Welcome to Rapture, the underwater city of little sisters, big daddies, and genetic modifications. It’s the setting of Bioshock, the critically acclaimed first person survival shooter appearing on console devices back in 2007. Seven years later thanks to 2K & Havok, the game has been ported to the latest iOS devices in its entirety. The sheer presence of such a top tier title on iOS is noteworthy enough, but like any port the review comes down to how well the game is ported, since we know the original game is high quality itself. Bioshock does maintain that intense experience that keeps you guessing while traveling down the underwater rabbit hole that is Rapture.
The first thing you notice about Bioshock is the visual design which is instantly watered down when running on even the iPad Air. There’s a lot less detail in the environments, and what is on screen has a lower polygon count than its console counterpart. Those aspects are obvious, but it’s still a high quality 3D design, though it doesn’t rival some of the more recent iOS games in terms of graphic fidelity. Still though, you can’t help, but feel a greater level of immersion with Bioshock that much closer to your face when playing with an iOS device. The graphics included on iOS still establish the deteriorating underwater city filled with insane patrons due to the genetic experimentations. The horror driven atmosphere is definitely there with enemies that fly in your face through flickering lights, and decrepit surroundings.
Another key of any iOS port is the touch control scheme, and Bioshock delivers a pretty familiar set-up for a touch based first person shooter. The game comes complete with a virtual joystick in the bottom right, action trigger buttons on the left side, and the ability to pan the camera by swiping anywhere else. What drags down the controls are the size, and implementation of the action buttons which results in never feeling comfortable in firing. You have constant access to weapons, as well as abilities, and you can tap on either relatively small button to activate the different attack, and then you have to tap again to use it. The implementation requires the need to look down to do what you want, and take your eyes off the enemy. If you try to not look at the controls, you will often end up tapping the other weapon, and never getting a shot off, since you have to essentially double tap to activate, and then fire. The game would benefit greatly from a single large fire button with the other buttons to switch placed up above. Also, the game oddly doesn’t support MFi controllers, which aren’t widespread, but valuable in an FPS.
The graphics aren’t as good as they could be, and the controls can result in unnecessary deaths by not firing at what you want, when you want. With that said, the heart of the game is still there, and now you can play it on the go from the comfort of a full screen gaming device. The gameplay that Bioshock is known for is still in place as you explore eerie corridors, and abandoned rooms to try to progress through the city. There are numerous unlockable genetic modifications to let you shoot electric bolts, fire, freeze, telekinesis, and more from your hand. The game does present some unnecessary back tracking to find abilities to use to clear the path forward. Also, there’s some inherent redundancy in blasting away enemies, as is present in any first person shooter. Bioshock keeps your powers varied to keep things relatively fresh, and there are also periods of hack based puzzles, and decision based story choices to help evolve the formula. The storyline may be the most intriguing part of Bioshock to compel you to keep playing, though some of the intrigue can be lost as your character does the same thing in the sprawling level layouts that again emphasize retracing your steps for specific unlockables.
Bioshock ($14.99, Universal) isn’t at the same level on iOS as other platforms, but it still delivers quite an immersive experience that makes the iOS platform a better place. It’s worth picking up for the premium price if you haven’t played Bioshock before even with subpar controls, and graphics for the involved, and intense experience to partake in.