quoteSo far we know that BioShock is being developed as a spiritual successor to the fan-favorite System Shock 2 for the PC. While the game doesn't tie in directly with the System Shock series, it will contain some similar themes and gameplay elements. The game takes place in a decrepit, abandoned laboratory where all manner of horrifying, failed biotechnology experiments haunt the halls. It's up to you to explore the facility and ultimately figure out how to put an end to these gruesome experiments. The game takes place from a first-person perspective and blends elements of combat, exploration, and role-playing.
The concept artwork shows off the creepy atmosphere the game is attempting to create. The images show a lot of blood-spattered hallways strewn with corpses and bullet casings to create a sense of disarray that's offset by eerily well-preserved pieces of mid-20th century artwork and furniture.
BioShock is currently scheduled for a 2007 release, and we're hoping to get more details on the game at E3 this year, so be sure to check back for updates.
quoteWelcome to another edition of Next Level Gaming's "Days of Summer" Previews! While the summer is a slowing down period for the gaming industry as it's ramps up for the fall season, we have decided instead of sitting around and talking about slow news days, we would take some of our E3 coverage and spread it out a little, so you have some fresh material to read while you're waiting for the launch of a new console, or the release of your favorite game when the leaves on the trees change.
Today, we talk about a game that we were able to get a short E3 demo of from 2K Games that will hopefully lead to better and more comprehensive coverage as time goes on. When 2K Games acquired developer Irrational Games in the beginning of January 2006, they also acquired a game that from our first look could go a long way in restoring the public's faith in the first-person shooter genre. Let's face it, the shooter genre is overcrowded, and at E3 you couldn't go more than two booths across without bumping into one. And so when we got a behind-closed-doors look at Irrational's BioShock, we walked in thinking "just another shooter", and walked out thinking "ummm, when can I get my hands on this game?". The demo was that impressive, and left us wanting more. And it's going to make the road to it's 2007 release a very long trip.
Before we talk about the demo we got, you might want to catch up with a little history. BioShock is considered by Irrational Games as the, and I quote from the demo, "spiritual successor" to their highly acclaimed 1999 shooter System Shock 2. System Shock 2 was one of the best of it's time; actually considered by some to be the best of it's genre period. And that's par for the course with Irrational Games. There's a good reason 2K Games acquired them. These are the developers behind Tribes: Vengeance (which was published by Sierra and a game I was hooked on for a good while), and Freedom Force. They also developed SWAT 4, which was part of Sierra's famed Police Quest series. These guys know what their doing.
Now BioShock was actually originally not the same game that we saw at E3. The game has been under development since before 2004. But then it started to quietly change before it's re-unveiling at E3 2006. The game was announced (and demoed on) the Xbox 360. While a Playstation 3 version was not specifically mentioned, we're assuming at some point we're going to hear an announcement about that. But for right now the game is strictly slated as PC and Xbox 360. The other major change has been to the game's story and where you start out. The original game was going to have you in a re-used old World War II chemical lab, set in the near future. That has since changed. So with that in mind, let's take a look at BioShock and what Irrational's vision for the game really is.
While BioShock is the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, it is not the chronological or related sequel to it. In fact it's really of no relation in storyline or substance. It's more the evolution of the idea BEHIND System Shock 2. BioShock is a first-person shooter, but it's also an action-RPG. You have a basic storyline but you're not bound by a linear "point-A to point-B" system of running and gunning. In fact in this game, you don't have to run around killing everything in sight at all. You can try if you like, but that's not always the best plan. But what the best plan is, is totally up to you. Irrational Games calls this "emergent gameplay". What you do has an affect on the world around you, but the world also doesn't define what you do. And that is the overall gist of how this game is going to play.
So let's talk about the storyline for a moment. Actually, I can only talk about the base story because as we were told, the full story isn't quite finished yet. Hey, it's coming out in 2007 so there is time. The character you play is really more or less.....you. We don't know the character's name, so it's really a game you can sort of feel personally connected to. In order worlds, simply pretend the character is really you. It is the 1950's-1960's era. Your plane has crashed over the ocean and you are trying to swim to get to safety. You see an buoy of some sort and head towards it. You're taken into this underwater city, known as Rapture. Rapture is, or should I say was a virtual utopia. Something right out of an Ayn Rand book. Irrational Games wanted to do something different. They wanted to get away from what they felt was the "Quake" style game where everything is, and I once again directly quote (because it's just too funny), "the turd-brown textures of a post-industrial warzone". This game isn't about war, or defeating monsters and aliens. In fact the game is really made up of humanoids. While you don't know how you found this Utopian place, or how your plane even crashed, you notice something awfully quick; something terrible has happened in this place. You are the seemingly the only one there who by this time has gone completely insane. And that is where our demo began. You had two goals. You must escape the city alive, and you must also unravel the mystery of just what has happened. Oh, and all the while, water is seeping into the city as leaks spring here and there.
Actually, I'll give you a little bit of the storyline so you know what happened. This place was an experiment. The humanoids here were genetically wonderful. It really was a wonderful place to live. That is until the people discovered the genetic material that made them this way. A substance called "Adam" began making it's way around the city. Adam could increase your attributes, or enhance your appearance. Well, as with anything in the world, supply and demand can make or break you. Demand for Adam far outweighed what was there. So as with any good culture, they tore themselves apart. And in the process some of the inhabitants of Rapture began taking so much Adam that they mutated into nasty, ugly, creatures. And that seems to be all that's left to roam around. Folks, this is not Gears of War, and it's not Unreal. This is more like a Saturday Night Sci-Fi Channel Horror Thriller game. It's meant to scare the hell out of you, but not quite the way you're used to. If anything, it will attack your mind, and your senses.
And then the demo crashed and we had a couple of minutes to talk about another RPG element to the game; "Plasmids". These are augmentations you can use on yourself to enhance your own attributes. These could be better weapons, faster speed, better hacking and engineering skills. You'll be able to use Plasmids to speed yourself up, or to "encourage" NPC's to attack other NPCs so they don't attack you. These powers are temporary, and you have to find them to use them. We also learned that weapons can hold various types of ammo, which you will need to learn what is most effective for your targets. Very impressive indeed.
By this time our demo was really coming to an end, and we were left in awe of what we saw. BioShock has the potential, like System Shock 2 did, to really come at your psyche instead of coming at you with bullets and rockets. The game is going to make you think, wonder, and sometimes jump out of your chair. But you'll also need to pick your jaw up off the floor because the game is gorgeous. The 50's art-deco feel is just so vibrant, and it totally accentuates the pure horror and darkness of what's going on around you. But more importantly than all that, the question was posed to us. What are you prepared to do to survive in this world and get out alive? That answer will only come from you. And that is the essence of BioShock. 2007 is a long way off. But this is a game that will be more than well worth waiting for. I see this not only one of the most anticipated games of next year, but a must have the minute it hits shelves.
quoteIt's been long enough that quite a few gamers have never heard of the System Shock games, two benchmark PC games that set the bar for challenging FPSes and, in their own way, for survival horror. When you hear older gamers talking about SHODAN or crawling through hallways with only a wrench to defend themselves, they're referring to the arguably classic System Shock 2.
(It's also unfortunately out of print. Would it be too much to ask that somebody run off another batch of those?)
Bioshock is a spiritual sequel to the System Shock games, and as such, has been hotly anticipated for years now. 2K Games was showing it off behind closed doors at E3, and if that small sample's any indication, the full game's going to be a legend.
The game is set in an underwater colony called Rapture, which was built in the '40s by an as-yet-unnamed utopian organization, and looks it; the shops and halls you find yourself in have a distinctly art-deco sensibility, much like the kitsch-inspired look that characterized the Fallout games. You play the role of an unnamed everyman, whose mission is no more complex than basic survival.
Rapture is currently in a rapid process of decay. As Irrational's designers put it, "The ocean is trying to reclaim Rapture." At the same time, bizarre mutants are stalking the halls. You'll have to fend off "splicers," insane humans who've become murderous after use and overuse of genetic modifications, as well as the improvised security measures taken by Rapture's survivors.
It's odd, in its way, but Rapture has evolved its own bizarre ecosystem, as embodied by the creepy Little Sisters. Guarded by giant humanoid figures in old-fashioned diving suits, a.k.a. Big Daddies, the Sisters – little zombie girls in pinafore dresses – appear to harvest and consume biomaterial from whatever fresh corpses they can find. That biomaterial will get turned into the local currency, atom, which you can use in various vending machines.
Like in System Shock 2, Bioshock isn't quite as much a first-person shooter as it is a first-person adventure game with shooting as an option. Bullets are at a premium in the game, and even when you have them, you can't be certain that you'll have the right kind. (Armor-piercing rounds work wonders against machines, for instance, but ordinary rounds are needed to take out the splicers.)
You do have options, though. Bioshock, according to Irrational, is a game about choices. In any given scenario the game'll throw at you, while they aren't scripted, you'll have a variety of options you can use in order to proceed. You can sneak past enemies without a fight, use your "plasmid" powers to turn the environment against them, pay atom to activate certain environmental features such as a security override, or simply wait in the shadows for events to resolve themselves. Some of the "enemies" will only attack you to protect themselves, such as the Daddies.
The "plasmid" powers are the most flexible and interesting part of the game so far. You can find them in various areas throughout the game and "install" them at specially labeled vending kiosks. Two of the demonstrated powers were a speed boost, which was used to move past an automated turret before it could draw a bead on the player, and a special cloud of pheromones that triggers an antagonistic reaction in splicers. By dropping the cloud on one of the Big Daddies, the player can trick the splicers into attacking him rather than themselves.
The game's very early right now, but it looks amazing. Irrational's using next-generation graphics and the Havok 3.0 engine to create a visually distinctive, immersive, interactive world that managed to creep me the hell out even at E3, which is about the worst environment possible to demonstrate any kind of horror game.
Bioshock has been slated to come out at some point next year for the PC and the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, you're going to have to wait just a little longer.