There are times in life when you get to see a game so amazing that you are left without words. With so many sequels and same-feel sports games out there, it can feel like nothing truly great is out there to discover. Being at GC2006 in Leipzig was a true eye-opener for me since I got to see so many great games and managed to get hands-on with most of them. Looking at my itinerary for the day I noticed I had 2K games sitting there waiting to be seen. With getting to see so many developers and publishers in one day, it was getting difficult to remember who made what. Heading off to 2K’s lavishly decorated and spacious booths it was pretty clear what the game was we were going to see. There are times you get to see a truly amazing game and this happened to be a time when I got to see two amazing games back to back. Bioshock and The Darkness. The Darkness I will save for another day because I am here to talk about the wonders of Bioshock.
Sitting down in the darkness, the tension was building. The developers from Irrational Games sat us all down and ran us through the basics of Bioshock. Set in what looks like a rotting, water-filled 1930’s art-deco nightmare, Bioshock manages to build up in the first 20 seconds a visual tension and eerie foreboding like nothing before. One of the development staff from Irrational Games mentions his distaste for “Cleaning games” where you play a character who enters a room, cleans out the monsters and then heads for the next room. I nod and sigh, thinking of the great fun-packed cleaning games I have played in the years.
The inhabitants of Bioshock are all out for a substance called Adam which happens to be hidden in bodies. Panning the first-person camera around the room I catch sight of our first possible cleaning victim, Mr.Bubbles. I am sure the name is conjuring up some cute as a button creature for you to thoroughly clean but he resembles an 8 foot beast in a deep sea diving suit, replete with huge bubble head diving helmet. The name now clicks and Mr.Bubbles just looks at us. What is he thinking? Are we food? Has the game’s A.I. broken? Our diving suited friend opens up a hole in the wall and a sickly looking girl, called little sister, climbs out and onto his back. Ok, this is getting freaky now and I have only seen about a minute of footage.
The developers then mention that Bioshock has it’s own ecosystem, where the creatures that wander around all have their own jobs and agendas [Ed – all Oblivion so far then]. As I stare in disbelief, the little girl screams in delight and shouts “Ooohh look! Adam!” and points to a nearby corpse. Running towards the body, she whips out some kind of syringe device and drives it into the semi-twitching corpse. At this point I am glad I had lunch ages ago. The squelch is pretty loud and she drives the blood-letting tool in for another go. Ouch, this is making me a little nervous as I cast an eye towards the developers who are smirking in the corner (Note to Self: Do not visit Irrational Games). The little girl then pulls the device apart and swigs the contents back, as if it were some aged wine with a bouquet of roses and seaweed, only to cough most of it back up on the floor. As if that was not gut-wrenching enough, she has another big gulp and another little cough. Ok, either the press room is swimming or that is some really good water effects. The girl then looks visibly ill [Ed – No prize for guessing why], she calls to Mr.Bubbles for help and he strides over, picks her up and posts her through the hole in the wall.
One of the first questions I asked was if Bioshock had any links with the System Shock series of games. Their answer was yes but it will be subtle and not easy to find. Well, as long as it is more subtle than a blood sucking child and a walking tin can, all should be good. As you walk around you get to interact with most objects around the world. You start with a pretty interesting looking weapon but it has no ammo, so you must start to scavenge the wreckage for any munition based goodies you can find. Depending on your target will depend on what you want to fire into them. Our next guest looks like some theatrical cats reject as she hisses and runs towards us. Seems pretty first person so far, oh wait, she has just jumped onto the ceiling and the ammo seems to be doing nothing. After a whole army store of rounds, the cat lady goes off to kitty heaven and we are left alone to look for some better ammo.
This game does have a definite feel of Oblivion about it and this is increased again when the developers mention that Bioshock also contains at least 80 different powers for us to use. These range from increased running speed, to the slightly more useful ability to make a creature a target for other creatures. Hilarity ensued as the target of a nearby cat lady happens to be a Mr.Bubbles, just out for his morning stroll. After a while she notices Mr.Bubbles and starts attacking. Now how would a battle of the titans and kittens turn out? Well predictable, Mr.Bubbles kicks her ass by firing off a round from his gun into her furry head. Mr.Bubbles seems to be my favorite character right now. Other powers mentioned were the ability to target an enemy for the security around the world. You can just target, snigger and watch as the enemy gets attacked by various hovering security bots of death. [Ed – I need this ability in real life]
Graphically Bioshock is amazing and the developers took delight in showing us a room full of amazingly detailed water and then saying “Yes, it is a bit rough. We need to work on this” You big liars! If the water was any better, it would be pouring out of the TV! So Irrational Games know how to do their graphics, I will give them that one. What they have also managed to capture, via graphics, ecosystem belonging creatures and the hunting for items gameplay, is a very dark and sinister feel to the game. In an FPS where you can run around guns blazing, the fear factor is lost, when you have to run around dodging a raving Mr.Bubbles with only 2 bullets, a broken bottle and soaking wet clothes for company, then Bioshock does deliver in what it sets out to do. Make a deep, interesting, freaky and bizarre shooter unlike any game you have seen before.
No multiplayer was talked about because Irrational Games are trying to craft a stunning and deep single player experience. With just a short preview and plenty of dropped jaws, the amazing look into the world of Bioshock comes to an end. This will be an interesting game to keep an eye on and it will be great to get a good hands-on with it so we can figure out the deeper workings of the Bioshock mind.
“Any questions?” The developers announce.
The whole room just stares blankly at the now black and fading LCD screen. No words, just a look of shock and wonderment. You know something, I think Irrational Games may be onto a winner with this one.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers