BioShock: The Collection is released today but, sadly, we didn’t receive review code in time to publish a verdict. In any case, based on our extensive hands-on with BioShock: The Collection at GamesCom 2016, the games are essentially the same, bar the obvious visual upgrade and the addition of DLC – although it isn’t quite the shooter your remember.
You can split that decision into three groups, depending on your exposure to the series:
1) If you've never played a BioShock game before, this is nigh-on an essential purchase – at least two of the games are classics, and the third is ambitious, if divisive.
2) If you've played some of the games, but missed an entry or some of the DLC, it's slightly harder to blanket recommend, so the original reviews below may help your decision.
3) If you've played every game, and every DLC pack, then this is only worth buying for the visual upgrade which, again, you'll need to make your own peace with. Our suspicion is that nicer visuals alone aren't enough to warrant a re-purchase, but it all depends on your price sensitivity.
We’ve listed our original review of each game in the collection below, and some further reading if you want to explore the mythology, universe and creation of this acclaimed series. When we’ve had time to play more of BioShock: The Collection, we’ll be updating this article with how the visual upgrades affect the experience (if at all) plus any performance issues worth flagging.
“BioShock's story is the best we've witnessed on this console generation to date. The concept, characters and pacing are all leagues above the competition; the genuinely shocking twists are worthy of a feature film. Unlike a movie, however, the experience here is always a personal one – a quest of discovery, a search for identity. Most remarkably, while the answers you desire do exist, the game does not give them away easily. You can play through once, neglecting a particular audio tape or scratched message on the wall, and miss an entire layer of the plot. The more time you give to BioShock, the more it rewards you”
What we say now:
Time hasn't dimmed but magnified BioShock's bravura introduction (one of the finest game openings of all time, alongside Half-Life, Kingdom Hearts and Uncharted 2), and peerlessly realised universe – even if the mechanics don't quite measure up to today's expectations.
– The 29 best pieces of BioShock fan art
“Is it better than BioShock? We never, ever imagined we’d be writing this, but… yes. In some fairly significant ways, including combat diversity, enemy variety, character depth and emotional attachment to the story, BioShock 2 is superior to BioShock 1. Plus, fans’ biggest criticisms of the original – the pipe hacking and the sagging third act – have been addressed and fixed for this sequel. But in many ways, the first BioShock can never be surpassed. Everything – the world, the philosophies, the surreal oddity – was new then, and unlike anything we’d experienced before. BioShock 2 can only hope to match that genius. Fortunately for us, it succeeds.”
What we say now:
Looking back, critical opinion seems to have shifted from people whispering that BioShock 2 might be the best in the series, to that view almost becoming accepted as de facto.
– BioShock 2 Minerva’s Den DLC review
– BioShock 2 was almost a semi-prequel hybrid
– The Top 7 ways BioShock 2 is better than BioShock
“BioShock Infinite’s narrative stretches far beyond a mere face-off between the forces serving the self-righteous Father Comstock and the freedom fighters of the zealous Vox Populi. The 15-to-18-hour campaign doesn’t limit itself to the ideas of right and wrong, or force you to make dichotomous moral choices; instead, it’s the kind of tale that subverts your expectations time and time again. Infinite deserves your attention, and it’s the kind of landmark experience that happens only a few times in a gaming generation.”
What we say now:
The critical backlash to BioShock: Infinite was savage, interesting and – frankly – a bit OTT, but whatever you think of the game's politics, or its clearly padded third act, the opening of the game inspires wonder like few AAA games that have followed since, and the conclusion is still quite wonderful, even if it suffered under the weight of expectation.