BioShock: All Combat Tonics, Ranked

BioShock: All Combat Tonics, Ranked

An underrated aspect of BioShock, while at the same time being one of the most important things in the game, are Gene Tonics. Gene Tonics are serums made from processed ADAM that allow Jack to undergo genetic modification and mutation, in combination with his plasmids, in the first BioShock. There are a total of 53 Gene Tonics available in BioShock, and each one is required for the Tonic Collector achievement/trophy.

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Gene Tonics come in one of three categories: Combat Tonics, Engineering Tonics, and Physical Tonics. Given the huge variety of Gene Tonics available in the game, many players may wonder which tonics are the best and which should only be collected for the trophy. That said, this list should help players narrow down what Combat Tonics should prioritize in the first BioShock game.


11/11 Machine Buster

BioShock Gene Tonic Machine Buster

The first Combat Tonic on the list, Machine Buster increases damage to security units. It is usually much more beneficial to hack any security device that a player can reach to help the player (especially after enough research to automatically hack turrets and bots). It’s even better to just avoid the machines altogether, if possible, rather than wasting ammo and health on them.

Because of this, Machine Buster is practically useless. It is one of the worst tonics in the game and should only be collected for achievements/trophies.

10/11 Frozen field

Frozen field

Next on this list is Frozen Field a Tonic that reduces cold damage taken by 15% or 30% while dealing an additional 10 or 20 points of cold damage to enemies and a 10% or 20% chance to freeze a target if the Wrench is equipped. This is a good boost to your fight if you are going to build a wrench. It can be found on the corpse of Martin Finnegan, the first of the three of Sander Cohen’s muses that you must fight, in the Frozen Passageway to Poseidon Plaza in Fort Frolic.

The downside to this tonic is that it freezes your enemies many times, and getting them to zero health while frozen will cause them to shatter. You cannot loot crushed enemies, making this a riskier tonic to choose.

9/11 Human inferno

BioShock Human Inferno in Gatherer's Garden

The next Combat Tonic focusing on one of the three elements of BioShock, Human Inferno reduces heat damage received by 20%, increases heat damage taken by the user by 30%, and causes burning enemies to take damage at a 30% faster rate. Human Inferno 2 doubles the heat damage reduction and increases the other two aspects to 50%.

This tonic is also pretty decent, proving very useful if the player is fond of Incinerate and the chemical launcher, as well as being great for going up against Houdini Splicers. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of the tonic, as there aren’t as many oil slicks as there are, say, pools of water for electrical effects to maximize the potential of Human Inferno.

8/11 Electric meat

BioShock Electric Flesh

This tonic’s first level can be found in the Projector Room of Fort Frolic after completing Sander Cohen’s Masterpiece, and the second can be found in Olympus Heights inside Frank Fontaine’s apartment in the Mercury Suites. Electric Flesh reduces the electric damage the player takes by 75% for the first tonic and 100% with the second tonic. Electrical damage is increased by 30% and 60% respectively.

This tonic is great when paired with Static Discharge and any Wrench abilities, making your Electro Bolt and Wrench combo even more deadly. Not to mention that if you’re in a large pool of water with enemies and they can’t see you, you can always shock the water without fear of hurting yourself.

7/11 Static discharge

BioShock static discharge

The final elemental combat tonic, and one of the first tonics players will encounter in the game, Static Discharge 1, can be found in the surgical ward of the Medical Pavilion. The second static discharge can be unlocked as early as Neptune’s Bounty or Arcadia by researching Leadhead Slicers to level 4. These tonics cause Jack to emit a burst of electricity every time he is hit by a melee, doing 30 or 50 points electrical damage and has either a 15% or 25% chance to stun the attacker.

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This is a great tonic in the early stages of the game, but both the base and upgraded versions really shine when you’re running a wrench-focused build. It is a highly recommended tonic for the early stages of the game at least.

6/11 Armored shell

Armored Shell Gene Tonic

A fan favorite, Armored Shell prevents 15% or 25% of physical damage to the player. Armored Shell is first available in the Gatherer’s Garden in the Medical Pavilion, while Armored Shell 2 is contained in the fifth gift to save the Little Sisters.

Any damage reduction is welcome in BioShock, especially when dealing with Big Daddies or other bosses. These can be stacked for a whopping 40% damage reduction, but it’s up to the player to decide if it’s worth sacrificing any of the other Combat Tonics available.

5/11 The photographer’s eye

BioShock Photographer's Eye Gene Tonic

An incredibly useful Combat Tonic, Photographer’s Eye boosts all research shots by 10% or 15%. The first Photographer’s Eye can be found in Worley’s Winery in the Farmer’s Market, while the second Photographer’s Eye is awarded for reaching the second level of research for Rosie Big Daddies.

These two can be stacked to gain research at an even faster rate to achieve maximum research for each enemy. These should be equipped as soon as possible to maximize the amount of experience gained from photographing the limited number of Little Sisters and Towers. These should of course be replaced after the research has been completed.

4/11 Damage research

BioShock Damage Research

Another Research-focused Combat Tonic, Damage Research 1 & 2 increases research damage bonuses by 15% and 30%. This of course applies to the three different levels of research damage available by researching the enemies.

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Damage Research 1 becomes available later in the game, located in the Lower Workshops of Hephaestus, while Damage Research 2 is discovered in the Mendel Family Library in Point Prometheus. These two excel in the higher difficulties and through the final levels of the game, especially in the Proving Grounds where Jack is tasked with defending a little sister while she collects ADAM.

3/11 Wrench Lurker

2/11 BioShock Wrench Lurker

A ridiculously powerful tonic, Wrench Lurker muffles the player’s footsteps and increases Wrench damage by 150% or 200% on unaware or shocked opponents. The first Wrench Lurker can be found on the way to Fontaine Fisheries in Neptune’s Bounty, perched precariously on a shelf near the Gene Bank overlooking the Fisheries entrance. The second Wrench Lurker first becomes available in a collector garden in Hephaestus for 50 ADAM.

This tonic is fantastic for pairing with the other Wrench Tonics and ElectroBolt. Wrench Lurker is a must-equip tonic for every Wrench heavy build, and even regular builds, especially for the fact that it dampens footprints. Don’t miss this one!

1/11 Wrench Jockey

BioShock Wrench Jockey

Wrench Jockey is another Combat Tonic that is easy to get early in the game, the first is located in the Kure-All Dental in the Medical Pavilion, and the second is rewarded for completing level two of Bouncer Research. Wrench Jockey increases Wrench Damage by a stupid 350%, while Wrench Jockey 2 increases it by 550%.

This tonic is another instant gear, which makes Wrench much more viable throughout the game. Of course, these two tonics can also be stacked, allowing Wrench to be practically overpowered when combined with other Wrench-oriented Tonics in the game. The simple fact that the wrench takes so much advantage of this tonic’s two different ranks makes it easily the best Combat Tonic in the game.

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