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greks224 avatar 8:57 PM on 07.31.2008
Bioshock - Initial impressions



So, I've FINALLY started to play what many claim to be the holy grail of video games - Bioshock.

I've been playing the game on a PC that can run it decently (I've been slowly weening myself off PC gaming due to the absurd price of the hobby), but I really wish that I could be playing it on my PS3 since I feel I'll be able to get much more out of the aesthetics if the game were able to run the way it was meant to be played. Below is a screen shot of how the game looks on my PC.



Now imagine that at 20 frames per second (and possibly less if there's a lot of action going on). I knew the game wouldn't run super great since I had tried a demo beforehand, but I saw it on Steam on special for 15 bucks and I couldn't pass up the offer.

Also, I should mention that this article contains *spoilers.*

The Beginning...

Bioshock has a pretty great opening - the plane crash really puts the player right into the middle of a mystery that (I assume) will slowly unravel as the game continues. A lot of it seems to draw from the Half-Life series (but doesn't every story driven FPS nowadays?) in the sense that the narrative is told through gameplay instead of through cutscenes. I prefer this method of exposition, especially for PC gaming. I am fine with watching cutscenes on the couch, but never at my desk.

Apparently, this game draws a lot from Objectivist philosophy - I myself have never read Ayn Rand novels (although maybe I will after playing this game), but from what I have read about the philosophy, it seems to me that it is dominated by anti-socialist views, which is what many consider to be "backwards thinking." But hey, I love getting multiple perspectives and it is especially important at my age (18) when my moral code is taking its roots and my philosophical choices have an effect on those around me (i.e., through voting).

I am very impressed that a video game will take on themes deeper than "don't fuck with nature" and "hero's are remembered, but legends never die."

Gameplay

So far, the game is pretty fun. The variety of plasmids is enough to keep things interesting (I have 3 now) and the gunplay stays interesting and feels very different since the ammunition available to the player is much more sparse than in most action games.'

I'm not crazy about the hacking - It would be nice if they had more types of minigames for the machines in order to make it more interesting and more inciting. Also, I kind of suck at it.



I just got the part of the game where they introduce the camera mechanic, and that's pretty neat so far. Also, there's something about the mouse shooting that just doesn't feel right. I've been playing around with the sensitivity a little, but it doesn't seem to help much. Maybe it's better with a gamepad (Heresy!)...

Presentation

Well, I can tell that the developers have been putting a lot of time into the aesthetic look of the game - Rapture seems very well realized through the art direction. On the technical side, I always feel like PC developers haven't done well at optimizing their games for lower level PC's. I believe Valve is one of the best companies at doing this, especially when they give you so many advanced options in the user interface in addition to the rendering customization available in the console.

Another company that put good time into PC optimization is Starbreeze. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay looks GREAT on my computer, yet it has the look of a next-gen console game. Games with a similar look (especially anything on the Unreal 3 engine) run MUCH slower



On the audio side, the whole jazz theme is unique, unsettling, and immersing. The use of audio diaries was also a great inclusion as well - I hate picking up crap I have to go into a menu and read in order to get more out of the story (Serious Sam comes to mind, although that was reading material about how to blow up headless suicide bombers). Technically, however, I've noticed that when too many sounds are playing at once, the engine will cut out certain ambient noises, as if there is a limit on simultaneous tracks being played.

Final Remarks

Overall, Bioshock so far feels like a "best of both worlds" gaming experience - it has the seamless storytelling of Half-Life combined with the thematic punch of a Kojima game (or at least the thematic punch that he attempts at).

I'll make sure to follow up with a final judgement once I finish the game.

 
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