Bioshock: A Beautiful & Deadly FPS for Mac

It used to be that the world of games on the Mac was an open wasteland, populated by software that was more appropriate for children than for console-loving adults. But now, that’s not really the case. Yes, sometimes the games take slightly longer to come to market, but they come to the Mac all the same, ready for some hardcore action.

So here we have Bioshock, a very popular game for the PC and consoles that was released several years ago. In fact, it’s even seen a sequel, which isn’t yet available for the Mac.

So is this game worth the $40 price tag? To find out, I downloaded the demo and gave it a shot. The results are after the jump.

Enter Rapture

Let’s take a moment to explain the concept of Bioshock, which is quite a bit out of the norm. The game opens with a plane crash deep in the ocean, where you awake to find yourself at the gates to the city of Rapture.

This is an underwater world developed by a man named Andrew Ryan to be the best of the best. Unfortunately, things go a bit awry, and now Rapture is full of crazy characters thirsty for blood – yours.

The ominous opening screen.

The ominous opening screen.

There is an advantage to being in a city of genetic freaks, however. You have the ability to play around with your own genetic code, giving you built-in weapons called plasmids that each produce different effects. There are also typical weapons at your disposal as well, such as a wrench and various guns.

One of the first rooms in Bioshock is an elevator entrance, ready to take you to Rapture.

One of the first rooms in Bioshock is an elevator entrance, ready to take you to Rapture.

The big deal here though is the Big Daddies, characters wearing underwater suits with drills attached to an arm. These characters protect Little Sisters, which are girls who all have their own skills.

When this game was first released, the big concept was that you as the player get to decide whether you kill the girls or not, and the ending of the game reflects your moral decisions. A fascinating concept, and an intriguing way to play a game.

What BioShock Does Well

A quick sidebar to illustrate a point:

I remember when the original Resident Evil came out for the Playstation. My friend Clint bought it on the day it was released, and that night we stayed up well into the night taking turns playing the game.

Each of us would play until we got so scared that we just couldn’t handle it anymore, then we’d pass it off to the other. It was an absolute blast though, and we loved every minute.

Rapture is beautiful, but deadly.

Rapture is beautiful, but deadly.

Bioshock is a FPS – first person shooter, for the uninitiated – designed to scare the crap out of you. It’s reminiscent of that original Resident Evil, in that everything is dark and you’re never quite sure what’s behind the next door or corner.

Because the game is so beautifully rendered, every corner becomes another scary moment when you worry that you’re going to get attacked by a character that’s so realistic that it could be sitting next to you on the couch.

It’s that realism that makes Bioshock more than just an FPS; You’re meant to care for the people wrapped up in the mess that is Rapture, not just blow them away.

What Makes Bioshock Difficult

The game itself is scary and complicated, but there’s another aspect here that needs to be discussed. I tested this game on a 2009 MacBook Pro with a 27-inch LED monitor. The MacBook Pro has a 2.4 gHZ Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of RAM, with the dual NVIDIA GeForce cards and 256MB of VRAM.

I tuned the game to run at lower graphics levels (took out some shading and the like), then set the resolution to fairly small for the screen. The result was a game that was definitely playable and fun, but not console smooth. That was a bit frustrating.

Rapture from another angle.

Rapture from another angle.

Now that doesn’t mean that everyone will have the same results that I did. I’m positive that with a better video card and more RAM that Bioshock would fly on the Mac just fine. But just know that this game isn’t going to work on your MacBook with integrated Intel graphics – not well, anyway.

Dark and Scary - That's Rapture.

Dark and Scary - That's Rapture.

The Final Word

I have two problems with this game. First, there’s the price. It’s $39.99 for a game that’s almost four years old. That’s a little steep, right? Compared to other offerings on the Mac Store, this game is double what it should be. Granted, the Mac App Store is still an experimental marketplace of sorts, so I have hope that the price will come down.

Second, I’m a bit frustrated by the performance. My MacBook Pro is two years old, yes, but it’s not a slouch with anything else. I just figured that my computer would be up to the task, and apparently, it is – but barely.

Even with all that, this is still a great buy for the Mac. Why? Because even if you played Bioshock on the console when it came out, the replayability of the game is legendary. There are so many tweaks and twists available that you could play it again and again with different results. My issues with hardware just show how much they’re pushing the boundaries for Mac games and that alone is worthy of applause.

Yes, it has its kinks. But this is one of the best games out there for the Mac, and it’s worth the price of admission.


The popular console and PC game finally comes to the Mac, but is it a little too late for this already ageing title?