[Editor's note: Got the game already? Check out our plasmid strategy guide with expert tips and explosive video for BioShock's every power. Or, if you're not allergic to major spoilers, read our Secrets Revealed feature.]
How do you review a game like BioShock? When describing an experience so overwhelmingly original and so mind-blowingly brilliant, where exactly do you begin? When every single aspect of a game has been as creatively conceived, meticulously crafted and lovingly produced as it has been here, how do you possibly condense your thoughts into just a few hundred words?
We suppose the best place to start is where you will start - in an airplane, as it plummets toward the frigid black ocean surrounding a lonely lighthouse. The sequence is harrowing, but ironically, may be the last normal thing that happens to you in BioShock. For the next 20-25 hours, you will be submerged in a haunted underwater world, a formerly utopian metropolis named Rapture in which every ideal has been twisted and every dream destroyed.
Citizens who came to this city seeking freedom now wander its streets as monsters, the mutated products of unrestricted science. Businessmen who came seeking opportunity turned to war instead, ruining the fragile infrastructure. The population's most innocent - little girls - are forced to commit the most unthinkable acts. And Rapture's founder, Andrew Ryan, would rather see his creation crumble than see it saved.
BioShock's story is the best we've witnessed on the Xbox 360 to date. The concept, characters and pacing are all leagues above the current 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.