Review: BioShock: The Collection (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: BioShock: The Collection
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN BioShock 1 & 2 (28 GB) BioShock Infinite (32.3 GB)
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: 2K
Developer: Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Blind Squirrel Games
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our early preview hands-on coverage of BioShock: The Collection and our PS3 review of BioShock Infinite.
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Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 493 of the podcast at 93:30.
ep493

Gameplay:
The original BioShock was released in 2007 and quickly became one of the most highly acclaimed games of the year, if not the entire generation. Averaging 96/100 on Xbox 360 and PC and 94/100 on PS3, it was a force to be reckoned with.

The game is based loosely on the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand mixed with the real life exploits of John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller took on the full cost of completing Rockefeller Center in the 1920’s when financial backers pulled out. His legend grew as a great man who went against all odds to complete his architectural triumph.

The character of Andrew Ryan, inspired by many of Rand’s philosophies, creates the city of Rapture at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the 1940’s. A place where the oppressed could live free from the tyrannies of capitalism, communism, and organized religion.

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Set in 1960, your character is on a plane that crashes in the middle of the Atlantic near a lonely lighthouse. The sole survivor, you find that the lighthouse is a gateway to the fabled city of Rapture below.

You quickly learn that the city is in ruins as a war between Andrew Ryan and the mysterious Atlas came to a head on New Year’s Eve, 1958. The survivors are mostly scavengers now and pretty much everyone you come across is a threat to your existence.

… take on the Big Daddies …
Your weapons include the expected guns and such but also something called Plasmids. Created with the discovery of ADAM, the plasmids allow people to alter their DNA to take on new powers. You’ll use them to shoot electricity, fire, and more from your left hand.

ADAM is harvested from dead bodies by Little Sisters, essentially young girls with eerie glowing eyes, who are protected by Big Daddies, large lumbering creatures in huge old diving suits with massive drills, rivet guns, or other weapons.

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To progress in the game you’ll need to take on the Big Daddies and harvest the ADAM from the Little Sisters. You have a moral choice to make here as doing it one way will give you more ADAM but kill the Little Sister while another way will free them but give you much less ADAM.

More than just a first person shooter with a twist, the backstory and the objectivism of Ayn Rand come together in a unique way, making for some pretty heady stuff. It was unlike anything seen up to that point in games and really helped move the genre forward in a meaningful way.

… you’re a Big Daddy …
After the massive success of BioShock, Irrational Games wanted to move on to a different project but 2K wanted to continue the franchise. 2K Marin had a hand in the original game so they took on the task of creating a sequel. They did however receive some input and assistance from Irrational Games and the creator, Ken Levine.

BioShock 2 was released in 2010 but didn’t quite achieve the commercial and financial success of the original game. The aggregate 88/100 score was still quite good but the game didn’t sell nearly as much as parent company Take-Two Interactive had expected.

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Set in 1968, you now play as a Big Daddy who was at one time bonded to a specific Little Sister named Eleanor. You must find her before you fall into a coma and die. The game also sees the introduction of a new enemy in the Big Sisters, lithe, acrobatic, and deadly versions of the Big Daddies. Think Black Widow versus the Hulk.

Even though you’re a Big Daddy and much more powerful, it doesn’t really feel that way a lot of the time. Combat is similar to the original game with a few notable exceptions.

… the dawn of the idea of “American exceptionalism” …
Plasmids are still a big part of the game but you now use a massive drill as a melee weapon, rivets as bullets, and more. You can also set traps around the environment which will change your approach to combat in a number of ways.

Seeing other parts of the city is really exciting for a fan of the game but ultimately the story felt convoluted and confusing the first time I played it. Going back this time, I was still a bit lost, having to research a lot just to write this review. It’s an interesting take on the mythology but it didn’t quite hit that sweet spot of philosophy, history, and action that the original had.

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In 2010 BioShock Infinite was announced, having been quietly in production at Irrational Games since 2008. The game eventually released in 2013 to critical acclaim receiving an aggregate 94/100 on PS3 and PC and 93/100 on Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1912 and it took the franchise to (literally) new heights. The past few decades have seen the invention of automobiles, airplanes, electricity, telephones, movies, phonographs and more. America still sits in the shadows of its Civil War, the Great Sioux War, the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion in China. This is also the dawn of the idea of “American exceptionalism” and the circumnavigation of the globe by The Great White Fleet.

… Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt …
The Industrial Revolution had brought about a sea-change in the lives of almost every American and its effects were still reverberating throughout society, giving rise to the Populist and Progressive movements. Labor laws were pretty much nonexistent and companies exploited their workforces to the fullest.

It’s against this backdrop that BioShock Infinite is set. You play as Booker DeWitt, former Pinkerton Detective and veteran of the Battle of Little Bighorn turned Private Investigator.

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“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” That’s your sole mission in the game. Sounds easy enough, but along the way, you’ll need to, and want to, find out why you’ve been asked to do this, who this girl is, and what makes her so special.

The game itself unfolds at a leisurely pace, allowing you time to soak in your surroundings in the fantastical floating city of Columbia. It’s a critical component of the experience, giving you time to learn more about what’s going on, what day to day life is like and why you’re there.

… a much different experience …
Everything will feel familiar yet slightly off after having played the first two games. Vigors take the place of plasmids and the overtones of racism and class warfare are on full display. This is a thriving city in the sky and it makes for a much different experience than the dark, wet, and sometimes claustrophobic confines of Rapture.

This was a game that really got me the first time around as evidenced in my conclusion in the original review:

It’s incredibly tough to write a review and try to explain why this game is so perfect without giving anything away. It slowly dug its hooks into me and by the end it had jumped to one my favorite games, if not the favorite, in thirty-six years of gaming experiences.

A critical look at racism, war, religion, politics, science and more, nothing is left out of BioShock Infinite. Exploration is richly rewarded with a fuller experience and by the time you reach the end of a harrowing and emotional journey, you’ll come to one of the most staggering and satisfying endings in fiction.

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Blind Squirrel Games and 2K Games are responsible for the port with Blind Squirrel having previously worked on Borderlands 2, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Sunset Overdrive, BioShock Infinite, Evolve, and Disney Infinity 3.0 to varying degrees.

All the original single player DLC is included in this collection. While the multiplayer content didn’t make the cut, the ‘Columbia’s Finest’ pack which was a pre-order bonus for BioShock Infinite as well as the Upgrade Pack from the Premium and Songbird Editions of the game are also included here.

… a virtual Museum of Orphaned Concepts …
They’ve also added a brand new Director’s Commentary recorded specifically for this collection. There are ten episodes, each running eight to ten minutes long, and they’ll be hidden as Golden Film Reels within the first game.

Each contains a video with Geoff Keighley interviewing Ken Levine, the Creative Director for BioShock and BioShock Infinite, and Shawn Robertson, the Animation Lead for BioShock and Animation Director for BioShock Infinite. The discussions are spoiler filled so it’s best to collect and watch them after finishing the games if you haven’t already done so with the originals.

The original also includes a virtual Museum of Orphaned Concepts where you can wander around and see all the different ideas that were eventually passed on or evolved into characters and settings in the game.

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Visuals:
The developers targeted 1080p and 60fps for the entire collection and for the most part, they make good on that. There is some slow down in heavy combat but it’s pretty negligible and the games each tend to look gorgeous overall.

There’s just so much more detail on screen. It’s quite a treat to see Rapture in all its 1080p glory and the 60fps gameplay is silky smooth. Being the oldest game, the original BioShock makes the biggest jump in terms of visuals, but the other two are pretty stunning in their own right.

… cleaner graphics, more detail, and a better framerate …
I was most interested in BioShock Infinite because it was easily one of my favorite games on the PS3. If you played the PS3 or 360 version you may remember a slight haze throughout the game, as if someone slapped some vaseline on the lens. That’s gone now and the entire city of Columbia is crystal clear with so much more detail in every little thing that it made me very excited to play it all over again.

It’s amazing what a difference cleaner graphics, more detail, and a better framerate can make. Blind Squirrel has done a great job of bringing them over to the current generation.

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Audio:
A very strong point in all three games, the audio shines. The songs playing on radios and phonographs were very carefully chosen to put you directly into the early time period. The music is especially important in BioShock Infinite with a few surprises along the way, also carefully chosen and explained throughout the story. The score for each game is also very fitting, delivering the needed highs and lows matching the action on screen.

Dialogue is very well written and expertly delivered across all three games. These stories are designed to have an emotional impact and the actors really give it their all throughout the games to help bring it all home.

… you owe it to yourself to take the trip …
Usually an afterthought in games and relegated to a few often repeated lines, the NPC’s in BioShock Infinite are much more than that and an absolute delight, breathing life into the day to day goings on of the city in the sky.

It’s worth stopping and eavesdropping whenever you get a chance, you’ll really learn a lot about that story and the setting by doing so. The Big Daddies, Big Sisters, Little Sisters, the Songbird, and more, each have their own unique feel and you’ll always know them by sound alone.

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Online/Multiplayer:
None of the online components of the DLC from the original games made the jump to this collection.

Conclusion:
The original BioShock shook up the gaming industry with its detailed world building and complex story. BioShock 2 added to the mythology of Rapture, giving players another go at the city under the sea. BioShock Infinite took players to a city in the sky and turned the franchise on its head, pulling everything together in a stunning conclusion that still thrills me today.

Having all three games in one collection with all the graphical enhancements of the current console generation is fantastic. Whether you’ve played the games or not, you owe it to yourself to take the trip with this new package. Now, would you kindly go buy the collection? You won’t regret it.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Joshua Simpkins

    I will consider this remaster collection for Xbox One, but not until I see a price drop to $30 USD or less! I just cant justify eating full retail price on games I played a decade ago on Xbox 360 / PS3…

    • But you’re not paying full retail price for them. It’s $60 for all three, so $20 each plus all the single player DLC.

      • Joshua Simpkins

        Hmm… Fair enough and valid point. I think I’ll still wait for the price drop, though. Good review and write up, by the way! Quality work, brother man. 🙂

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