Iíll be the first to admit, Iím a videogame news junkie; even when it comes to either titles or systems I donít own. Part of the downside of this is that Iím often not surprised when I actually play a game because thereís a nagging feeling I know what Iím getting into. Usually it starts off with a big reveal story, outlining the developer, some basic story info and usually some gameplay hook. Then the publishers will tease out some more information about the game, either through some previews, trailers or interviews. By the time a game comes out, weíve already consumed a heck of a lot of information about what the game is (at least in our minds) and what we can expect. Itís gotten to the point that Iíve actually started going on self-imposed media blackouts when it comes to games that I know Iím definitely going to play, but I donít want anything spoilt for me. So, like Mass Effect 3 and Deus Ex Human Revolution are must-plays for me, but Iím no longer going to gobble up all the information I can before I play them.
So for a game to really grab me and show me something that captivates me is sadly rare nowadays. In the case of Bioshock, I read lots of articles about it as it really captured my imagination; the idea of an art-deco city at the bottom of the ocean struck me as really unique setting and the idea of combining plasmids with regular weapons seemed like an interesting way to play an FPS. It even got to the point where I played System Shock 2 just before the release of Bioshock, in order to understand the comparisons between the two and to figure out if Bioshock was really itís ďspiritual successorĒ.
Luckily, my brother in law at the time, was working for Irrational games in Canberra, Australia. He emailed me at work one day asking if I was interested in a dayís unpaid, focus testing for Bioshock. Now this was about 2 months before the gameís release, so I jumped at the chance. I went to their fairly small studios in the city and found myself with some a few other guys playing Bioshock for about 6 hours. Headphones on...... keyboard and mouse all good....... here we go.....
Of course Bioshock starts over with the main character sitting on a plane, smoking a cigarette whilst he remembers some words of wisdom from his parents. Next thing heís swimming for his life as the wreckage of the plane sinks around him. Gasping for air, you have to guide him to a nearby lighthouse that seems to be your only safe option. Once out of the water, you go inside and find the lighthouse is an ornate housing for a diving bell, one thatís going to take you to a place you couldnít imagine.
Now as I said earlier, Rapture itself was one of the reasons I was interested in playing Bioshock, but the whole opening sequence was masterful. With the lighthouse slowly illuminating itís interior to show the tenants of Raptureís ideology, to the strains of ďInto The SeaĒ, to the introductory film where Andrew Ryan makes his politics clear, spitting his defiance at the forces that govern the world above the waves. As the music reaches itís crescendo the screen moves away and presents to you the impossible..... Rapture.
Again, even though I thought I knew what I was in for, I was still taken aback at the scene, to the point where I actually got goosebumps. Passing overhead and seeing the sheer scale of what was in front of me was amazing, to the extent that I almost didnít hear anymore of Ryanís proud boasts. I caught a glimpse of a Big Daddy prowling a glass corridor, another un-identified figure welding a metal strut... there was even a big frigginí whale swimming between these undersea skyscrapers. Imagine what it would be like to live in a place were a whale could swim by your bedroom window. Eventually your trip finishes and you realise the horror youíve stumbled into, as a crazed splicer guts what your would be rescuer.
Of course, the game was amazing, all the more so as I was playing it before most people got their hands on it, so I was experiencing it raw and unfiltered. I played up to Arcadia, so I managed to avoid the big reveal and the final chapters, but I had a sense of how good Bioshock was. That opening will always be something that sticks in my mind about how you open a game: expansive, captivating and enthralling. The beginning of Bioshock is all of these and more.