In one weekend, BioShock nearly destroyed my marriage.

Being a casual gamer, it's rare that I'll pick up a game and play it for more than an hour or two before tossing it in the ever-growing stack of half-played games underneath my TV. But last weekend I spent a solid 18 hours ignoring my wife, my cats, and the outside world so I could devote my full attention to the underwater killing fields of BioShock's failed utopia Rapture.

The game quickly begins after a plane crash, and as you swim through the dark waters of the Atlantic, the burning wreckage lights your path toward a strange obelisk jutting out of the water. Ten minutes and 20 fathoms later, you're introduced to the underwater city, its hostile inhabitants, and your new best friend: plasmids.

Support The Stranger

BioShock's combat system hinges on using these plasmids. As the game progresses, you can gain mutant powers—which allow you shoot fire, ice, and, best of all, swarms of bees. Your newfound X-manliness comes at a cost, however, for as you blast your way through monsters and mad scientists, you encounter creepy little mutant girls, or "little sisters," and their monstrous dive-suited bodyguards the "Big Daddies." Once you've put down a Big Daddy, you're presented with an appalling choice: murder the little sisters and drain their "Adam"—the currency used to purchase more powers—or let them live while you machine gun your way through the underwater hellhole, praying you won't run out of bullets. For my part, I found that having the ability to shoot bees out of my hands far outweighed the cost of sacrificing a few children, much to my wife's disgust.

While BioShock is full of clever twists and intriguing moral dilemmas, it's not without its faults. The "hacking" minigames, for instance, quickly become frustrating and obnoxious, and the game's brevity may disappoint veteran gamers, who will likely breeze through the game in a dozen hours. Still, shortcomings aside, this is arguably the best title to drop on the Xbox 360 so far. I may have spent two nights sleeping on the couch, and my wife still won't talk to me, but for an entire weekend I got to fire crossbows, grenades, and bees at underwater mutants, all while learning lessons about objectivism. In the end, it was worth it. recommended