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Game Review: BioShock: The Collection (Switch)

16 Jun 2020

Nintendo Switch owners finally get to dive to the undersea city of Rapture and fly into the clouds to the floating city of Columbia with BioShock: The Collection. As they say, there’s always a lighthouse, there’s always a man and there’s always a city.

The BioShock games are some of the most well-received titles in gaming history. The games have a huge fan-base and no convention is without at least one character from the series being cosplayed in the halls. 

It’s been thirteen years since BioShock was first released on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The last entry in the series, Bioshock Infinite, came out 2013.  In 2016 all three Bioshock games were remastered for current-gen consoles, with the notable exception of Nintendo Switch.

Now, some four years later we finally get to play these legendary games on Nintendo’s amazing portable console. The package contains all three games, in their updated forms, as well as the extra premium content released post-launch. 

Each title is separate so you can install them individually if memory card space is tight. With the exception of 2K’s other Borderlands Switch re-release, this is possibly the best value release available for Nintendo’s console, right now. 

In a nutshell, all three games feature similar gameplay, themes and abilities. They are all first-person action role-playing game. Both BioShock and BioShock 2 are related and feature the same setting. Bioshock Infinite features a new setting and a different time period. 

The first game, BioShock, is set in 1960. Players take on the of Jack, the sole survivor of a plane crash near a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. On entering the lighthouse players are confronted with an odd art-deco interior with stairs leading to a bathysphere. After a short descent, Jack arrives at the undersea city, Rapture. 

As a narrative adventure, the plot is an important part of the game. So, I’ll be brief with the details. Suffice to say, Rapture was intended as the fulfilment of Walt Disney-like industrialist, Andrew Ryan’s utopian dream. The discovery of a substance called “Adam” allowed the development of plasmids, chemical augmentations granting users electrical, pyrotechnic and other special abilities.

The promise of a utopia was short-lived with an insurrection in 1958 destroying Ryan’s vision. When Jack arrives at Rapture, the city is in ruins, and occupied only by its Adam-crazed occupants, called splicers, the weird children called little sisters and their protectors the lumbering big daddies.

BioShock plays as a first-person action-RPG. Players need to traverse the crumbling undersea city, with the help of Atlas, an Irishman who communicates with Jack via radio. Using a combination of plasmid abilities, melee weapons and guns, Jack must stay alive and find out Rapture’s Secret.

The game looks very nice, in part due to the remastered visuals employed a few years back. But BioShock was always a pretty game. The design style, utilising art-deco features, gives the city a feeling of a former place of splendour that has seen better times. With exploration being a key part of the gameplay, the amount of detail makes for a very immersive experience.  The combat is perhaps not as refined as more modern games, feeling a bit clumsy at times. This is better implemented in the next two games.

As well as the remastered version of the BioShock single-player story, there’s also a museum of abandoned ideas from the game’s development to take a look around. The unlockable director’s commentary adds extra insight into the creation of the game. The game’s original DLC, the puzzle-based BioShock Challenge Rooms is also included.

At the time, I found BioShock to be something completely different. Everything about the game from the setting, the story, the gameplay and the amazing art deco level design blew me away. Approaching it almost a decade later and the game still impresses.

But now on to the next game in the collection.

BioShock 2 returns players to Rapture, this time as one of the big daddies, Subject Delta - a prototype of the huge suited protectors of the little sisters. Whist the intro sequence starts in 1958, the game is a sequel to the first game. Players get to, once more explore the secrets of the ruined underwater city. The story further develops the bond between the player and the exploited little sisters as subject Delta searches for his little sister, Eleanor. 

Using the same undersea setting, you could be forgiven for seeing this second game as a rehash. The gameplay is more refined in this second outing. It’s a credit to the developers in that, for this second visit to Rapture, the larger character of Subject Delta doesn’t make you feel like you are starting afresh with the new game. As a big daddy, players get newer, more powerful weapons to play with.

Being encased in a diving suit, BioShock 2 includes sequences where players get to go outside and walk on the sea bed. They also get to navigate flooded sections of the city.
BioShock 2 is a worthy successor to the first game and, of course, looks amazing on the Switch’s screen. The package includes the Protector Trials single-player, horde-like DLC as well as the Minerva’s Den DLC, an adventure into Rapture’s core. The multiplayer mode of the original is absent from this collection.

The jewel in the crown of this package is the third game, BioShock Infinite. For this game, we have both a new protagonist and a new setting. As amazing as the first two BioShock games are, Infinite pulls out all the stops.

This third game is set in 1912 and starts with a private investigator, Booker DeWitt, being rowed towards a solitary lighthouse just on the coast of Maine. The scene echoes the beginning of the first BioShock. On arrival, instead of steps leading downward, Booker must ascend to the top of the lighthouse. After a brief puzzle, Booker finds himself rocketing above the clouds to a floating city - Columbia.

BioShock Infinite draws upon early 20th Century American Exceptionalism. Columbia is, on the surface, an idyllic manifestation of the American dream, wrapped up in a steampunk setting. Of course, the reality is somewhat different. 

Booker must fight his way across the city to rescue the girl, Elizabeth from the clutches of the city’s founder, Father Comstock. Rather than just some two-dimensional damsel, the character of Elizabeth is still one of the best realised A.I. companions in a video game. As well as furnishing Booker with ammo when dry, she can also open up portals to other dimensions, aiding their escape from Comstock.

Again, the story is a big part of the game, so I’ll leave it at that. The level of detail put into the city of Columbia is astounding, making exploration a must. There are optional collectables that further reveal the background of the story. The plot is rather esoteric, addressing, among other things, colonialism, racism and alternative dimensions. 

The Plasmid abilities from the first two games return, this time requiring “salts” to refill the powers. Booker also gains access to a sky-hook. This device is not only a melee weapon, it also allows players to navigate high above the city using an aerial cable system. It’s a massive amount of fun, especially during combat. The level design is astounding and a major leap forwards from the incredible setting of the first two games. Swapping the claustrophobic underwater setting for the open skies of a city floating among the cloud is genius. 

The game is visually stunning. I’ve no idea how they managed to fit this level of detail into a Switch. Even on the TV it still looks great, even fairing slightly better than the first two games. Columbia is simply breathtaking. Unlike the previous games, the city is populated and it’s easy to get lost in just watching the inhabitants going about their business. There are loads of little details, be sure to listen out for the old-time renditions of modern classics.

Despite the different setting, BioShock Infinite does wrap up all three games. The game includes all three DLC episodes. The last two “Burial at Sea” parts 1 and 2, take players back to Rapture with alternative versions of Booker and Elizabeth further tying all the games together.

All three games have been faithfully ported over to the Switch and look great on the console’s screen. BioShock and BioShock 2 seemed to suffer a little on my TV, with a few jagged edges, but Bioshock Infinite looks amazing. 

The BioShock Collection on Switch is a must-have package for any fans of action RPGs and, indeed, Switch owners in general. The settings are amazing and the stories intelligent and thought-provoking. And, of course, the gameplay is second to none. The inclusion of all three games’ original single-player DLC makes it even better. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend The BioShock Collection.

Verdict: 9.5/10