BioShock (series)

BioShock (series)
Bioshock series.jpg
The official logo of series
Genres First-person shooter,
survival horror[1]
Developers Irrational Games
2K Marin
Publishers 2K Games
Creators Ken Levine
First release BioShock
21 August 2007
Latest release BioShock 2
9 February 2010
Official website 2K Games BioShock

BioShock is a video game series developed by Irrational Games[2]—the first under the name 2K Boston/2K Australia—and designed by Ken Levine. It was originally released for the Windows operating system and Xbox 360 video game console on 21 August 2007 in North America, and three days later in Europe and Australia.[3] A PlayStation 3 version of the game, which was developed by 2K Marin, was released internationally on 17 October 2008 and in North America on 21 October 2008[4] with some additional features.[5] The game was also released for the Mac OS X operating system on October 7, 2009.[6] A version of the game for mobile platforms is currently being developed by IG Fun.[7] A sequel, BioShock 2, was released on February 9, 2010. On August 12, 2010, Irrational Games unveiled a trailer for a new game titled BioShock Infinite, tentatively scheduled for release sometime in 2012.[8] As of 2011, the BioShock franchise has sold over 9 million copies.[9]


Concept and development

In response to a 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."[10] Levine has also mentioned an interest in "stem cell research and the moral issues that go around [it]."[10] 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."[11]

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.[12] In his narration of a video initially screened for the press at E3 2006, Levine pointed out many similarities between the games.[13] 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.[13] The "ghosts" (phantom images that replay tragic incidents in the places they occurred) from System Shock 2 also exist in BioShock,[14] 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, allowing for emergent gameplay.[15]

In the reveal of the third game of the series, BioShock Infinte, Ken Levine stated that the name "BioShock" is not in reference to any specific setting or location, but instead a means of encapsulating common gameplay elements that reflects on their earlier games such as System Shock 2, and the BioShock series.[16]

To me, there's two things that make a BioShock game BioShock. They take place in a world that is both fantastic and ridiculous. Something that you've never seen before and something that nobody else could create except Irrational, but it's also strangely grounded and believable. The other thing that makes it a BioShock game, it's about having a huge toolset of power and a huge range of challenges, and you being able to drive how you solve those challenges.
—Ken Levine, Irrational Games, [17]


BioShock and BioShock 2 take place in the fictional underwater city of Rapture. Built in the late 1940s by business tycoon Andrew Ryan, it was meant to be a laissez-faire utopia for humanity's elite to work, live, and prosper out of the increasingly oppressive hands of the world's governments and authorities.

The scientists of Rapture soon discovered a substance called ADAM found in sea slugs[disambiguation needed ] on the ocean's floor. With ADAM, they could create plasmids that would overwrite a person's genetic material, granting them superhuman-like abilities, and soon became a valuable commodity. They devised a means of harvesting ADAM using little girls, named "Little Sisters", implanting the sea slugs in their stomachs. ADAM was found to lead to mental instability in its users, and along with other political and social movements within Rapture, the Little Sisters became targets of those desiring more ADAM. To protect them, the scientists created Big Daddies, mentally conditioned and mutated humans in armored diving suits that drove off any attackers from Little Sisters.

On the eve of 1959, war broke out in Rapture between its classes, fueled by ADAM-addicted "Splicers".[18] The war left Rapture a dystopia within a year, with the few non-ADAM users sheltering themselves from Splicers.[19]



The protagonist of BioShock, whom the player controls throughout the game. Jack was a passenger on board an airplane that crashed near a lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and provided entry to the underwater city. During his journey through Rapture, he encounters various gene altering substances, known as plasmids and Gene tonics, that he uses to defend himself. As Jack journeys through Rapture, he has strange visions of his family. Late in the game (to be precise, before he kills Andrew Ryan) he finds out that he is Ryan's illegitimate son, and was genetically conditioned to do whatever someone said if they used the phrase "would you kindly", which Atlas had used since the moment Jack and he met. Jack then kills Ryan and shuts down Rapture's self-destruct switch, only to find out that Atlas is in fact Frank Fontaine: a notorious gangster and former leader of Rapture's black market. Escaping Rapture's automated defense systems, he ends up in the care of Dr. Tenenbaum, who frees him of his "trigger phrase ailment".

Andrew Ryan

Atlas serves as Jack's guide for the first two thirds of the game. Prior to his wife and child's entrapment in Neptune's Bounty, Atlas was attempting to flee the city. When Jack arrives in Rapture, he promises to help him escape under the condition he rescues his wife and child. However, it is soon revealed that he is actually Frank Fontaine and has been controlling Jack for his own will. (In a comment he makes near the end of the game, he implies that his wife and child, who were supposedly in a submarine that was detonated by Ryan, were simply a red herring.)

Frank Fontaine

Frank Fontaine is one of the primary antagonists in BioShock. He is a criminal mastermind, the arch-enemy of Andrew Ryan. He speaks with a coarse, thick Bronx accent. Unlike Ryan, he has no ideals regarding the city, and simply wishes to use it for money and power. Fontaine is very intelligent and has a skill for evasion.

Sander Cohen
Brigid Tenenbaum

Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum is a genetic scientist who helped originally develop ADAM. She is also the "mother" of the Little Sisters; she created them, and cares a great deal about their safety, calling them her "little ones", and acting like a mother towards them in protecting them. The player is able to win her allegiance by saving the Little Sisters instead of harvesting them for ADAM. She serves as Jack's guide throughout the final third of the game.

Subject Delta

Subject Delta is the protagonist of BioShock 2. Originally known as "Johnny Topside", he discovered Rapture. After being sent to prison, Delta became the first successful Big Daddy subject bonded to a Little Sister, Eleanor Lamb. This bond was capable of killing or inducing coma if were it to be broken, which is what happened on New Year's Eve 1958 when Dr. Sofia Lamb forced Delta to commit suicide with the use of a pistol, reclaiming her daughter. Ten years later, 1968, Delta is revived by the now adolescent Eleanor Lamb with the use of a vita-chamber reprogrammed to his DNA. Delta is required to find Eleanor, thus repairing the bond between the two.

Augustus Sinclair
Eleanor Lamb

The daughter of Sofia Lamb, and a previous Little Sister. Roughly ten years after the 1958 New Year's Eve Riots she contacts Subject Delta, beginning the events of BioShock 2. Eleanor still remembers Delta after ten years and knows he is searching for her. Throughout the course of the game, she will leave him gifts and messages written on the walls of the city. In the story of BioShock 2, her behavior is influenced by Delta's actions towards the Little Sisters and NPCs.

Dr. Sofia Lamb

Dr. Sofia Lamb is the primary antagonist of BioShock 2. She has taken over Andrew Ryan's position as the leader of Rapture, albeit with a completely different ideological view revolving around collectivism. She uses her skills as a psychiatrist to brainwash most of the Splicers in the city, forming a cult known as "The Family". She sends out members of The Family to prevent Subject Delta from reuniting with Eleanor.


Big Daddies
Little Sisters

Little Sisters (originally named as Gatherers) are young girls who have been genetically altered and mentally conditioned to reclaim ADAM from the corpses around Rapture. Little Sisters are always accompanied by a Big Daddy. The Little Sisters are almost completely immune to damage and have no offensive abilities. Approaching or attacking them, however, will incur the wrath of their Big Daddy protectors. When the player defeats these protectors, the player can choose either to harvest or rescue the Little Sisters, with consequences for the storyline. Little Sisters are usually hiding in the air vents hidden around Rapture, they will only come out when being called by a Big Daddy.

Big Sisters

The Big Sisters are post-pubescent Little Sisters that have become unstable in Rapture's environment. Ten years after the events of BioShock, they are charged with maintaining the ecological balance in Rapture. Their extreme level of powers, far beyond normal plasmid users, can be attributed to their bodies adapting the ADAM created in their bodies as children while they were still developing. Thus they have a much more natural affinity for the powers that ADAM creates.


Splicers serve as the mainstay "infantry" within the BioShock series. These are humans who, through the excessive use of ADAM (people such as Jack seem to be able to use ADAM with no ill effect), have mutated into humanoids permanently endowed with various superpowers, but who are also murderously and irreversibly insane. Unlike the protagonists of the BioShock games, who can mix and match the powers given to them by the use of plasmids with near-limitless variety, Splicers fall into a set of different categories that give each splicer type a consistent but limited set of abilities and powers (Spider Splicers, Brute Splicers, Houdini Splicers, et al).


Both games in the BioShock series are first-person shooters with role-playing game elements, and considered to be a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, which many of the developers were previously involved with through Irrational Games. The player controls a character as they explore Rapture, learning of the city's past and the fate of its citizens, defending themselves from attacks from Splicers along the way as they complete missions given to them by the few unaffected survivors. The player is given several options to approach many situations through combination of a number of game elements. The player collects an arsenal of weapons; weapons can be upgraded over course of play, and each can be loaded with different types of ammunition which can have different effects on different foes. The player also gains plasmids, ADAM-infused concoctions that grant the player active superhuman-like powers such as telekinesis or pyrokinesis in addition to passive abilities such as increased speed or better damage resistance. The player can use weapons and plasmids in conjunction with the environment to set traps or to turn the security systems of Rapture against the player's enemies. For example, all enemies in a water-filled room can be shocked by electrocuting the water, sentry guns and cameras can be hacked to fire on detected Splicers, or explosive proximity traps can be set through the help of telekinesis.

As the player explores Rapture, they will come across health and EVE (the substance used to power plasmid-granted powers) recovery items, recording devices that reveal more of Rapture's history, and money. The money can be used at vending machines to acquire more ammunition or health and EVE items. Plasmids are purchased by collecting ADAM from Little Sisters after defeating the heavily armored Big Daddy that protects them. Both BioShock games give the player a choice of how to do this; the player can either safely extract the sea slug from the girl, earning a modest amount of ADAM and leaving the child alive, or they can kill the child, and extract a large amount of ADAM directly. Though the player can purchase numerous plasmids, they can only equip a limited number at any time, though devices throughout Rapture can allow the player to change this loadout at any time.



BioShock was released on August 21, 2007 exclusively to Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360. A PlayStation 3 port was released just over a year later on October 17, 2008. The game received overwhelmingly positive reviews, which praised its "morality-based" storyline, immersive environment and Ayn Rand-inspired dystopian back-story.[20] According to Take-Two's chairman Strauss Zelnick, the game has sold around 3 million copies as of June 2009.[21]

BioShock 2

BioShock 2, the much anticipated sequel to BioShock, was released on February 9, 2010 in North America.[22] The game was developed by a new design team, although it contained members of the team for the original BioShock, and it received positive reviews.

BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite was announced on August 12, 2010, for release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows systems sometime in 2012. Previously known as "Project Icarus", BioShock Infinite is not a direct sequel or prequel to the original game, but carries many of the same gameplay concepts from the BioShock title. The game takes place in 1912 (prior to the events of the other games), in the air-city of Columbia. In the game, the player controls an ex-Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt, as he raids the air-city to rescue Elizabeth who has been imprisoned there since childhood. The player augments weapons and abilities with Elizabeth's own to aid their escape from the falling city.[23]

BioShock Vita

Ken Levine announced during Sony's 2011 E3 press conference that a BioShock game would be developed for PlayStation Vita, stating that it will be an original project for the handheld system. [24][25]


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.[26] 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.[27][28] 2K's president Christoph Hartmann stated that BioShock could have 5 sequels, comparing the franchise to the Star Wars movies.[29]

Other media

Art book

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.[30][31] 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.[32] On October 31, 2008, the winners of "Breaking the Mold: Developers Edition Artbook Cover Contest" were announced on[33]


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.[34] The Limited Edition version of the game came with the The Rapture EP remixes by Moby and Oscar The Punk.[35] 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.

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.[36] BioShock's soundtrack was released on a vinyl LP with the BioShock 2 Special Edition [37]


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.[38] 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.[39] The film was expected to be released in 2010, but was put on hold due to budget concerns.[40] 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.

As of January 2010 the project is in pre-production stage, with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo attached as director, with Braden Lynch, a voice artist from BioShock 2, working on the film.[41]

Gore Verbinski has since gone on record stating that the film is unlikely to be produced, due to studio concerns about funding a film with such a dark subject matter.[42] However, Ken Levine has stated that he would like to see a Bioshock film in the future.


BioShock: Rapture, written by John Shirley, covering events in Rapture up to "a point before the first game" was published by Titan books on July 19, 2011.[43][44]


  1. ^ John Ryan. "Is 'Bioshock' the best game of 2007?". MSN. 
  2. ^ "The Return Of Irrational Games". Game Informer. January 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-20. 
  3. ^ "BioShock street date is August 21". The Cult of Rapture. March 1, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  4. ^ "IGN: BioShock Coming October 21". IGN. August 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  5. ^ "2K Games Injects PlayStation 3 System Owners with Genetically Enhanced Version of BioShock" (Press release). Take 2 Interactive. May 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  6. ^ "Bioshock for Mac on October 7th". Tuaw. September 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  7. ^ "Mobile Gamers: Welcome to Rapture – IG FUN TO BRING THE AWARD WINNING "BIOSHOCK" TO MOBILE". IG Fun. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  8. ^ "BioShock Infinite Takes to the Skies". 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  9. ^ Orland, Kyle (September 14, 2011). "Grand Theft Auto IV Passes 22M Shipped, Franchise Above 114M". Gamasutra. Retrieved November 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Perry, Douglass C. (2006-05-26). "The Influence of Literature and Myth in Videogames". IGN. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  11. ^ Minkley, Johnny (2007-06-08). "Big Daddy speaks". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  12. ^ Gillen, Kieron (2007-08-20). "Ken Levine on the making of BioShock". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  13. ^ a b Brad Shoemaker and Andrew Park (2006-05-10). "E3 06: BioShock Gameplay Demo Impressions". Gamespot.;title;0. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  14. ^ Martin, Joe (2007-08-21). "BioShock Gameplay Review – Overlooked details". Bit-Tech. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  15. ^ Birnbaum, Jon (2007-06-13). "BioShock Interview". Gamebanshee. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  16. ^ de Matos, Xav (2010-08-12). "BioShock Infinite Interview: Ken Levine on Exceptionalism, Expectations & Returning to the Well". Shacknews. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  17. ^ Frushtick, Russ (2010-08-13). "'BioShock Infinite' Developer Avoided 'Repeating' Original Game". MTV. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  18. ^ Remo, Chris (2007-08-20). "Ken Levine on BioShock: The Spoiler Interview". Shacknews. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  19. ^ Onyett, Charles (2007-08-16). "BioShock Review". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  20. ^ Bray, Hiawatha (2007-08-27). "BioShock lets users take on fanaticism through fantasy". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  21. ^ Tom Ivan (2009-06-18). "Take-Two Targets Five Million BioShock 2 Sales". Edge Online. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  22. ^ "Bioshock 2 for Xbox 360". Gamespot. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  23. ^ Matt Cabral. "BioShock Infinite — Irrational Games trades the sea for the sky". GamesRadar. 
  24. ^ Kemuel Stewart (June 7, 2011). "E3 2011: BioShock Vita Is An Original Title". GamerCenterOnline. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  25. ^ Ken Levine (June 6, 2011). "BioShock Infinite to Support Move, PS Vita Game In the Works". Playstation.Blog. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  26. ^ Thorsen, Tor (2007-09-10). "BioShock ships 1.5M, sequels being discussed". GameSpot. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  27. ^ Smalley, Tim (2007-09-11). "BioShock sequel coming, 1.5 m copies shipped". Bit-Tech. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  28. ^ Keiser, Joe (2007-08-24). "Levine Talks BioShock’s Checkered Launch". Next Generation. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  29. ^ Faylor, Chris (2009-01-07). "BioShock Could Have Five Sequels, Suggests 2K". Shacknews. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  30. ^ Kuchera, Ben (2007-07-14). "High-resolution Bioshock art book available for free download". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  31. ^ "BioShock: Breaking the Mold". 2K Games. 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  32. ^ "Big Daddy Figurine Issue". 2K Games. 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  33. ^ "Winners of the "Breaking the Mold: Developers Edition Artbook Cover Contest"". 2K Games. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  34. ^ Tobey, Elizabeth (2007-08-24). "Introducing the BioShock Orchestral Score". 2K Games. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  35. ^ Plunkett, Luke (2007-08-17). "Limited Edition Rapture EP". Kotaku. Retrieved 2 November 2007. 
  36. ^ Hyrb, Larry (2007-10-11). "BioShock Music list". Major Nelson's Blog. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  37. ^ Tobey, Elizabeth (2009-11-19). "The BioShock 2 Special Edition". 2k Games. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  38. ^ Keitzmann, Ludwig (2008-01-08). "Rumor: BioShock movie murmurs in Hollywood". Joystiq. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  39. ^ Flemming, Michael; Fritz, Ben (2008-05-09). "Gore Verbinski to direct 'Bioshock'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  40. ^ Fleming, Michael (2009-04-24). "Universal halts Verbinski's 'Bioshock'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  41. ^ "Bioshock film status". 2010-01-01. 
  42. ^ "Gore Verbinksi Explains Why 'BioShock' Movie Isn't Happening". 2011-02-13. 
  43. ^ Wesley Yin-Poole. "BioShock: Rapture book release date News - - Page 1". Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  44. ^ "Rapture (Bioshock) - John Shirley, Ken Levine". Titan Books. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 

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