By Renan Fontes 19.03.2017
Last generation saw more than a few developers porting their PS2 and Xbox games onto the PS3 and 360 under the HD Remaster label. Some, like the Metal Gear Solid and Devil May Cry collections, successfully created definitive versions of older games by slightly touching up graphics and tweaking some controls. Others, like the unfortunate Silent Hill and Hitman collections, showed off the dangers of thoughtlessly labelling a port as an HD remaster. Regardless of the mixed results, however, it made some sense to bring these titles to the HD era, at least for preservation's sake. With nothing needing immediate remastering or updating, BioShock: The Collection seeks to do so anyway. The question is: is it a labour of love, or a shameless attempt at selling ports for full price?
Retrospectives on BioShock typically tend to focus on three main things: the atmosphere, the twists, and the story. Rarely is the gameplay brought up and rare the level design. While certainly true that the writing is the first entry's greatest strength, it's important to recognise just how good everything holds up nearly a decade later.
Blind Squirrel Games' remastering pretties up Rapture and adds a new level of immersion, but the most impressive aspect of the collection has to be just how imaginative 2K's design is; not just for BioShock 1, but for all three titles and their DLC, as well. Jack's outing in Rapture is just as memorable in 2017 as it was in 2007. There's a quiet chaos that backdrops each hallway and room, making the often hectic encounters with splicers all the more tense. The amount of weapons and abilities Jack has at his disposal, plus all the hidden secrets, makes the already labyrinthine Rapture feel like the ultimate playground.
A lack of general direction in terms of play-style incentivises player creativity seldom seen in first-person shooters. Most of the fun of BioShock comes from mixing and matching Jack's many plasmids. Added on to the list of already impressive secrets to find are golden reels that unlock director commentaries for each level. The graphic touch up is nice, but this is what makes BioShock: The Collection really stand out.
Finding a golden reel and learning more about the production and the development of BioShock is a treat unlike any other. Ken Levine's insight is fantastic as he maps out difficulties in development and discusses the first game's general design, giving a more intimate and personal feel to Rapture. BioShock 2 and Infinite unfortunately lack the extra commentaries that B1 got, but 2 still has a nice graphical update and its untouched gameplay to make up for it. The lack of multiplayer might come as a concern for some, yet considering how much of an afterthought it was in the original release, it's perhaps for the best it was completely ignored for the collection.
BioShock Infinite, on the other hand, does not have the benefit of a nice remaster or update to make up for its lack of commentary. In fact, it's an exact port of its 2013 PC release, albeit with all the DLC intact. Thankfully, infinite looks quite good as is and an untrained eye might not even notice it was left completely untouched.
It's without a doubt a good thing that the first two titles got remasters, but the strength of the collection really isn't the graphical updates but rather the common sense that went in compiling all three games together: all the downloadable content is present, everything runs smoothly, nothing is cut out or altered, and there are even some nice extras for diehard fans. Was BioShock: The Collection necessary? Not really, but unnecessary does not mean bad.
While it's certainly a disappointment BioShock Infinite got ignored in the remastering department, 2K and Blind Squirrel Games more than make up for it with a collection that includes every single second of single-player content in BioShock history. 1 and 2 have been excellently remastered, and the inclusion of director commentaries in the first BioShock shed some welcome insight on an already fascinating franchise. The series didn't need any updating, but it is unquestionably a nice thing that BioShock: The Collection improves on some already great first-person shooters.