BioShock Preview - 09/08/2007

The groans from those ominous Big Daddies are looming ever closer. BioShock is being prepared to be unleashed into the Plasmid infused hands of 360 and Windows gamers later this month, and TGSN is taking an in-depth look into what this aquatic based FPS has to offer.


Irrational Games and 2K, the development and publishing masterminds behind System Shock and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion respectively, have come together to create one of the most highly anticipated games of the year: BioShock. For those of you who haven’t been following the steady stream of hype surrounding this little beauty, BioShock is an intense, atmospheric FPS set in a rundown underwater utopia. The game has become associated with such industry buzzwords as “innovative” and “groundbreaking” for the better part of a year now. Although we here at TGSN are immune to such PR chatter, the fact is, BioShock screams like an irate toddler to be looked at and admired.

From what we can tell there’s plenty to see and do, with unprecedented levels of environmental interactivity and stylish visuals that are nothing short of breathtaking. It has all the elements in place to be a truly standout game in amongst a sea of high profile releases. We could not be more excited about the prospect of taking our first dive into the world of Rapture, and from what we’ve seen of the game in action, BioShock looks set to submerse players in a pool of its own brilliance come the end of August.


Whenever Irrational are describing the game, they always refer to “player choice” as being its most significant feature. So, with BioShock set to go on sale in less than a month’s time (and the renewed possibility of a downloadable demo) it won’t be long before we find out if this is truly the case. The facts and info that the developers have divulged suggests that, at the very least, you won’t be short on ways to dispatch the many twisted inhabitants that populate the world of Rapture. Such methods include the combination of particular ammo types (which we’re told will not just be lying around in wide open spaces encircled with bright red indicators) and the use of plasmids, which are basically enhancements of your standard abilities.

These handy upgrades come in all shapes and sizes, and offer the most common way for you to interact with the many elements of the environment. By combining certain abilities (such as Winter Blast and Telekinesis) you will be able to freeze your enemies and then throw objects at them to shatter their icy restraints and send them packing. This sort of freeform gameplay (another industry buzzword there) is the most obvious thing that sets BioShock apart from other shooters that promise the ocean but deliver only a puddle’s worth of content.


Unnecessary references to BioShock’s sumptuous water effects aside, other plasmids include the ability to influence the A.I characters to protect you, and the Insect Swarm, which pretty much speaks for itself. There are almost a dozen plasmids that relate to specific attacks, and a selection of other abilities ranging from converting alcohol into a healthy elixir to automatically de-activating alarms within a certain area. The potential for experimentation is immense, especially when you take into account the level of environmental interactivity on offer and the reactions of the enemy A.I to your behavior.

Another key theme of BioShock is “sacrificing your humanity”, which has given the developer an opportunity to present moral challenges to the player within the traditional framework of a solid FPS. The big question (which is sure to be plastered all over posters and advertisements in the very near future) “do you exploit the innocent survivors of Rapture to save yourself… or risk all to become their savior?” is presented in several ways throughout the course of the game.

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The constant use of plasmids and other physical upgrades will gradually begin to affect your character's appearance, and ultimately, the decisions you make as you progress through the game world. It will be up to you to decide the extent of such modifications, and whether you take a more direct approach to the enemies you face or find ways to suppress the threat they pose.

ADAM is a substance vital to your advancement in the game, is collected by Little Sisters, who have the benefit of a Big Daddy protecting them at all times. The moral implications of harvesting (a nice friendly way of saying “killing”) the Little Sisters for the ADAM they carry presents a difficult choice, as there are benefits to both saving and destroying them. Fortunately, BioShock doesn’t allow you to do anything to harm them (because who in their right mind would want to set a little girl on fire), but harvesting them does effectively end their life. Hence the aforementioned difficult decision that you are forced to make. These moral challenges extend to the rest of the population of Rapture, with similar dilemmas offering you the chance to choose whether to save or exploit each individual that you encounter.


There is of course the small matter that these mutated citizens are not going to be pushovers, with advanced A.I. spread throughout the game able to offer challenging resistance to your efforts. The most terrifying example of this is the onslaught of an enraged Big Daddy, which could easily be the scariest thing in any videogame ever made. The sight of a pissed off, fast moving, heavily armored, drill wielding psychopath intent on killing you in a very painful fashion is nothing short of terrifying. The Big Daddies are more than likely to be your toughest adversary, and they’ll come in various types, ranging in aggression, strength and speed.

On top of such unprecedented levels of environmental and A.I interactivity, as well as open world gameplay that is truly pushing the boat out in terms of what this generation of consoles can achieve (last lame water reference I promise), BioShock is graphically stunning. Top that off with combat scenarios that change and evolve on the fly, and a story rich in substance, and you’ve got a next-gen shooter with unbelievable potential for (well deserved) success. We’ll have a full review at the end of the month.

- Jon Titmuss

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Irrational Games
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