Video: BioShock as a 1994 PC game... and more retrofied classics

NOTE: This article originally ran in October, 2011. But seeing as BioShock Infinite (opens in new tab) is a) amazing and b) features its own '1999 mode', we thought it was time we had another look at our own imagining of the original BioShock as a 1994 PC game. It's the last of 5 modern game title screens re-imagined for retro hardware in this video, which also shows Ratchet & Clank for Saturn, Uncharted for Game Boy, Gears of War for SNES and God of War for Commodore 64/ZX Spectrum. The rest of our old article follows below if you want to know what you're looking at and how we made it. Enjoy!

So what are you looking at here? Well, God of War, Uncharted and Gears of War have already been explained. Ratchet & Clank would arguably have found a bigger audience if they'd been around in the mid-1990s, so this could well have happened in the 32-bit era. Anyone familiar with Sonic 2 will recognise the style of the intro, from the outline text introducing the characters, through to the emergence of the characters in a barrel floating in the sky.

Despite the nod to Sonic, this is based on Saturn tech. As with Bug! on Saturn, pre-rendered characters have been used but converted into sprites - here the images are just taken from cut-scenes in the PS3 version of Ratchet & Clank (Tools of Destruction) and animated together. The music is also real Ratchet & Clank, but I think the percussion kicking in after the title works perfectly with the parallax scrolling.

As for BioShock, well - this is the big one. I wanted to make a title screen that ran over an in-engine scene, only with sprite-based enemies in the style of Doom II or Duke Nukem 3D. Of course, without actually modding the PC version of Doom II, it all had to be done with sprite manipulation. Using Premiere Elements 3.0 (hey - only the best for GamesRadar), the results of skewing sprites as 3D images are really flaky - perfect for recreating the cutting-edge tech of 1994!

The music was made in Garageband on iPad, which Dave subsequently pointed out sounds very much like Doom 64's title music. Pure coincidence, I assure you, as I've never played the N64 version of Doom. And before the comments come in saying that background ripple effect would never have been possible in 1994, I say otherwise. It would've run at about 10fps, but we put up with much worse in FPS games back then, so there's nothing out of the ordinary there.

I really wish this was real game and not just pixellated versions of images from proper BioShock. I want to roam the corridors of Underwater Adventure, killing pixellated splicers with a digitised hand and sprite-based plasmids. But until Ken Levine decides he needs to remake his magnum opus as a Game Boy Advance game for distribution via 3DS' eShop, this is the best we've got. Or, y'know, actual BioShock...

07 Oct, 2011

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine,, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.