongoing controversial issue; land seizures are always bitter specifically because the government decides what the property is worth. This can be contested in court, but always at the citizen's expense, with no compensation for legal fees. In many cases, the government has been accused of specifically targeting individuals who can't afford to contest the assessment, especially when the seized property is a home/business/source of livelihood; the funds are placed in the plaintiff's account when the seizure is carried out, and unless they can successfully defend their case without touching a cent of those funds, the case is thrown out. Ryan was the wrong guy to push around; destroying the forest was an optimal way of washing his hands of the whole fiasco while at the same time getting his point accross.
  • Goddamn Bats: Any stray Splicer can easily become this, particularly during phases when you want to take down a Big Daddy.
  • Good Bad Bugs: A scripting error can spawn an extra Little Sister in certain levels.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Believe it or not, some people actually advocate the creation of Rapture-style cities, called "Charter Cities". Deconstructed in this essay.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • "Oh rise, Rapture, rise... We turn our hopes up to the skies..." Hilarious, but not foreshadowing, as Word of God claims they only came up with the "city in the sky" idea after BioShock's development ended.
    • To say nothing of the fact that that song was composed in-universe by Sander Cohen, who Anna Culpepper would refer to as "Ryan's Songbird". And then in Burial at Sea, Elizabeth would perform with Cohen with the title "Cohen's Songbird".
    • "Sea-Steading", the idea of building autonomous city-states in international waters to be free of political interference. Even better, the creator of The Seasteading Inititive - PayPal founder Peter Thiel - is a fan of Ayn Rand (and was directly inspired by Atlas Shrugged), and practically paraphrases Andrew Ryan when he said "There are quite a lot of people who think it's not possible. That's a good thing." He's chosen the impossible. He chose... Sea-Steading.
    • The off-handed mention of Fontaine disguising himself as a "Chinaman" took an amusing turn when Fontaine's voice actor, Greg Baldwin, took over the role of the kinda-sorta Asian Iroh from Mako in Avatar: The Last Airbender after Mako's death.
    • Considering what Frank Fontaine did to Elizabeth in Burial At Sea, you can now return the favor and whack Fontaine to death with a wrench.
  • Hype Backlash: The overwhelming acclaim the game received from the mainstream gaming press has led to a few cases of "BioShock is overrated!" outcries from some gamers and independent reviewers, not to mention those who feel that the game was recycled and/or watered down in comparison to System Shock 2, its spiritual ancestor.
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks!: Many complained about the simplification of the gameplay compared to other PC games and System Shock 2, thinking it dumbed down for the console crowd. The Vita-Chamber system, and the variety of Game-Breaker plasmid/tonic/upgrade combinations also mean that even Hard mode is not a hefty task for anyone once they are familiar with the game's mechanics from a playthrough or two. The developers responded to this with an update, featuring a setting to disable Vita-Chambers. Later on they would include an even harder difficulty setting in the PS3 port, a general increase of difficulty in 2, and a brutal difficulty setting as a secret in Infinite.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Would you kindly note that any discussion of BioShock must include copious use of this phrase?
    • "A man chooses! A slave obeys!"
    • Many of Atlas' lines, most likely due to his Irish accent:
    "There's nuttin' like a fistfolla loitnin', now is 'ere?"
    • Bioshaq/Bioshaq Slamfinite, as a reference to both 2K's BioShock and 2K Sports' basketball games.
    • Andrew Ryan's "I chose... Rapture" speech has been subjected to a wide variety of mutations.
  • Mind Game Ship: There's a number of fans who ship Jack with Fontaine/Atlas, who's been manipulating him via Mind Control throughout the entire game.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Some of Ryan's quotations have shown up in Tea Party, Libertarian, and Objectivist circles, despite the fact that Ryan is hypocritical, insane, and evil. One reason for that is that the game takes objectivism seriously, far more so than most academic philosophers believe it deserves to be and that Ryan is ultimately a Principles Zealot and Tragic Villain and the Big Bad is a classic Randian looter/parasite, and the overall critique as per Levine is that Objectivism will fail because it's utopian and that Humans Are Flawed which implies that there's nothing invalid or wrong in objectivism itself.
    • One might also note that Ryan's insanity and hypocritical actions are a result of Fontaine playing Ryan like a fiddle - effectively exploiting the weaknesses of Objectivism, and exploiting Ryan's somewhat contradictory belief that anybody should make Rapture their own, with the sweat of their brow - so long as they don't do better than he is.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • If it wasn't already obvious, you know Suchong has crossed it when you find an audio diary in Rapture Central Control containing him testing Jack's mind control by forcing him to break a puppy's neck against his will — when Jack was a little kid, no less! There's also Suchong slapping a Little Sister whilst lashing out at her, but that audio diary has a happier ending.
    • For Andrew Ryan, when he kills a woman in cold blood with a steel pipe after he finds out their conceived child was sold by her, to Frank Fontaine, because she was in money trouble. If it wasn't for that, he would've been more of a Non-Action Big Bad, but the fact that the woman he murdered is the protagonist's mother, and he's the one who finds his mother's corpse, really makes this notorious.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • "WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS OF VALUES! HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!" (Though it's missing in the sequel's PC port thanks to a bug.)
    • "BIENVENIDO AL AMMO BANDITOOOOO!" (Also missing thanks to said bug.)
      • Both of the above are present in the Steam Remastered version. Enjoy.
    • While the tonic that makes you invisible while not moving is extremely useful, the sound it makes every time you move and stop, even while just exploring, gets old fast.
    • The lines said by the Little Sisters while escorted by Big Daddies are quite cute, until the penultimate level, when you escort one, who never stops repeating said lines over and over.
    • Cyclone Traps are great fun to use and watch (especially Cyclone Trap 2, when you can send any Splicer who steps into it flying fifty feet into the air)... but once they're set, there's no way to deactivate them or their constant 'swirly wind' noise. If you lay one (or more) and the last enemy in the area dies without setting it off, look forward to non-stop SWOOSH-WISH-WASH-SWOOOOOSH until you leave the area.
    • If you decide to roam around Fort Frolic, it's possible to encounter Hector Rodriguez (Cohen's final target) before the other victims, causing his chase music to play on an endless loop until you kill all four guys and complete Cohen's Quadtych.
    • The alarm of enemy wall cameras when it spots you, and beeps non-stop for about a minute sending security bots at the player, will get old really fast.
    • Baby Jane's Lines. It doesn't help that this particular splicer model appears in over half the stages in the game.
  • Narm: The player's transformation into a Big Daddy is somewhat undermined by the fact that you can still see Jack's bare hands and sweater sleeves. The end result makes it feel like you're just wearing a big diving helmet over your regular clothes.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • Barring the whole "Would you kindly..." business, what if Tenenbaum did some suggesting of her own while she removed Fontaine's?
    • After triggering the switch to access the safe or weapon upgrade station in Sinclair Spirits at Fort Frolic, you may never look at statues of a human figure the same way again.
  • Player Punch:
    • Killing a Big Daddy for the first time leads to a scene of the Little Sister bursting into tears and desperately trying to get "Mr. Bubbles" back up. It's bad enough if you're trying to rescue her, but you're bound to feel even worse if you're planning on harvesting her.
    • The biggest one comes at Rapture Center Control. After Ryan shows you that Jack has been under mind-control the whole game, Jack kills him at his own request. Atlas then "asks" if Jack could insert the genetic key into the Self-Destruct Mechanism. The player may take notice that, during this scene, they have no goals, which would imply that Jack is free... But the doors are still locked. You're not only being forced to carry out the actions of the person that you thought was an ally, but the game itself is actually forcing you to make this decision.
    • The area before you fight Fontaine, The Proving Grounds, has you having to protect the Little Sisters from waves of splicers. It's utterly painful to see one die, most especially when you've spent the entire game saving them all.
  • Propaganda Piece: In-universe; Andrew Ryan's bathysphere introductory movie to Rapture bemoans social democracy, communism, and religious institutions, and praises his city.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Bioshock is a lot harder to appreciate and respect for gamers who didn't latch on to it in 2007 when it came out. At the time, a title like it — an FPS Immersive Sim with RPG Elements and genuinely rich art direction, and a high concept (parodying a real-world writer of note) — was revolutionary. It was also the game that more or less made Deconstruction of games as a medium mainstream, and the famous plot twist of the game was genuinely surprising, inspiring later games like Spec Ops: The Line, Far Cry 3 among many others. Today, when so many games mine similar material, concepts, and where Nolan-esque twists are not only common, but predictable, Bioshock tends to get more criticism, especially for its weak sequels and followups.
  • So Okay, It's Average: Some reviewers point out that the game doesn't actually add anything new to shooters. It's not especially difficult, or long, or full of replay value. But it shows how much players appreciate a well-written story and atmosphere in their games. They have said that it proves you can have good graphics, physics, sound and story all in one game, and you shouldn't believe you have to choose between them. In other words, it doesn't set a new level, but is a standard to which all games should adhere, and many people have accepted something less.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • If you spend some time looking out the windows, it becomes painfully obvious that not only the 2D background, if visible, is the same in every case (the large neon "Fleet Hall" sign is especially conspicuous), it's also extremely low-resolution and wraps around, which means that the "Fleet Hall" sign and the large skyscrapers appear on both sides when you can look both ways (like, for example, in the tunnels connecting the residential buildings near the end of the game). Compared to the gorgeous introduction sequence, it looks like a seriously half-assed job. The final kicker is that there are even some windows in the game that show the 2D vista, but in fact have more level directly beyond them if the player checks the map or uses cheats to pass through the window.
    • Even though the PC version of the game can run at 60 frames per second, animations handled by the physics engine are still locked at 30 frames like in the console versions. This results in some things (like the burning couch being pushed down the stairs during the opening level, and enemies going limp after being defeated) looking weirdly choppy in comparison with everything else.
    • Your transformation into a Big Daddy. Sure, the helmet is convincing (even if it cuts off your field of view slightly), but your hands are still completely bare, and you can still see the rolled-up sleeves.
    • On the rare occasion you get a good look at a speaking character's face, their mouths either don't move at all or have Mouth Flaps that don't exactly sync up with what the character is saying. This is most apparent in the very beginning where the two Splicers examine a barely conscious Jack.
  • Tough Act to Follow: System Shock 2 was this to Bioshock, which in turn became this to BioShock 2, with many seeing it as a good game, but not quite as good as its predecessor. BioShock Infinite on the other hand, averted it, getting praise on the same level and many players finding themselves preferring it.
  • Vindicated by History: Of a sort. The game did receive critical and commercial success, but there was a pretty vocal group of critics who saw the game as an inferior knockoff (or a poor spiritual successor) to System Shock 2 saying the game lacked "Depth" and "was dumbed down". (Yahtzee having a very cult-like fanbase at the time who parroting his opinions didn't help either.) Eventually, people started to warm up a little more - pointing out that they may have been a little too harsh on it and were seeing it as a followup to System Shock 2 rather than its own product.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Although Ken Levine hasn't expressed an explicit opinion on the subject, the game can be seen as a damning — albeit sympathetic — critique of the philosophy and attitudes behind Objectivism.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The first thing you see in Port Neptune is a "smuggler" (at least, that's what's written on the wall behind him) held up in a Crucified Hero Shot-type pose by chains, riddled with bullets. A suitcase below him is full of books with crosses on them.
  • The Woobie:
    • Surprisingly, some fans view some of the Splicers (in particular Rosebud, Toasty, and Pigskin) as this.
    • Jack is one for being a Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb with no control over his actions.
    • Diane McClintock is a huge contender for the award for the "People Who Need a Hug" category.


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