Welcome to Rapture! BioShock: The Collection is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Is this yet another compilation of previously released games in the vein of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Quantic Dream Collection, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, etc.? Yes, but hear me out. You should play this one—for any of the following 10 reasons.
10. IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS
The BioShock series is one of the best in video games. Other big franchises such as Uncharted, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid and even Nintendo juggernauts like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda often struggle to string together three superb titles in a row. BioShock raised the bar for video-game narratives upon its release, and it changed what it means to be immersed in an interactive experience. On a purely atmospheric level, the BioShock series is unparalleled. It’s been nine years since BioShock made its debut, and only a handful of games released in that time have risen to its level (looking at you, The Last of Us). And BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite? They stand slightly below it, but they certainly don’t pale in comparison.
9. IT OFFERS TIMELY COMMENTARY
BioShock deals with urgent cultural issues to varying degrees throughout the trilogy. In the original, the most important social system is self-preservation. Rapture is a far-right capitalistic society in which the government is involved in all aspects of life while technically having no jurisdictional oversight. In Infinite there are depictions of religious fanaticism disguised as moral integrity, along with a female protagonist locked in a patriarchal tower. In today’s tumultuous political climate, parallels can be drawn between Andrew Ryan, the antagonist in the original who staunchly opposes altruism, and a certain presidential candidate. And then there’s Comstock, aka the “prophet” and “Father Comstock,” who believes that only he can guide Columbia to prosperity in BioShock Infinite. Sound familiar?
8. KEN LEVINE WROTE THE SCRIPT FOR BIOSHOCK WHILE HIGH
Ken Levine, creative director on BioShock and Infinite, has stated that he wrote the original in an altered state. Surely a great number of fantastic stories have been written under the influence of a substance or two, but BioShock is commonly referred to as one of the greatest video games of all time. Most impressive.
7. AYN RAND’S IMAGINED WORLD IS TERRIFYING IN PRACTICE
It’s no secret that BioShock’s fictional setting of Rapture is heavily influenced by the work of novelist Ayn Rand; particularly, her seminal doorstopper Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is the foundation that Rapture is built on. Andrew Ryan, one of the main antagonists in the game, is a partial anagram for Ayn Rand. Interesting experiment: Read the novel and then boot up BioShock. It’s a frightful experience, and one of the best indirect video game adaptations of a piece of literature.
6. BIOSHOCK 2 IS (GASP!) BETTER THAN INFINITE
BioShock is the best of the bunch, but there has always been an argument about whether or not BioShock 2 fits inside the trilogy. Developed by a different studio, it focused more on gameplay than transformative storytelling. But here’s the thing: BioShock 2 is actually better than BioShock Infinite, and replaying it may be just what you need to come to that realization. In BioShock 2, players take the perspective of a “Big Daddy,” the character class that was villainized for a portion of the original. Besides a different set of abilities, BioShock 2 ends up being the other side of BioShock’s coin, whereas Infinite is more an alternative take on the original. That’s no slight against Infinite; merely a testament to the quality of the underrated second entry.
5. IT GOT A FRESH COAT OF PAINT
The remastered collection features the typical resolution upgrades of full 1080p. The games weren’t rebuilt from the ground floor, but this doesn’t mean that the differences are insignificant. The depths of Rapture and the skies of Columbia feature elaborate set pieces. Flourishes and idiosyncrasies on objects such as vending machines and pieces of furniture are more vivid than ever before for console players. While this may sound minor, a large part of the appeal of these worlds is the attention to detail that continuously boosts the suspension of disbelief.
4. THE ALTERNATE ENDINGS LET YOU CHOOSE YOUR DARK SIDE
BioShock has three possible endings. BioShock 2 has six, all of them dictated by player choice. If you played the game as a horrible human being the first time around, perhaps it’s time to make morally sound decisions. If you played through as a saint, you should get your hands a little dirty. Trust that watching each ending unfold is worth switching between good and evil.
3. THE BOOKENDS ARE AS AWESOME AND SUSPENSEFUL AS EVER
Both BioShock and Infinite contain mindbending twists and turns leading up to enriching resolutions. Video game endings are hard to execute. Some abruptly end without falling action to cradle the climax, while others fail to say anything meaningful. The bookends of the BioShock trilogy are composed with such precision that revisiting them to unpack the intricate threads and minutiae is worthwhile in its own right.
2. SO ARE THE ADD-ONS, SPECIFICALLY MINERVA’S DEN
Downloadable content is a contentious topic for gamers, and understandably so. Many gamers believe that a game should be a finished product when it reaches stores, and that asking for additional money post-release makes it seem as if the original product wasn’t in its complete form. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, paid add-ons have become a mainstay. Many who have already played each BioShock iteration haven’t experienced the additional content, and now it’s all in one convenient package. The two-part “Burial at Sea” rounds out Infinite nicely, but “Minerva’s Den” for BioShock 2 is arguably worth the price of admission alone. It’s an Orwellian tale of a widower coming to acceptance, and it’s quite possibly the strongest story arc in the franchise.
1. A WHOLE NEW GENERATION
I envy those who get to experience these games for the first time. If you jumped into gaming this generation with the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, BioShock: The Collection is a can’t-miss experience. Seriously, play these games, but please do play them in order. While they can be enjoyed as standalone titles, the winks and nods to the original in BioShock 2 and Infinite are subtly profound and make the journey all the more enjoyable.
Steven Petite has written for Crixeo, The Millions, Huffington Post, Fiction Southeast, and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter @SPetiteWriter.