BioShock isn’t that old. 2007 might seem like a lifetime ago for some of you, but it was a last-generation game after all. Even though Irrational Games (and several other developers) pioneered the idea of the narrative FPS ages ago, BioShock did it in such a way that made a rippling effect throughout the industry that’s still felt today. So it makes sense that 2K is trying to tap that lucrative well again, and a full package of just about everything BioShock ever made (except for multiplayer) is preserved in BioShock: The Collection.
Although I have issues from a narrative standpoint with the last half (you can literally feel the team running out of ideas or trying to write themselves out of a corner), BioShock still holds up. Man, that’s one hell of an intro, right? It not only sets up your quest in minutes flat with a no-nonsense plane crash, but it’s also littered with clues for later developments, which makes replays that much more rewarding. It’s definitely an adventure first, shooter second, as some of the more awkward control issues hamper that experience. For example, the delay between using Plasmids, which is essentially magic and proper weapons. But if the former is what you’re looking for, it delivers, especially when it comes to atmosphere. As the only bit of actual new content, collecting film reels unlocks bits of director’s commentary that you can probably watch on YouTube at this point. So if you’re expecting anything new, that’s all you’re going to get.
BioShock 2, on the other hand, is just as mediocre as I remembered. It’s more arcade-y in the sense that you’re playing as a Big Daddy. The menacing foes in the original now facilitate your power fantasy in a strange and uncharacteristic one-upmanship attempt. So you can drill people into oblivion, which is always fun. Then there’s the slender Big Sisters, which make for some great boss battles. And—… I’m running out of nice things to say. Playing it again, I couldn’t get over that sinking feeling that this one can be skipped entirely far before the credits roll. If you only bought the collection solely for the first and third iterations, I wouldn’t blame you.
With one exception, that is. BioShock 2 comes with Minerva’s Den, a lovely short, well-paced campaign DLC that is arguably the best bite-sized chunk of BioShock on offer in the entire series. Since the second game turned people off so completely at launch, a lot of folks missed out on it. Consider this is your chance to rectify that.
I know I’m in the minority on this, but Infinite is my favourite. It has the freshest setting, and all of the tricks of the trade that Irrational picked up from the previous two titles make it a better shooter overall. I think that got to their head though, as a lot of Infinite features what I call “shooting galleries,” which just throw droves of enemies at you in an attempt to gate progress. If the weapon/plasmid system wasn’t so fun I would have thrown my controller down in a rage on several occasions, but the juice is worth the squeeze, and the story holds up from start to finish. Maybe I’m just a sucker for floating islands, but I was completely charmed by Columbia all over again.
Everything else you can do without though. The rest of the included DLC are basically just a collective of challenge rooms, arenas, and an uneven two part Infinite campaign that very much attempts to cash in on nostalgia. As a note, the disc (and even the digital download) comes as two separate packs — the first two, and then Infinite as its own game.
The visual upgrades across the whole package are less noticeable as you move on to each game. The first is obviously the recipient of the biggest overall, and even though it’s not a monumental change, it is noticeable. Gameplay is also much smoother compared to the original. Infinite is essentially just the PC edition now, with a better framerate and slight graphical tweaks — it came out in 2013, after all. One thing I did notice, however, is that the first two had choppy cutscenes and a decent amount of pop-in. It’s not broken by any means, but again, you can see the age as clear as day, so don’t think this is a complete remaster from the ground up.
Picking up BioShock: The Collection for just two shining, flawed stars would still be a good idea. These are stories worth telling, and if you’ve somehow avoided all of the spoilers so far, taking a journey through Rapture and Columbia is a great way to spend a rainy weekend. But if you already own them, you don’t need to double-dip outside of a deep sale and thus, a chance to venture into Minerva’s Den.