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BioShock is a first-person shooter video game series developed by Irrational Games[1]—the first under the name 2K Boston/2K Australia—and designed by Ken Levine. The first game in the series was released for the Windows operating system and Xbox 360 video game console on August 21, 2007 in North America, and three days later (August 24) in Europe and Australia.[2] A PlayStation 3 version of the game, which was developed by 2K Marin, was released internationally on October 17, 2008 and in North America on October 21, 2008[3] with some additional features.[4] The game was also released for the Mac OS X operating system on October 7, 2009.[5] A version of the game for mobile platforms has also been developed by IG Fun.[6] 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, released on March 26, 2013.[7] With the release of BioShock Infinite selling over 11 million copies as of May 2015, the three games combined have more than 25 million copies sold.[8]

Bioshock series.jpg
The logo for BioShock, the first game in the series.
Genres First-person shooter
Developer(s) Irrational Games
2K Australia
2K Marin
Publisher(s) 2K Games
Creator(s) Ken Levine
Artist(s) Scott Sinclair
Writer(s) Ken Levine
Composer(s) Garry Schyman
Platforms Microsoft Windows
Xbox 360
Xbox One
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Platform of origin Microsoft Windows
Xbox 360
First release BioShock
  • NA: August 21, 2007
Latest release BioShock Infinite
  • WW: March 26, 2013


Concept and developmentEdit

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, George Orwell and all the sort of utopian and dystopian writings of the 20th century, and having developed the System Shock franchise, some of my first games, I felt that the atmosphere was a good one to set for a dystopian environment, one we borrowed heavily from System Shock."[9] Levine has also mentioned an interest in "stem cell research and the moral issues that go around [it]."[9] 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."[10]

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

In the reveal of the third game of the series, BioShock Infinite, 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.[15]

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, [16]

In a conversation over Twitter in 2017 a former artist who worked on 'Infinite' compared the game series to the Far Cry series, saying that "I think what makes a Bioshock game, or at least a good Bioshock game, is that sense of magical realism. I think it's a lot like what Dan Hay said about what he thinks a good Far Cry game is, you know, this sense that this stuff could happen in real life, like someone sits down next to you at a bar or wherever and starts telling you this story that's so fantastic that you're super skeptical, but everything in the story is 100% plausible and you come away feeling like that story was totally legit; with Bioshock, we have the fantastical stories, and the larger than life characters, and if someone were to sit down with you and say something like, "So this one time I was on a plane that crashed into the ocean and I ended up in this creepy fallen city and fought a bunch of druggies", that's totally plausible. What we do is, then, we add magical realism to it, so the fallen city becomes an underwater dystopia, and the druggies become these psychic mutants and people driven insane by using drugs that make them superhumans."


The games in the BioShock series are first-person shooter; considered the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, which many of the developers were previously involved with through Irrational Games. While specific mechanics differ between all three games, they share a common theme of having the player use a combination of physical weapons such as guns and melee weapons, superhuman powers and passive abilities granted by genetic alterations (plasmids in the first two games, vigors in Infinite), and features of the game environment to strategically work their way through enemy forces and tactical situations. These weapons and powers can be used in various combinations to aid in defeating foes; for example, electrocuting an enemy makes them prone to being knocked out from a subsequent melee attack. Scenarios in the game often feature multiple approaches that the player can take, such as opting to avoid enemies through stealth and deception, hacking a security turret to turn against enemy forces, or directly engaging in combat. The player is able to customize their weapons and genetic enhancements for the style of play they prefer. In addition to collecting new weapons and genetic modifications, the player gains ammunition, mana-like power required to engage the genetic modifications (EVE in the first two games, Salt in Infinite), restorative items, scrap items used to craft new materials, and in-game money to buy various improvements at vending machines throughout the game.


Aggregate review scores
As of January 8, 2012.
Game Metacritic
BioShock (X360) 96[17]
(PC) 96[18]
(PS3) 94[19]
BioShock 2 (X360) 88[20]
(PC) 88[21]
(PS3) 88[22]
BioShock Infinite (PS3) 94[23]
(PC) 94[24]
(X360) 93[25]
Timeline of release years
2007 BioShock
2010 BioShock 2
2013 BioShock Infinite


BioShock takes place in 1960, 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 a species of sea slug on the ocean's floor. With ADAM, they could create plasmids that would modify 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. Extended use of 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".[26] The war left Rapture a dystopia within a year, with the few non-ADAM users sheltering themselves from Splicers.[27]

The player controls Jack, a man that stumbles upon Rapture after his plane crashes near the Rapture bathysphere terminus. Jack is quickly guided by a man named Atlas via radio to help protect himself from the Splicers and to save his family from the ruthless hands of Andrew Ryan.

BioShock was released on August 21, 2007 for 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.[28] According to Take-Two's chairman Strauss Zelnick, the game has sold around 3 million copies as of June 2009.[29]

BioShock 2Edit

BioShock 2 is a direct sequel to BioShock, taking place about ten years after the first game. The player controls Subject Delta, one of the first Big Daddy test subjects who was abandoned by its creator. Continuing through the remains of Rapture left after the first game, Subject Delta must come to understand his origins and fight through the cult created by Dr. Sofia Lamb in the power void left after BioShock to prevent a threat to the surface world.

BioShock 2 was released worldwide on February 9, 2010.[30] 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.

Minerva's Den is a DLC campaign for BioShock 2, in which the player assumes the role of Subject Sigma, another Alpha Series Big Daddy, as he travels through Minerva's Den, home to Rapture's Central Computing. It was released on August 31, 2010.

BioShock InfiniteEdit

BioShock Infinite takes place in 1912 in Columbia, a city suspended in the air through a combination of "quantum levitation" and giant blimps and balloons. It was built and launched in 1893 by the American government, during the Worlds' Fair in Chicago, to much fanfare and publicity. However, it was later involved in an "international incident" by firing upon a group of Chinese civilians during the Boxer Rebellion. The city was disavowed by the United States government, and the location of the city was soon lost to everyone else.

As a result of the city's isolation, a civil war eventually broke out on Columbia between different factions of citizens. At the time of the game's events, only two main factions remain. One group is the Founders, the remnants of those retaining power over the city led by Zachary Hale Comstock, which seeks to keep Columbia purely for American citizens while denying foreigners the same privileges. The other is a group named Vox Populi, a rag-tag resistance group, led by Daisy Fitzroy, formed from several factions with similar ideologies that fought to seize control and restore the rights of Columbia citizenship to all. However, years of war and struggle have driven Vox Populi to fight the powers-that-be solely out of blind hatred, resulting in more violent and brutal methods and leading to subfactions in the group.

The player in Infinite controls Booker DeWitt, a former disgraced member of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to recover the girl Elizabeth from her captivity aboard Columbia for the last twelve years under Comstock. Booker finds the city in violent political strife and works with Elizabeth to understand why she was held captive and the secrets of Columbia's creation. The story is thematically linked to the previous BioShock games, and a scene within the game revisits the underwater city of Rapture through this connection. The player augments weapons and abilities with Elizabeth's own to aid their escape from the falling city.[31]

BioShock Infinite was announced, on August 12, 2010, for release on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems on February 26, 2013; on December 7, 2012, Irrational Games announced that release would be delayed by another month, to March 26, 2013.[32] 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.

A DLC expansion for the game, called Burial at Sea, focuses on the thematic connections between the settings of Columbia and Rapture, and follows Booker and Elizabeth investigating a case in the underwater city a year before the events that incited the fall of Rapture witnessed in the first BioShock game, reintroducing many of the characters from that original setting. Burial at Sea was released in two-parts on November 12, 2013 and March 25, 2014 respectively.[33]


In February 2014, while promoting Burial at Sea: Episode Two, series director Ken Levine revealed that BioShock Infinite would be Irrational Games' last game in the BioShock series, leaving the intellectual property in the hands of 2K Games, should they like to continue the franchise with another developer.[34] That same month, 2K Games stated that the BioShock series will continue, telling Game Informer they "look forward to exploring the next BioShock". [35] In May 2014, 2K Games stated that work on the BioShock series is continuing with 2K Marin at the helm.[36] In a 2016 interview, Levine explained that the pressure and stress of managing a large team as he had to for Infinite had impacted his health and personal relationships, and rather than stay on to build a larger game, decided to leave the BioShock franchise.[37]



BioShock: Rapture is a novel written by John Shirley, covering the founding of Rapture, and life in Rapture before the events of BioShock. It was published by Titan books on July 19, 2011.[38][39]

Mind In RevoltEdit

BioShock Infinite: Mind In Revolt is a novella written by Joe Fielder and Ken Levine, offering insight to the world of Columbia and the motivations of Daisy Fitzroy, the leader of the Vox Populi. Mind In Revolt had an eBook release on February 13, 2013, with the hardcover version released later through the Irrational Games store.

Other mediaEdit

Art booksEdit

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.[40][41] 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.[42] On October 31, 2008, the winners of "Breaking the Mold: Developers Edition Artbook Cover Contest" were announced on[43] Deco Devolution: The Art of BioShock 2 was released in 2010. The Art of BioShock Infinite was released in 2013.


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.[44] The Limited Edition version of the game came with The Rapture EP remixes by Moby and Oscar The Punk.[45] 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.[46] BioShock's soundtrack was released on a vinyl LP with the BioShock 2 Special Edition.[47]


BioShock: Ultimate Rapture EditionEdit

BioShock: Ultimate Rapture Edition is a retail package containing BioShock and BioShock 2, along with all downloadable content for both games including Minerva's Den, and a set of stickers based on BioShock Infinite. The edition was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in North America on January 14, 2013, Future release dates planned for other regions.[48]

BioShock Infinite: The Complete EditionEdit

BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition is a retail package containing BioShock Infinite and Burial at Sea. It also includes the Clash In the Clouds arena mode, as well as all pre-order bonuses and exclusive weapons. BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition was released on November 4, 2014.

BioShock: The CollectionEdit

BioShock: The Collection is a remastered collection of the BioShock series, containing BioShock, BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite, and all of their single-player downloadable content including Minerva's Den and Burial at Sea. It features updated graphics and a documentary with commentary from Ken Levine and Shawn Robertson. The multiplayer component of BioShock 2 is not included in the collection. It was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows in September 2016.[49][50] BioShock Infinite's original PC version was ported to console for the collection, but was not remastered since it "already meets current-gen console standards and runs smoothly on high visual settings", according to 2K Games. Players that own either of the first two games on Windows will be able to update to the remastered versions for free.[51]

Cancelled projectsEdit

Film adaptationEdit

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.[52] 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.[53] The film was expected to be released in 2010, but was put on hold due to budget concerns.[54] 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.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57] 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."[58] 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.[59]

Levine confirmed in March 2013 that the film had been officially cancelled. Levine stated that after Warner's Watchmen film in 2009 did not do as well as the studio expected, they had concerns with the $200 million budget that Verbinski had for the BioShock film. They asked him to consider doing the film on a smaller $80 million budget, but Verbinski did not want to accept this. Universal then subsequently brought a new director in to work with the smaller budget but with whom Levine and 2K Games did not feel was a good fit to the material. Universal gave Levine the decision to end the project, which he took, believing that the film would not work with the current set of compromises they would have had to make.[60] According to Kotaku, Sony Pictures has registered the domain name for the movie.[61]

BioShock VitaEdit

A version of BioShock for the PlayStation Vita, tentatively known as simply BioShock Vita,[62] was announced at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo by Levine during Sony's press event, alongside the introduction of the Vita, but few details were revealed at that time.[63] Levine later described the title as still in the works, a game that would neither be similar to the first two BioShock titles nor be a version of Infinite for the Vita.[64] He stated that "I'd rather do something that's an experiment and that's a little different. And is unique for the franchise."[64] By April 2012, with Irrational working heavily to finish Infinite, Levine had put the Vita game on hold.[65]

In interviews in December 2012, Levine revealed that little work had been done on the game, as the dealing with working with Sony was in the hands of Irrational's publisher, Take-Two Interactive, though he was still interested in the title.[66] Levine revealed in July 2014 that the deals between Sony and Take-Two had failed to materialize, and the game was unlikely to be made,[67] despite Sony being bullish on promoting the future title at its Vita reveal before any development work had been started.[68] He further clarified that his idea would have been a strategy-style game similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, with the game set prior to the fall of Rapture.[67]


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit