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BioShock, one of the best shooters of all time, hits iOS -- and it's still great

Andrew Hayward | Aug. 29, 2014
The lines are blurring between AAA console and mobile game development. It's not happening in great volume just yet, nor are all major publishers converting their elaborate controller-based games into touch experiences. Activision's upcoming Skylanders: Trap Team for iOS and consoles alike is one huge example, but 2K Games has been already leading that charge with great success.

Playing BioShock with touch controls is a solid enough experience, but it's far from ideal. Encounters aren't constant in Rapture, but they're very intense, and the lack of physical analog sticks is felt when you need to quickly and precisely respond to a threat — but instead fumble your response a bit. To 2K's credit, the publisher has come up with a helpful control scheme that allows you to quickly switch between weapons and genetically modified Plasmid attacks (like tossing lightning or ice at enemies) with the right thumb.

Thankfully, BioShock is compatible with MFi gamepads, which is definitely the way to go. I used the SteelSeries Stratus, the most console-like of the current crop of controllers, and it was easy to forget about it being a touch port and just fall under the spell of the storyline and the tension of the surroundings. It's not a perfect solution, however, since you'll still have to tap the screen to play audio logs and crouch, as far as I could tell. Also, there's no control customization to be found.

And as a fan of the Xbox 360 original, it was difficult to ignore the visual degradation. BioShock's art design is second to none, and it's held up well over the years — but even on an iPad Air, the iOS version has a jagged finish and looks very fuzzy in spots, with texture crispness losing a step and animations seeming clunkier at times than I remember. It's less of an issue if you're playing a couple of feet back with a controller in hand, but hard to ignore when it's right in your face. 

Still, superficial concerns are worth tolerating for a chance to play an all-time great on your iOS device. You won't find another game quite like BioShock on the App Store, let alone anything as richly designed and developed. And there's hope for Android fans: nothing's been announced, but XCOM crossed over about 10 months after the iOS release. With luck, BioShock will do the same even sooner. 

BioShock is available now in the App Store for $15.


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