BioShock box art depicting a Big Daddy and, in the background, a Little Sister
Developer(s) 2K Boston (Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows)
Digital Extremes (PlayStation 3)[1][2]
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)[3]
Demiurge Studios[4]
(art and level design for opening sequences)
Publisher(s) 2K Games
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)
Designer(s) Paul Hellquist
Writer(s) Ken Levine
Composer(s) Garry Schyman
Series BioShock
Engine Modified Unreal Engine 2.5;[5] Havok Physics
Version 1.1 (December 4, 2007)[6]
Platform(s) Xbox 360
Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Mac OS X[7][8]
Release date(s) Xbox 360
NA August 21, 2007[9]
EU August 24, 2007[9][10]
AU 20070824August 24, 2007
JP 20080221February 21, 2008
Microsoft Windows
NA August 21, 2007[9]
EU August 24, 2007[9][11]
AU 20070824August 24, 2007
JP 20080627June 27, 2008
PlayStation 3
EU 20081017October 17, 2008
AU 20081017October 17, 2008
NA 20081021October 21, 2008
JP 20081225December 25, 2008
NA 20090402April 2, 2009
Mac OS X
NA 20091007October 7, 2009
EU 20091007October 7, 2009
Genre(s) Science fiction First-person shooter, action-adventure, survival horror[12]
Mode(s) Single-player
Media/distribution Optical disc, download, cloud computing
System requirements

See Development section for requirements matrix

BioShock is a first-person shooter video game developed by 2K Boston (now known as Irrational Games)[16] and designed by Ken Levine. It was released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 on August 21, 2007 in North America, and three days later in Europe and Australia.[17] It became available on Steam on August 21, 2007.[18] A PlayStation 3 version of the game, which was developed by 2K Marin, 2K Boston, 2K Australia and Digital Extremes, was released internationally on October 17, 2008 and in North America on October 21, 2008[19] with some additional features.[1] The game was also released for the Mac OS X operating system on October 7, 2009 by Feral Interactive.[20] A version of the game for mobile platforms was developed by IG Fun.[21] A sequel, BioShock 2, was developed by 2K Marin and released on February 9, 2010.

Set in an alternate 1960, the game puts the player in the role of a plane crash survivor named Jack, who must explore the underwater city of Rapture, and survive attacks by the mutated beings and mechanical drones that populate it. The game incorporates elements found in role-playing and survival games, and is described by the developers and Levine as a "spiritual successor" to their previous titles in the System Shock series.[22][23] The game received overwhelmingly positive reviews, which praised its "morality-based" storyline, immersive environment and its unique setting, inspired by Objectivist philosophy and rhetoric.[24]



A Big Daddy defends a Little Sister from two Splicers, while the player watches.

BioShock is a first-person shooter with role-playing game customization and stealth elements, and is similar to System Shock 2. The player takes the role of Jack, who aims to fight his way through Rapture, using weapons and plasmids (genetic alterations), in order to complete objectives. At times, the player may opt to use stealth tactics to avoid detection by security cameras and automated turrets.[25] While exploring Rapture, the player collects money, which can be used at various vending machines to gain ammunition, health, and additional equipment.[26] The player also comes across spare parts that can be used at "U-Invent" machines to create new weapons or usable items. Cameras, turrets, safes, door locks, and vending machines can all be hacked to the player's advantage, providing benefits such as turning on the player's foes, revealing their contents to the player, allowing entry to locked areas, or allowing the player to purchase items at a discount.[27] Hacking requires the player to complete a mini-game similar to Pipe Mania in a limited amount of time.[28] The player is given a "research camera" early in the game, allowing Jack to take photographs of enemies to help analyze them, with better quality photographs providing more beneficial analysis. After performing enough analysis of an enemy, the player is granted increased damage, gene tonics, and other bonuses when facing that type of enemy in future battles.[29] Glass-walled "Vita-Chambers" can also be found throughout the game, which the player does not use directly. Instead, should Jack die, his body is reconstituted at the nearest one, retaining all of his possessions, but only a portion of his full health.[30] In a patch for the game, the player has the option to disable the use of these Vita-Chambers, such that if Jack dies, the player will need to restart from a saved game.[31]

The player can collect and assign a number of plasmids and gene tonics which grant Jack the ability to unleash special attacks or confer passive benefits such as improved health or hacking skills. "Active" plasmids—those that are triggered by the player such as most offensive plasmids— require an amount of the EVE serum to be used in a manner similar to magic points; EVE can be replenished via syringes.[32] These plasmids also alter the player's appearance to reflect "sacrificing one's humanity".[33] "Tonics" are passive plasmids and require no EVE to gain their benefit; the player can only equip a limited number of plasmids and tonics at any time.[34] Tonics can increase Jack's strength and resistance to damage or make hacking machines easier. The game encourages the use of creative combination of plasmids, weapons, and the use of the environment.[35]

Plasmids can be collected at certain specific points around the city throughout the storyline, but most often are purchased by the player at "Gatherer's Gardens" using the ADAM mutagen they have collected from Little Sisters. In order to collect the ADAM, the player must first defeat the "Big Daddy"—genetically enhanced humans grafted to an armored diving suit—that accompanies and guards each Little Sister. After this, the player has a moral choice: either to kill the Little Sister to harvest a great deal of ADAM, or to save the Little Sister and gain a smaller amount, though for every three sisters spared a gift of a large amount of ADAM is given to the player. While both choices have their advantages, this element of conflicting morals has an impact on the storyline, and, among other things, on the difficulty of the game itself.[36]



BioShock is set during 1960, in Rapture, a fictional underwater dystopian city; its history is revealed to the player through in-game audio recordings scattered throughout the game.[35][37]

Rapture was envisioned by the Objectivist business magnate, Andrew Ryan, as a laissez-faire utopia for society's cultural and scientific elite to avoid the oppression of government and religion. He secretly funded its construction on the mid-Atlantic, utilizing submarine volcanoes to provide geothermal power,[38] and was completed by 1946. Despite Ryan's attempts, a seedier side of Rapture formed, led by businessman and gangster Frank Fontaine, who secretly managed to maintain a black market for goods to and from the surface. Scientific progress flourished within Rapture after the discovery of a new form of sea slug by Dr. Bridgette Tenenbaum; stem cells from the slugs could be used to create "ADAM", a plasmid that altered its user's DNA and grant them super-human powers like telekinesis and pyrogenesis. An industry for plasmids was created by Tenenbaum and Fontaine. To meet the growing demand, Tenenbaum devised a means for the sea slugs to be embedded in the stomachs of young girls from Fontaine's orphanages, named Little Sisters, producing large quantities of ADAM.

As plasmid use grew, a class division arose. Fontaine launched a war against Ryan using an army of plasmid-enhanced soldiers, but was apparently killed in the fight. Ryan seized Fontaine's assets, including the plasmid industry. Some months later, a new figurehead for the lower class arose, going by the name of Atlas. Atlas' forces attacked Ryan's industries to steal the ADAM and Little Sisters. To fight against this, Ryan ordered the creation of "Big Daddies", plasmid-enhanced humans contained in giant diving suits conditioned to protect the Little Sisters as they scavenged for ADAM.[35]

Ultimately a complete breakdown of Rapture's society occurred on New Year's Eve of 1959 (about one year after these events the player in the game arrives at Rapture). Atlas launched a full-fledged attack on Ryan's forces; Ryan in turn was forced to create his own plasmid-enhanced soldiers, nicknamed Splicers, controlled by pheromones in Rapture's atmosphere.[39] The resulting war left few survivors. Those that remained alive barricaded themselves in isolated areas of Rapture, while the remains of the Splicer armies, having become deranged over time due to heavy ADAM use, wander Rapture looking for more ADAM to consume.[40]


The underwater city of Rapture. BioShock's game design drew on Art Deco and Steampunk for much of its imagery.[41]

At the start of the game, player-character Jack is a passenger on a plane that goes down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1960.[42][43] The only survivor, Jack makes his way to a nearby lighthouse that houses a bathysphere terminal that takes him to Rapture.[44]

Jack is contacted by Atlas via radio, and is guided to safety from the Splicers. Atlas requests Jack's help in stopping Ryan, directing him to a bathysphere where he claims Ryan has trapped his family. When Jack encounters a wandering Little Sister and its Big Daddy, Atlas urges Jack to kill the Big Daddy and kill the Little Sister to harvest her ADAM for himself; Dr. Tenenbaum overhears this and intercepts Jack before he harms the Little Sister, urging him to spare the child, providing him with a serum that would force the sea slug out of her body.[45] Jack eventually works his way to the bathysphere, but Ryan destroys it before Jack can reach it.

Enraged, Atlas directs Jack towards Ryan's mansion, battling through Ryan's Splicers and facing against more deranged citizens. Ultimately, Jack enters Ryan's personal office, where Ryan is patiently waiting for Jack by casually playing golf. Ryan explains that Jack is his illegitimate child, taken from his mother by Fontaine who placed him out of Ryan's reach on the surface, and genetically modified to age rapidly. Jack was conditioned to accept a code phrase, "Would you kindly", that would force him to act out the instruction that followed the phrase. Fontaine had planned to use Jack as a trump card in his war with Ryan, bringing him back to Rapture when the time was right; Jack's genetics would allow him to access systems, such as the bathysphere, that Ryan had locked out long ago. Ryan accepts his death by his own free will, and uses Jack's conditioning to force him to kill him with the golf club. After doing so, Jack becomes aware that the "Would you kindly" trigger has preceded many of Atlas' commands, as well as written as part of instructions for taking down the plane near the bathysphere terminal. Atlas contacts Jack, revealing himself to be Fontaine; without Ryan, Fontaine takes over control of Ryan's systems, and leaves Jack to die via security drones released into Ryan's office.

Jack is saved by Dr. Tenenbaum and the Little Sisters he had previously rescued. Dr. Tenenbaum helps Jack to remove Fontaine's conditioned responses, including one that would have stopped his heart. With the help of the Little Sisters, Jack is able to make his way to Fontaine's lair to face him. Fontaine, being cornered by Jack, injects himself with a large amount of ADAM, becoming an inhuman monster. Jack is able to better Fontaine after fighting him and draining his excess ADAM three times, and the Little Sisters subdue Fontaine's body to extract the ADAM, eventually killing him.

Three endings are possible depending on how the player interacted with the Little Sisters, all narrated by Dr. Tenenbaum. If the player has rescued all the Little Sisters, the ending shows five Little Sisters returning to the surface with Jack and living full lives under his care, including their graduating from college, getting married, and having children; it ends on a heart-warming note, with an elderly Jack surrounded on his deathbed by all five of the adult Little Sisters.

In the case where at least one Little Sister was harvested, the ending shows Jack turning on the Little Sisters to harvest their ADAM.[46] Tenenbaum sadly narrates what occurred, condemning Jack and his actions. The ending then shows a George Washington-class submarine coming across the wreckage of the plane. The submarine is suddenly surrounded by bathyspheres containing Splicers who then attack and take control of the submarine.[47] The tone Tenenbaum's voice takes is more hostile if the player had harvested every Little Sister.[48]


System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Microsoft Windows[49]
Operating system Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista
CPU Pentium 4 2.4 GHz (single core) Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2
Memory 1 GB 2 GB
Hard drive space 8 GB of free space
Graphics hardware DirectX 9.0c compliant card with 128 MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550); must support Pixel Shader 3.0 DirectX 9.0c compliant card with 512 MB RAM (NVIDIA 7900GT or better) or DirectX 10 compliant card (NVIDIA 8600 or better)
Sound hardware 100% DirectX 9.0c compliant card Sound Blaster X-Fi (optimized for EAX ADVANCED HD 4.0/5.0 compatible cards)
Network Internet connection required for activation

Original story

Originally, BioShock had a storyline which was significantly different from that of the released version: the main character was a "cult deprogrammer"—a person charged with rescuing someone from a cult, and mentally and psychologically readjusting that person to a normal life.[50] For example, Ken Levine cites an example of what a cult deprogrammer does: "[There are] people who hired people to [for example] deprogram their daughter who had been in a lesbian relationship. They kidnap her and reprogram her, and it was a really dark person, and that was the [kind of] character that you were."[39] This story would have been more political in nature, with the character hired by a Senator.[39] By the time development on BioShock was officially revealed in 2004, the story and setting had changed significantly. The game now took place in an abandoned Second World War-era laboratory that had been recently unearthed by twenty-first century scientists. Over the decades, the genetic experiments within the labs had gradually formed themselves into an ecosystem centered around three "castes" of creatures, known as "drones," "soldiers," and "predators." This "AI ecology" would eventually form the basis for the "Little Sister," "Big Daddy," and "Splicer" dynamic seen in the completed game.[51]

While the gameplay with this story was similar to what resulted in the released version of the game, the story underwent changes, consistent with what Levine says was then-Irrational Games' guiding principle of putting game design first.[50] Levine also noted that "it was never my intention to do two endings for the game. It sort of came very late and it was something that was requested by somebody up the food chain from me."[52]

In response to an interview question from the gaming website IGN about what influenced the game's story and setting, Levine said, "I have my useless liberal arts degree, so I've read stuff from Ayn Rand and George Orwell, and all the sort of utopian and dystopian writings of the 20th century, which I've found really fascinating."[53] Levine has also mentioned an interest in "stem cell research and the moral issues that go around [it]."[53] In regard to artistic influences, Levine cited the books Nineteen Eighty-Four and Logan's Run, representing societies that have "really interesting ideas screwed up by the fact that we're people."[54]

According to the developers, BioShock is a spiritual successor to the System Shock games, and was produced by former developers of that series. Levine claims his team had been thinking about making another game in the same vein since they produced System Shock 2.[55] In his narration of a video initially screened for the press at E3 2006, Levine pointed out many similarities between the games.[56] There are several comparable gameplay elements: plasmids in BioShock supplied by "EVE hypos" serve the same function as "Psionic Abilities" supplied by "PSI hypos" in System Shock 2; the player needs to deal with security cameras, machine gun turrets, and hostile robotic drones, and has the ability to hack them in both games; ammunition conservation is stressed as "a key gameplay feature"; and audio tape recordings fulfil the same storytelling role that e-mail logs did in the System Shock games.[56] The "ghosts" (phantom images that replay tragic incidents in the places they occurred) from System Shock 2 also exist in BioShock,[57] as do modifiable weapons with multiple ammunition types and researching enemies for increased damage. Additionally, Atlas guides the player along by radio, in much the same way Janice Polito does in System Shock 2, with each having a similar twist mid-game. Both games also give the player more than one method of completing tasks.[58]

Game engine

BioShock uses a heavily modified Unreal Engine 2.5 with some of the advanced technologies from Unreal Engine 3. [5] In previous titles (including SWAT 4 and SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate) Irrational Games used their own engine which had its base in the Unreal Engine 2.5. In an interview at E3 in May 2006, Levine announced that there will be enhanced water effects inside the game: "We've hired a water programmer and water artist, just for this game, and they're kicking ass and you've never seen water like this."[59] This graphical enhancement has been lauded by critics, with GameSpot saying, "Whether it's standing water on the floor or sea water rushing in after an explosion, it will blow you away every time you see it."[60] The Windows version of BioShock can utilize Direct3D 10 (DirectX 10) features and content, if the system meets the hardware and software requirements,[61] but it will also run on DirectX 9 without the added effects.[62] There are a few differences in image quality between the two APIs, such as additional water reflections and soft particle effects,[63][64] but they are subtle from the player's perspective.[65] BioShock also uses Havok Physics,[61] an engine that allows for an enhancement of in-game physics, and the integration of ragdoll physics, and allows for more lifelike movement by elements of the environment.

Chris Kline, lead programmer of BioShock, deemed BioShock as "heavily multithreaded" as it has the following elements running separately:[66]

  • Simulation Update (1 thread)
  • UI update (1 thread)
  • Rendering (1 thread)
  • Physics (3 threads on Xenon, at least one on PC)
  • Audio state update (1 thread)
  • Audio processing (1 thread)
  • Texture streaming (1 thread)
  • File streaming (1 thread)


A demo was released on Xbox Live Marketplace on August 12, 2007,[67] and the PC demo was officially released on August 20, 2007, and announced during Larry Hryb's interview with Ken Levine on his podcast.[68] The demo contains parts of the first level of the game and includes a cinematic opening sequence that established the setting and initial plot lines, and the tutorial phase of the game.[35] The demo also contained some differences from the release version such as an extra plasmid and weapons, alongside an earlier security system presence. These were introduced to give players access to several features of the full game. In nine days, the BioShock demo outperformed every other demo release on Xbox Live and became the fastest demo to reach one million downloads.[69] The Steam demo was released on August 20, 2007, a day before its full release to the platform.[70]


On September 6, 2007, the Xbox 360 version of BioShock received an update: "Improves general game stability, especially when loading autosaves. It also tweaks the way enemies use health stations and fixes a slight audio glitch during menu loading."[71] Users were prompted to download the automatic update when they next started the game.[71] The update has, however, been criticized for introducing several problems to the game, including occasional freezes, bad framerates, and even audio-related issues.[72] The problem seems to be with the game's caching, and can be corrected by the user.[72]

On December 4, 2007, a patch for the Windows version, and a title update and free downloadable content for the Xbox 360 version were released. In addition to correcting bugs in the software, the patch/new content introduces a horizontal field-of-view option, new Plasmids, an option to disable Vita Chambers, and an additional achievement in the Xbox 360 version for completing the game without using any Vita Chambers on Hard mode, thus requiring the player to complete the game on the hardest difficulty without dying. Vita Chambers do not need to be disabled to earn the achievement, and quick saves can still be used.[73]

An update for the PlayStation 3 version was released on November 13, 2008 to fix some graphical problems and occasions where users experienced a hang and were forced to reset the console. This update also incorporated the "Challenge Room" and "New Game Plus" features.[74]

Other versions

In an August 2007 interview, when asked about the possibility of a PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, Ken Levine had stated only that there was "no PS3 development going on" at the time;[75] however, on May 28, 2008, 2K Games confirmed that a PlayStation 3 version of the game was in development by 2K Marin, and it was released on October 17, 2008.[1] On July 3, 2008 2K Games announced partnership with Digital Extremes and said that the PS3 version is being developed by 2K Marin, 2K Boston, 2K Australia and Digital Extremes.[2] Jordan Thomas was the director for the PlayStation 3 version. While there are no graphical improvements to the game over the original Xbox 360 version,[76] the PlayStation 3 version offers the widescreen option called "horizontal plus", introduced via a patch in the 360 version, while cutscene videos are of a much higher resolution than in the DVD version.[77] Additional add-on content will also be released exclusively for the PS3 version.[1][78] One addition is "Survivor Mode," in which the enemies have been made tougher, and Vita-Chambers provide less of a health boost when used, making the player become creative in approaching foes and to rely more on the less-used plasmids in the game.[79] BioShock also supports PS3 Trophies and PlayStation Home. A demo version was released on the PlayStation Store on October 2, 2008.[80]

On February 12, 2008, IG Fun announced that they had secured the rights to develop and publish a mobile phone version of BioShock.[21]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings Xbox 360: 95% (76 reviews)[81]
PC: 95% (35 reviews)[82]
PS3: 94% (39 reviews)[83]
Metacritic Xbox 360: 96/100 (88 reviews)[84]
PC: 96/100 (44 reviews)[85]
PS3: 94/100 (51 reviews)[86]
Review scores
Publication Score A+[87]
Edge 8/10[88]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 10/10[89]
Eurogamer 10/10[90]
Game Informer 10/10 (PC, X360) 9/10 (PS3) [91]
GameSpot 9/10[92]
GameTrailers 9.5/10[93]
IGN 9.7/10[40]
Official Xbox Magazine 10/10[94]
PC Gamer UK 95%[95]
PC Zone 96%[96]
Entity Award
AIAS (2008) Art Direction, (2008) Original Music Composition, (2008) Sound Design
BAFTA (2007) Best Game
Game Informer (2007) Game of the Year
IGN (2007) PC Game of the Year
Spike TV (2007) Best Game
X-Play (2007) Game of the Year

BioShock has received wide critical acclaim:[84][85] mainstream press reviews have praised the immersive qualities of the game and its political dimension. The Boston Globe described it as "a beautiful, brutal, and disquieting computer game ... one of the best in years,"[24] and compared the game to Whittaker Chambers's 1957 riposte to Atlas Shrugged, Big Sister Is Watching You. Wired also mentioned the Ayn Rand connection (a partial anagram of Andrew Ryan) in a report on the game which featured a brief interview with Levine.[97] The Chicago Sun-Times review said "I never once thought anyone would be able to create an engaging and entertaining video game around the fiction and philosophy of Ayn Rand, but that is essentially what 2K Games has done ... the rare, mature video game that succeeds in making you think while you play".[98]

The Los Angeles Times review concluded, "Sure, it's fun to play, looks spectacular and is easy to control. But it also does something no other game has done to date: It really makes you feel."[99] The New York Times reviewer described it as: "intelligent, gorgeous, occasionally frightening" and added, "Anchored by its provocative, morality-based story line, sumptuous art direction and superb voice acting, BioShock can also hold its head high among the best games ever made."[100]

At GameRankings, BioShock holds an average review score of 94.95% for the Xbox 360, making it the fourth highest rated Xbox 360 game released to date, behind The Orange Box, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Mass Effect 2.[101] In the PC ratings it achieved 94.44%, making it the fifth highest rated PC game released to date, behind The Orange Box, Portal 2, Half-Life 2 and Mass Effect 2, and the 21st highest ranked game of all time.[102] Also, BioShock has a rating of 96 on Metacritic, making it their Best Xbox 360 Game of 2007. GameSpy praised BioShock's "inescapable atmosphere,"[103] and Official Xbox Magazine lauded its "inconceivably great plot" and "stunning soundtrack and audio effects."[94] The gameplay and combat system have been praised for being smooth and open-ended,[40][91] and elements of the graphics, such as the water, were praised for their quality.[45] It has been noted that the combination of the game's elements "straddles so many entertainment art forms so expertly that it's the best demonstration yet how flexible this medium can be. It's no longer just another shooter wrapped up in a pretty game engine, but a story that exists and unfolds inside the most convincing and elaborate and artistic game world ever conceived."[90]

Reviewers did highlight a few negative issues in BioShock, however. The recovery system involving "Vita-Chambers," which revive a defeated player at half life, but do not alter the enemies' health, makes it possible to wear down enemies through sheer perseverance, and was criticised as one of the biggest flaws in the gameplay.[104] IGN noted that both the controls and graphics of the Xbox 360 version are inferior to those of the PC version, in that switching between weapons or plasmids is easier using the PC's mouse than the 360's radial menu, as well as the graphics being slightly better with higher resolutions.[40] The game has been touted as a hybrid first-person shooter role-playing game, but two reviewers found advances from comparable games lacking, both in the protagonist and in the challenges he faces.[105][106] Some reviewers also found the combat behavior of the splicers lacking in diversity (and their A.I. behavior not very well done),[107] and the moral choice too much "black and white" to be really interesting.[108] Some reviewers and essayists such as Jonathan Blow also found that the "moral choice" the game offered to the player (saving or harvesting the little sisters) was flawed because it had no real impact on the game, which ultimately leads the player to think that the sisters were just mechanics of no real importance.[109]


At E3 2006, BioShock was given several "Games of the Show" awards from various online gaming sites, including GameSpot,[110] IGN,[111] GameSpy[112] and GameTrailers's Trailer of the Year.[113] BioShock received an award for Best Xbox 360 Game at the 2007 Leipzig Games Convention.[114] After the game's release, the 2007 Spike TV Video Game Awards selected BioShock as Game of the Year, Best Xbox 360 Game, and Best Original Score, and nominated it for four awards: Best Shooter, Best Graphics, Best PC Game, Best Soundtrack.[115][116] and the game also won the 2007 BAFTA "Best Game" award.[117] X-Play also selected it as "Game of the Year," "Best Original Soundtrack," "Best Writing/Story," and "Best Art Direction."[118]

At IGN's "Best of 2007" BioShock was nominated for Game of The Year 2007,[119] and won the award for PC Game of the Year,[120] Best Artistic Design,[121] and Best Use of Sound.[122] GameSpy chose it as the third best game of the year,[123] and gave BioShock the awards for Best Sound, Story and Art Direction.[124] GameSpot awarded the game for Best Story,[125] while GamePro gave BioShock the Best Story, Xbox 360 and Best Single-Player Shooter awards.[126] BioShock won the "Best Visual Art," "Best Writing," and "Best Audio" awards at the 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards.[127] Guinness World Records awarded the game a record for "Most Popular Xbox Live Demo" in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. BioShock is ranked first on Game Informer’s list of The Top 10 Video Game Openings.[128] GamesRadar placed Bioshock as the 12th best game of all time.[129] In 2011 BioShock was awarded the number 1 spot in GameTrailer's "Top 100 Video Game Trailers of All Time", for submerging the viewer into the BioShock universe and its enduring impact.[130]


The Xbox 360 version was the third best-selling game of August 2007, with 490,900 copies.[131] The Wall Street Journal reported that shares in Take-Two "soared nearly 20%" in the week following overwhelmingly favorable early reviews of the game.[132] Take-Two announced that, as of June 5, 2008, over 2.2 million copies of BioShock had been shipped.[133] In a June 10, 2008 interview, Roy Taylor, Nvidia's VP of Content Business Development, stated that the PC version has sold over one million copies.[134] According to Take-Two's chairman Strauss Zelnick, the game had sold around 3 million copies as of June 2009.[135] By March 2010, BioShock has sold 4 million copies.[136]

Artistic recognition

BioShock has received praise for its artistic style and compelling storytelling. In their book, Digital Culture: Understanding New Media,[137] Glen Creeber and Royston Martin perform a case study of BioShock as a critical analysis of video games as an artistic medium. They praised the game for its visuals, sound, and ability to engage the player into the story. They viewed BioShock as a sign of the "coming of age" of video games as an artistic medium.

In February 2011 the Smithsonian Institution announced it would be holding an exhibit dedicated to the art of video games.[138] Several games were chosen initially and the public could vote for which games they felt deserved to be displayed via a poll on the exhibit's website. BioShock was considered a front runner to be displayed because of its status as a game that demonstrated how artistic the medium can be.[139]

PC technical issues and DRM

The retail disk version of BioShock for Windows utilizes SecuROM copy protection[140] software, and requires internet activation to complete installation. This was reportedly responsible for the cancellation of a midnight release in Australia on August 23, 2007, due to 2K Games servers being unavailable, as the game would be unplayable until they were back online.[141] Through SecuROM, users were originally limited to two activations of the game. Users found that even if they uninstalled the game prior to reinstallation, they were still required to call SecuROM to re-activate the game. The issue was worsened by the fact that an incorrect telephone number had been included in the printed manual, as well as essentially forcing customers outside the United States to make expensive international calls to the U.S. In response, 2K Games and SecuROM increased the number of activations to five before requiring the user to call again. However, as no information had been provided by 2K on the existence of these measures prior to the game going on sale, or on the retail box of the game itself, many remain dissatisfied. Users also found that it was necessary to activate the game for each user on the same machine, which was criticized by some as an attempt to limit customers' fair use rights.[142][143] 2K Games has denied that this was the intent of the limitation.[144]

Two months after the initial release, 2K attempted to alleviate customer complaints by developing a special pre-uninstallation utility to refund activation slots to the user.[145] This tool however does not address situations where the game has been installed on a PC which uses more than one user account as it only works once per PC (unlike activations which are counted per user-account), nor is it able to revoke an activation if the installation has become unusable, for example by hard disk failure, effectively rendering such activations permanently lost. 2K Games has specifically mentioned each of these issues in the revoke tool FAQ,[145] and have stated that until software solutions are found for such situations they will handle any further requests for additional activations past the five-activation limit on a case-by-case basis.[146]

As of June 19, 2008, 2K Games has removed the activation limit, allowing users to install the game an unlimited number of times. However, online activation remains mandatory.[147] Existing BioShock retail discs need Internet access during installation as required files to play the game are not included on that disc and need to be downloaded during the "autopatcher" process.[148][149] The "autopatcher" does not actually update BioShock to the latest version despite its name and rather just fetches the necessary files from the Internet to complete the version 1.0 installation. The deactivation of the system was promised by Ken Levine in August 2007, after retail sales of the PC version of the game were no longer an issue.[150]

Alerts from virus scanners and malware detectors, which can be triggered by SecuROM software, led to some debate about whether a rootkit was being installed; this was denied by 2K Games.[151][152][153] However, an uninstallation of BioShock does not remove the files installed by SecuROM or the registry keys used.[154]

BioShock was also criticized for not supporting pixel shader 2.0b video cards (such as the Radeon X800/X850), which were considered high-end graphics cards in 2004–2005, and accounted for about 24% of surveyed hardware collected through Valve's Steam platform at the time of BioShock's release. User efforts to create a pixel shader 2.0-compatible version of the software have met with some success,[155] but 2K Games has issued no statements regarding possible pixel shader 2.0 support being added by an official patch.[156]

Overlay of widescreen and 4:3 screenshots demonstrating FOV differences (tinted areas seen in 4:3 only).

Since BioShock was released, several issues have been found, with most uncovered in the Windows version.[157] A list of known issues is maintained on the official forums.[158] In both the BioShock demo and release version, it was observed that the field of view (FOV) used in widescreen was set such that it appeared that there was less visible in the display compared to the 4:3 format,[159] as well as in effect zooming in the player's view resulting in some cases of disorientation and nausea (particularly for people playing close to the screen, as with most PC setups), conflicting with original reports from a developer on how widescreen would have been handled.[160] This was a design decision made during development.[161][162] In patch 1.1, released on December 4, 2007, the "Horizontal FOV Lock" option was added to the Options menu,[163] which when switched off allows widescreen users a wider field of view, without cutting anything off the image vertically.

Related media


In response to the game's high sales and critical acclaim, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick revealed in a conference call to analysts that the company now considered the game as part of a franchise.[164] He also speculated on any follow-ups mimicking the development cycle of Grand Theft Auto, with a new release expected every two to three years.[165][166] 2K's president Christoph Hartmann stated that BioShock could have five sequels, comparing the franchise to the Star Wars movies.[167]

On March 11, 2008, Take-Two Interactive officially announced that BioShock 2 was being developed by 2K Marin. In an August 2008 interview, Ken Levine mentioned that 2K Boston was not involved in the game's sequel because they wanted to "swing for the fences" and try to come up with something "very, very different".[168] BioShock 3 has also been announced, with its release likely to coincide with the BioShock film.[169] The first information about BioShock's immediate sequel came in a teaser on the PlayStation 3 version of the game revealing that the second game was to be titled BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams,[170][171] though the subtitle has since been dropped.[172] This teaser used The Pied Pipers' version of "Dream" in much the same way that the first BioShock's soundtrack used Great American Songbook tunes. A 2K developer stated that the game "is part of a prequel and at the same time is a sequel."[173] In the game, the player assumes the role of Subject Delta, a precursor of the Big Daddies who must search the fallen city of Rapture for his former Little Sister, Eleanor. BioShock 2 was released for Windows PC, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3 worldwide on February 9, 2010.

While BioShock Infinite, being developed by Irrational Games for release in 2012, shares the name and many similar gameplay concepts with BioShock, the title is not a sequel or prequel in story, instead taking place aboard the collapsing air-city of Columbia in the year 1912, and following former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt as he tries to rescue a woman named Elizabeth from the dystopia it has become.[174]

Limited edition

Following the creation of a fan petition for a special edition, Take-Two stated that they would publish a special edition of BioShock only if the petition received 5,000 signatures;[175] this number of signatures was reached after just five hours.[176] Subsequently, a poll was posted on the 2K Games operated Cult of Rapture community website in which visitors could vote on what features they would most like to see in a special edition; the company stated that developers would take this poll into serious consideration.[177] To determine what artwork would be used for the Limited Edition cover, 2K games ran a contest, with the winning entry provided by Crystal Clear Art's owner and graphic designer Adam Meyer.[178]

On April 23, 2007, the Cult of Rapture website confirmed that the Limited Collector's Edition would include a 6-inch (150 mm) Big Daddy figurine (many of which were damaged due to a dropped shipping container; a replacement initiative is in place), a "Making Of" DVD, and a soundtrack CD.[179] Before the special edition was released, the proposed soundtrack CD was replaced with The Rapture EP.[180]

Printed media

BioShock: Breaking the Mold, a book containing artwork from the game, was released by 2K Games on August 13, 2007. It is available in both low and high resolution, in PDF format from 2K Games's official website.[181][182] Until October 1, 2007, 2K Games was sending a printed version of the book to the owners of the collector's edition whose Big Daddy figurines had been broken, as compensation for the time it took to replace them.[183] On October 31, 2008, the winners of "Breaking the Mold: Developers Edition Artbook Cover Contest" were announced on[184]

A prequel novel, entitled BioShock: Rapture written by John Shirley, was published July 19, 2011. The prequel book details the construction of Rapture and the events leading to its demise. The book follows multiple BioShock characters.[185]


2K Games released an orchestral score soundtrack on their official homepage on August 24, 2007. Available in MP3 format, the score—composed by Garry Schyman—contains 12 of the 22 tracks from the game.[186] The Limited Edition version of the game came with The Rapture EP remixes by Moby and Oscar The Punk.[187] The three remixed tracks on the CD include "Beyond the Sea," "God Bless the Child" and "Wild Little Sisters"; the original recordings of these songs are in the game.[188]

In BioShock, the player encounters phonographs that play music from the 1940s and 1950s as background music. In total, 30 licensed songs can be heard throughout the game.[189] BioShock's score was released on a vinyl LP with the BioShock 2 Special Edition [190]


Industry rumors after the game's release suggested a film adaptation of the game would be made, utilizing similar green screen filming techniques as in the movie 300 to recreate the environments of Rapture.[191] On May 9, 2008, Take Two announced a deal with Universal Studios to produce a BioShock movie, to be directed by Gore Verbinski and written by John Logan.[192] The film was expected to be released in 2010, but was put on hold due to budget concerns.[193] On August 24, 2009 it was revealed that Verbinski had dropped out of the project due to the studio's decision to film overseas to keep the budget under control. Verbinski reportedly feels this would have hindered his work on Rango. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is in talks to direct with Verbinski as producer.[194]

In January 2010 the project was in pre-production stage, with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Braden Lynch, a voice artist from BioShock 2 both working on the film.[195] By July the film was facing budget issues but producer Gore Verbinski said they were working it out. He also said the film would be a hard R.[196] Ken Levine, during an interview on August 30, 2010, said: "I will say that it is still an active thing and it's something we are actively talking about and actively working on."[197] Verbinski later cited that by trying to maintain the "R" rating, they were unable to find any studios that would back the effort, putting the film's future in jeopardy.[198]


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Further reading

External links

Awards and achievements
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
BAVGA Award for Best Game
Succeeded by
Super Mario Galaxy
Preceded by
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Spike TV Video Game Awards' Game of the Year
Succeeded by
Grand Theft Auto IV

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