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BioShock: The Collection

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: May 29, 2020


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Switch Review - 'BioShock: The Collection'

by Cody Medellin on June 11, 2020 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

BioShock: The Collection brings the three BioShock titles together for the first time, complete with all single-player DLC and a never-before-seen video series.

Buy BioShock: The Collection

BioShock became an instant classic the moment it was released on the PC and Xbox 360 roughly 13 years ago. Coming from the mind of Ken Levine of System Shock 2 fame, it paired up good shooting mechanics with the desire to take in the fascinating world of Rapture. While BioShock 2 took on the familiar trappings of a sequel by setting up everything as the aftermath of the events of the first title, BioShock Infinite abandoned the seas in favor of the skies of Columbia. The games were packaged together as BioShock: The Collection in 2016, remastering the first two titles while taking the third game with them and getting releases on the PS4 and Xbox One, which didn't have backward compatibility at the time. About four years later, Nintendo-only owners can see what all of the fuss is about, now that the games have made their way to the Nintendo Switch.

If you're unfamiliar with the premises for all three games, then you're in for an interesting ride. Taking place in 1960, BioShock has you play the role of a survivor whose plane crashes over the Atlantic Ocean. You were fortunate enough to crash near a lighthouse that is a portal to the underwater city of Rapture. The Art Deco-inspired place was once a thriving haven, but it has fallen into ruin. Under the watchful eye of the city's founder Andrew Ryan, you've been asked to find a man's missing wife and child while also avoiding mutated humans and monstrosities known as Big Daddies.

BioShock 2 takes place 10 years after the events of the first game, with the city still in ruins while another leader takes up the duties that were left behind by Ryan's demise. Here, you play the role of a Big Daddy who was knocked out and left for dead 12 years prior. You've awakened, and while there are those who seek out your assistance, your main goal is to find out what happened to the beloved Little Sister who you failed to protect all those years ago.

Set in 1912, BioShock Infinite doesn't seem like a direct sequel but has similar themes — at least at first. You play the role of Booker DeWitt, a detective who has run afoul of bad company. In a last-ditch effort to erase your debt, you take on the case of finding a missing girl and bringing her back to New York City. Immediately, things are not what they seem when you're dropped off at a lighthouse and take an impromptu one-man rocket to the skies. You're brought to the floating city of Columbia, where American founders like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are revered as gods, a man named Zachary Comstock rules as a prophet, and the social politics mimic those of the Jim Crow South. The woman you're supposed to find, Elizabeth, has a secret power that Comstock wants to use for his own gain.

All three games have stood the test of time, and while those wanting more detail on each can easily read the old reviews, each title can be summed up as: BioShock is still a game that people should seek out and experience for adventure and good storytelling. The impact of the narrative twist has lessened over the years thanks to the proliferation of the associated memes, but it remains a classic moment in gaming nonetheless. Mechanically, switching from plasmid to firearms can feel a bit slow, but the combination of powers works nicely in battle, and the audio logs make you want to linger in the world. As for the included DLC, you're looking at a bunch of challenge scenarios that are intended for those who want to squeeze in some more gameplay rather than those who want to enjoy more of the story.

Unlike the first game, the divisive reaction to BioShock 2 means that the experience might still be fresh. The allure of rapture is lessened by the return trip, especially when you see how little has changed since the events of the first title. The broken underwater city is still enjoyable for those who wanted more of that aspect. The change from a human protagonist to a Big Daddy means that you can use plasmids and regular weapons simultaneously, so combat feels better, and fights against the Big Sister are enjoyable due to her increased agility when compared to a Big Daddy. While this version of the game no longer has the multiplayer component from the original release, it does have the Minerva's Den DLC, which completely turns around the experience in a good way.

As for BioShock Infinite, Columbia is just as interesting as Rapture, but the charm of being in a different kind of city isn't as pronounced once you get past the opening section. The use of equipment is a nice bonus, while some may dislike the game's use of more modern shooter mechanics, like a regenerating shield and equipping only two guns in conjunction with your tonics. While the use of the hook is nice and gels well with the game's more action-oriented approach, Elizabeth will wow you the most. Despite being an NPC that you're supposed to protect, she's intelligent enough to not put herself in harm's way, and she ends up being helpful in more than just the cut scenes, where she's scripted to lend a hand. Elizabeth is the reason fans clamored for the Burial at Sea DLC, which is included in this collection. The other combat-related DLC is nice but not something you'd miss.

What everyone wants to know is how the games hold up on the Switch. After all, these are all based on the port jobs done by Blind Squirrel Games, which were done well but targeted more powerful hardware. The results vary on a per-game basis, and they also depend on whether you're playing in handheld or docked mode. The original BioShock has the least amount of issues. In docked mode, the textures are clean, and it looks quite nice, even though the enhanced lighting is dulled compared to the more powerful console editions. The frame rate is capped at a steady 30fps throughout in both modes. The audio is done nicely, but the surround sound isn't very pronounced. There are some balancing issues between the dialogue and music, so some parts of Ryan's speeches can get lost when other effects are playing at the same time.

BioShock 2 is where you'll start to see evidence of the Switch struggling to keep up. The game mostly behaves in the same manner as the first title, where animations and texture work remain clean. The lighting is better this time around thanks to some more pronounced bloom, making it a touch better than the PS3/Xbox 360 originals. Reach a cut scene or large underwater section, however, and the game drops frames for a second or two before adjusting the resolution to bring things back up to 30fps. This happens in docked mode but is almost absent in portable mode — possibly due to the lower resolution. Sound is the same as in the first game, but with more attention paid to voices, which come in much clearer so you don't miss out on anything.

Then there's BioShock Infinite, which behaves similar to BioShock 2 but with a few more issues. Multiple possible resolution changes and brief frame rate drops are the price you'll pay for having vast aerial vistas at your disposal with a large helpings of God rays. Texture work takes a hit on some minor elements, such as signs, and texture pop is also more pronounced when compared to before. As with the other titles, the frame rate performance holds up better in handheld mode than in docked mode, but you're still getting something better than what was on the original consoles. As for the audio, this title makes much better use of surround sound — at the expense of being much louder than the other two games in the package. If you're playing with headphones, prepare to suffer a shock unless you drop the volume beforehand.

One thing to keep in mind is that BioShock: The Collection as a whole is a beefy download. The first game clocks in at around 12.5GB, while the second is surprisingly smaller at 10.4GB. Meanwhile, BioShock Infinite comes in at a whopping 20.7GB. Unless you're a fan of constantly deleting the games off your internal memory, this is a compilation that will force you to finally get a spacious MicroSD card. If you're planning to circumvent this by going for a physical version of the game, you're going to fare worse, since the card contains pieces of all three games rather than having one whole game on the card and giving you codes to download the rest of the titles. This is certainly one case where going digital for the collection makes more sense.

Your interest in BioShock: The Collection on the Switch is going to depend on if you belong in one of two specific camps. If you still lament the cancellation of BioShock for the PS Vita, then the collection will be perfect for you. It may not be a new story in the universe, but it fulfills the desire to take the familiar world with you on the go. If you've only owned Nintendo consoles and you don't have a gaming PC, then this is also a good fit, since the experiences are not to be missed. Everyone else can make the argument that the game is cheaper on other platforms with better performance to boot, but we should be happy to see the extension of BioShock's reach with this release.

Score: 8.0/10

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