One of the often underappreciated parts of BioShock‘s gameplay is Gene Tonics; serums that give Jack, the player character, various upgrades throughout the game. There are 53 total Gene Tonics available to collect in BioShock, separated into three different categories: Combat Tonics, Engineering Tonics, and Physical Tonics.
Engineering Tonics are tonics that improve a player’s hacking ability and their interactions with machines. These are the best Engineering Tonics to equip throughout the first BioShock game.
10/10 Vending Expert
Vending Expert is the first Engineering Tonic on this list. These two tonics were introduced in Patch 1.1 of BioShock and can be first purchased in Gatherer’s Gardens in Arcadia and Hephaestus respectively. Each tier reduces the prices of consumables in vending machines.
This seems like a useful perk, yet there are much better tonics available in the Engineering slots than these two. Besides, hacking vending machines, despite being a pain, lowers the prices of objects a fair amount, and money and consumables themselves are not too hard to come by in Rapture.
9/10 Safe Cracker
Safe Cracker is an Engineering Tonic that can be obtained from the second gift for rescuing six Little Sisters and in the autopsy lab of Little Wonders Educational Facility in Point Prometheus, respectively. This perk enables two fewer Alarm and Overload Tiles, one fewer Acceleration Tile, and three added Resistor Tiles, while the flow speed is also reduced by a half second per tile for hacking safes and combination locks. The upgraded tier doubles these effects.
These added benefits certainly make hacking easier, however, this only applies to combination locks and safes, the two least abundant types of hackable objects in the game. There are better Engineering Tonics with perks affecting all hackable objects to devote a slot to in your loadout.
8/10 Shorten Alarms
The Shorten Alarms Engineering Tonic is a tonic that does just what it says: it reduces the length of hostile security alarms by 20 seconds for the 1st tier and 40 seconds for the 2nd tier. Shorten Alarms can be found in Fighting McDonagh’s Tavern, Room #7 in Neptune’s Bounty. The second iteration of Shorten Alarms can be found in the Hephaestus Core.
If you are not running Natural Camouflage then this might be a decent perk. Other than that, there is not really much reason to use these two perks since Natural Camouflage eliminates the need for this tonic. The other Engineering Tonics (depending on what you equip) will ultimately remove a few alarm tiles on their own, greatly reducing the possibility of triggering an alarm while hacking and further nullifying this tonic.
7/10 Focused Hacker
Focused Hacker is an Engineering Tonic that allows two fewer Overload tiles while hacking in the first tier, and four fewer Overload tiles for the second tier. The first tonic is located in the entrance to Fontaine Fisheries in Neptune’s Bounty, frozen in the ice near the pneumo tube before entering to fight Peach Wilkins; it can also be purchased for 20 ADAM in Gatherer’s Gardens from Arcadia and on. The second tonic location can be found in Apollo Square on the fourth floor of the Hestia Chambers, located on a desk in the corner of the room near the safe.It can also be bought in Point Prometheus if missed.
While Focused Hacker is a respectable tonic, (anything to assist with the very repetitive hacking mini-game) it only gets rid of one type of tile. Not to mention, that even if you are down to the smallest sliver of health, you cannot die from hacking a machine and routing the liquid into an Overload Tile. This is another Engineering Tonic that can be equipped, but other Tonics of this category should get precedence.
6/10 Hacking Expert
Hacking Expert is an Engineering Gene Tonic similar to Focused Hacker and Safe Cracker, however, it rids every hacking mini-game of one overload tile and one alarm tile for the first tonic, and doubles these effects for the second tonic. The first tonic can be found in Arcadia at the entrance to the Research Laboratories, while the second becomes available at Gatherer’s Garden Vending Machines in Fort Frolic for 50 ADAM.
While not as powerful as either of the two mentioned tonics, it gets a slight boost in ranking because its effects apply to every type of hackable machine and contributes to the removal of two alarm tiles as well, unlike Focused Hacker. An okay tonic to run until you get better ones later on in the game.
5/10 Alarm Expert
Another Engineering Tonic, Alarm Expert removes two or four Alarm Tiles, according to the tier, while hacking. These tonics can be found in the Fleet Hall Theater in Fort Frolic and in the Live Subject Testing Area of Point Prometheus respectively.
While certainly a solid choice early on, by the time you reach Point Prometheus and recover the second tonic, its impact is diminished by the Natural Camouflage Tonic in case you do trigger an alarm. However, Alarm Expert certainly makes hacking, vending machines, and safes especially, much easier.
4/10 Speedy Hacker
These two gene tonics slow the flow speed of the fluid in hacking by one and a half tiles and three tiles respectively. Speedy Hacker is an incredible tonic to assist in making what can be an annoying aspect of BioShock into something slightly more bearable. The first tonic can be found in Painless Dental in the Medical Pavilion, while the upgraded version is available to purchase from a Gatherer’s Garden in Olympus Heights.
Both versions of this tonic greatly assist in planning ahead the next few moves while hacking. If any players find themselves struggling to hack a device or machine in time, this is a must-equip tonic.
3/10 Prolific Inventor
One of the best Engineering tonics available, Prolific Inventor doubles the number of items produced from U-Invent machines. This tonic is another reward for rescuing all the Little Sisters, with it becoming available after rescuing 18 of the 21 Little Sisters.
Considering this tonic doubles the number of Automatic Hack Tools and special ammunition produced with a player’s components, this is a great tonic to have for stocking up for tougher enemies.
2/10 Clever Inventor
Another great Engineering Tonic, Clever Inventor reduces the amount of each component needed to invent an item by one. This tonic can be found later in the game in Yi Suchong’s apartment in Olympus Heights.
When used in conjunction with the aforementioned tonic, players can invent all the special items to their heart’s content. This tonic, too, is great for getting ready for tougher enemies such as scripted boss fights or fighting Big Daddies.
1/10 Security Expert
One of the best Engineering Tonics in the game, Security Expert combines the best of all the previously mentioned Engineering Tonics into one. This tonic removes up to two Alarm and Overload Tiles, one Acceleration tile, adds one Resistor tile, and reduces the flow speed by a half second per tile, while Security Expert 2 doubles these effects. Of course, these can be stacked to get the effects of both tonics together.
The first Security Expert is available early on in the game, in the Twilight Fields Funeral Homes in Medical Pavilion, which is blocked by ice, and the Incinerate Plasmid is needed to clear the path. The upgraded version is available after completing the second level of research for Security Bots, making it another possible early addition to your arsenal. These are must-haves for hacking in BioShock.