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Bioshock [iOS] Review: A Capable Port of a Great Game

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Last year, 2K/2K China delivered iOS gamers the excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown port. They’re back this year with another big console port, this time the sci-fi FPS thriller Bioshock. Like their previous effort, Bioshock is generally a strong and impressive port; unlike XCOM, however, Bioshock’s port is not without hiccups.

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You play Jack, a blank slate POV who survives a plane crash over the ocean. You find your way into the underwater city of Rapture, a Utopia gone wrong. Once there, you are quickly contacted by a mysterious benefactor who helps guide him through the game. Honestly, I had forgotten how clunky the first minutes of the game are, plot-wise, but once you get into Rapture and start fighting to survive, you will quickly forget the early plot stumbles.

The game itself is all here. Bioshock was an early hit on the last generation of consoles, and with good reason. It’s a creepy, atmospheric take on sci-fi and horror FPS shooters. Its Ayn Rand inspired setting and degraded Art Deco style create a memorable world, and the story and voice acting all contribute to a great play experience. It also introduced a lot of then-novel game elements, like bot hacking, that still add a lot of flavor in 2014.

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Visually, 2K had to sacrifice some graphical quality to port the game (and even then, only the high-end devices can run it). The reduction of graphics is noticeable if you’ve played the original, but if you’re comfortable with and used to iOS gaming then Bioshock will seem right on par with the other Unreal Engine efforts. Sometimes, though the screen gets dark, and while I’m sure there was a lot of subtle shading on big TV screens in 2007, on the iPad with the lesser graphics and the screen glare it can make it a little difficult to see.

The other issue with Bioshock is the controls. I am an avid gamer and I love playing games on my iPad, but I recognize that touch controls are just not as good as a physical controller. iOS games usually have ways to compensate for that; Bioshock, on the other hand, is designed with a DualShock 3 in mind. As such, the conversion to touch controls means you lose something in the accuracy and finesse departments. Flipping between plasmids, weapons, and ammos is particularly annoying; I wish they had given us one-button-to-menu swapping, pausing the action while we did it. Also, the button for healing is just too dang small even on the iPad Air. On the other hand, hacking bots seems made for touchscreen, and this part of the game is almost too easy sometimes.

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Bioshock is a great game and this iOS port is about as well executed as one could ask of 2K. However, the controls just lack something. If I had a MFi controller, I may feel that this game deserved five stars. As it happens, I don’t, and so Bioshock gets four of them. It’s always unfortunate when controls get in the way of a great game.

Our score: 4 out of 5


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