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I am very much looking forward to this game! 169144-ok.gif

This was taken from http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/707/707568p1.html


Bioshock is about choice. It's about exploration, problem solving, and survival. It's also about scaring the crap out of you. If you're wondering what the best game at the show is, this may very well be it. We got in at 2K Games' both to see a 20 minute demo of the game in action, and got to see a number of gameplay mechanics, as well as gaze at its gorgeous graphics. Bioshock's setting is a large part of its appeal. Set in the underwater city of Rapture, the environments are a striking blend of sci-fi machinery and art deco designs. Since Rapture is under enormous aquatic pressure, the city is constantly leaking, meaning there's a significant amount of spraying water mixed in with the settings. The city was created in secret and subsequently forgotten. By the time you arrive there, there's evidence everywhere of the denizens attempting to manipulate their environment to survive. In addition to rearranging their disheveled surroundings, some of the inhabitants have ingested too many of the genetic modifiers littered around, driving them mad.

The demo started out with your character in the middle of a marble hall, surrounded by glass windows and wooden planks for reinforcement. Cracks, debris, and other signs of wear were all over, proof that Rapture's residents no longer cared for cleanliness. Their concerns were decidedly elsewhere, irrefutably proven when we met the first shambling character. From behind a walk stalked a Big Daddy, a hulking humanoid covered in thick, cumbersome underwater equipment. Instead of charging right at us in a murderous rage, he slowly stepped by, aware of but uninterested in our presence. This gave us a sense of Rapture's autonomous natures. We're not the person around all the action revolves; every enemy is just trying to live its own life.

Making its way over to a far wall, the Big Daddy creaked open a hatch and let gently down a Little Sister. She looked normal enough, like a disheveled small child, but her actions belied a simple nature. Slinking over to a nearby corpse, she procured a long drill and proceeded to bore into the body. According to developer Irrational Games, she was after Adam, a valuable resource which you too must harvest. Since these Little Sisters and Big Daddies are generally involved with resource harvesting, they carry quite a bit around with them.

Trying to take them down and snag their goods, however, is complicated by the fact that Big Daddies are some of the most powerful enemies in the game. If you leave them and their Little Sisters alone, they won't bother you. If you get too close, however, they'll get upset. During the demo, Irrational approached a Little Sister after she'd harvested the resources, frightening her into hiding behind the Big Daddy. The big, metal-suited oaf was obviously aggravated, as he took a heavy swing with his arm, knocking us back several feet and blurring the screen. When we backed off a few more feet to give him space, he soon lost interest, the Little Sister overcame her fright, and they both continued with their business.

Irrational mentioned they're focusing more on interesting, emotional enemy A.I. rather than advanced squad tactics. Like with the Big Daddy, we're to expect lifelike, authentic behaviors rooted in more complex motivations than blind, murderous rage. Another enemy type we saw, the Splicer, was much more aggressive than the cumbersome Big Daddies. These enemies hopped around erratically, sometimes stood on the ceiling, and slashed around hooks on the ends of their hands. Capable of quick charges, the Splicers were the biggest threat encountered in the demo. These mangled female forms in ratty green robes had abused too many of Rapture's genetic enhancements, driving them nuts.

To combat these fierce foes, only had one weapon was available. Best described as a shotgun, the weapon was a cobble of rusted cans, spare parts, and cogs, making for a uniquely rudimentary yet attractive piece of machinery. All of Bioshock's weaponry can be modified, making it useful against a range of targets. This particular weapon took two kinds of ammunition that we saw: armor piercing and anti-personnel. Whereas the armor rounds were effective at wiping out mechanical enemies, they were frustratingly ineffective against the Splicers. It took about six or seven shots to cut up a Slicer with armor rounds, whereas it took two to shatter its life with the antipersonnel variety. When playing, players must exploit strengths and weaknesses like this to help conserve ammo, of which there's far from an inexhaustible supply.

Further into the demo Irrational entered a bar, flipped on the lightswitch, and was immediately shot at by a standing turret gun. Like the shotgun adorned from cans, the turret was equally rudimentary; a desk chair with a machine gun roped to it. Taking cover behind a bar, it was possible to grab a few bottle off the counter to replenish health. A downed register yielded some Adams. Like those objects, almost every item in Bioshock's game world can be inspected or interacted with, adding to the immersion factor. To escape the turrets deadly fire, it was possible to initiate a speed burst implant, sending us flying across the room to an open door, and safety. At the stairway's end some armor piercing shells were found, which were highly effective at taking out the turret gun.

Irrational continued on to show us the security system. In one instance, a corpse lay directly in the sweeping path of a camera. Options for progressing included simply leaving the body be, shooting the camera, backtracking to a security console and disabling the security system for a certain cost, or trying to avoid the sweep of its vision. The latter option was decided upon, but after looting some Adams from the corpse, the security system activated. We'd been caught. Hovering swiftly into the room hummed security robots, and promptly began spewing bullets. The movements of these flying menaces were governed entirely by Havok 3.0 physics, meaning there was no canned flying animation. A few armor piercing rounds took one out rather quickly, but they kept coming. Heading back the security outlet, the security station was activated, immediately shutting down the alert, as well as powering down the hovering drones. Though it wasn't shown, Irrational assured us that a hacking system would be included in the game, which would differ depending on what kind of hack you were attempting. They didn't demo it, but it would have been possible to hack into a deactivated security bot and use it for your own purposes.

One of Bioshock's most pleasant scenes took place, surprisingly, in a bathroom. The place was totally flooded, and the water effects looked incredible. To regurgitate some technical jargon, the effects at work included real-time reflections, multiple animating normal maps with distortion, as well as refraction effects. The result of these techniques made for some of the most realistic water we've seen, reflecting everything above amidst minute ripples, as well as distorting objects and tiles underneath the surface. This was also evident in a scene with a fire burning atop a stairwell, with water spilling down the steps in a stunning flicker of aqueous flame.

Near the end of the demo we got a chance to see a little of how the implant system works, and the effects of some unique abilities. Using a machine called Plasmi-Quik, it's possible to switch in and out the implants you pick up along the way. Even the menu we saw here was consistent with the rest of the game's perplexingly alluring style, with faded yellows and rust marks in the margins. Ability icons as fit in with the retro-future stylings, reminiscent of the PC game Fallout.

The first ability demonstration area we saw took place in a faded record store. On a platform below a railing sat a voice recording, which are collected to advance the story. Like in System Shock 2, these recordings are of those who perished in the game before your arrival, giving you hints about what to watch out for as well as threading together various backstory tapestries. From our vantage point above, we was the recording was guarded by an idle Splicer and under the watch of a security camera. To progress, a Security Beacon ability was used, which draws the attention of the security system to its target. In this case, the target was the Splicer, and soon after the ability was used, the Splicer glowed and the camera called its security bots. While they were fighting, the camera was blasted with a shotgun shell. The bots eventually won the fight, and swiping the voice recording was no longer a problem.

From there, Irrational moved into a larger room populated by a Big Daddy, Little Sister, and a Splicer bouncing in a far off corner. Using an ability similar to the one before, called Splicer Irritant, the Splicer was drawn into attacking the Big Daddy. During the commotion, it was possible to sneak by. Another method could have been to hit the Little Sister with Splicer Irritant, drawing its rage to her. With the Little Sister under attack, the Big Daddy would have retaliated against the Splicer. We didn't ask or see what would happen should you cast the Splicer Irritant on a Splicer.

With its promise of largely open-ended environments, intelligent puzzles, and incredibly unique graphical designs, it's hard not to get excited about this one. As of now, its nebulous 2007 release date seems unbearably far away. We'll have more as soon as we possibly can.




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