I recently got myself a copy of Nine Inch Nail's new album, Year Zero. I'm a huge fan of NIN and this album is a lot better than Reznor's last, With Teeth. Year Zero is one of those albums that gets better with every listen. At first I thought the songs all sounded pretty much the same, and there was nothing new going on. However, my initial dissapointment has been replaced by pure, unadulterated joy. The tracks are full of energy and that NIN-esque frustration that really drives the music forward. Reznor himself put it best I think, as he says, 'It will sound different after a few listens', 'You can dance to a lot of it' and 'You can fuck to a lot of it (maybe all of it depending what you're into.' Yes, yes and yes. One quote that really hits the nail on the head is this: 'You can think about it and it will reveal more than you were expecting'. I wouldn't have agreed with this if it hadn't of been for the last 5 HOURS I've spent in work doing NO actual work and instead perusing the many pages of ninwiki.com and the various fake web sites NIN have up relating to Year Zero and the whole dystopian, police state future kind of deal they've got going on. As it turns out, Year Zero is a concept album, focusing on a timeline stretching fifteen years into the future, based on a story that a totalitarian government has assumed control of the United States. There is so so so much backstory going on behind this album. Each track is a different perspective from somebody from this future, a future in which drugs are put in the water to keep the public under control and a giant, spooky hand comes down from the sky to scare people shitless. Reading all this stuff has really got me excited for the album. I love the premise and the approach taken by Reznor to construct and develop this scenario. Yeah. I love it. Read loads here.
YOU'LL HAVE TO IMAGINE A VIDEO OF BIOSHOCK HERE, BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE THE BBCODE SKILLZ TO PUT ONE HERE MYSELF. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD ENOUGH IMAGINATION THEN TOO BAD, CHUMP.
Now I've insulted a handful of potential readers, let's get on with it: This game just looks better and better every time I gaze upon it in awe. Bioshock has been described by the hard-working developers of Irrational Games as a spiritual successor to System Shock, and looks set to once again be one of those games that goes all out and starts redefining genres left, right and centre. Irrational (who developed System Shock 2) is comprised of ex-employees of Looking Glass Studios (who developed such games as System Shock and Thief: The Dark Project), so it's not much of a surprise that this is the kind of title that takes the FPS and RPG genres and puts them together in an interesting a purposeful way.
Before I get into all that jargon though, let's take a good long look at those graphics and shed a little tear of joy. Rapture - the underwater city in which the game is set - is simply, yet spectacularly, beautiful. The lighting is sublime, and the water effects are incredibly impressive (will they be more impressive than Blade Interactive's Hydrophobia? Only time will tell). I can't get over how good this game is looking, and it's still got a few months before its release (August 21st in the US I believe) to polish up on any possible problems. This is a graphic whore's wet dream.
Story-wise the game sounds pretty nifty too. You survive a plane crash only to find yourself stranded in the underwater habitat that is Rapture. Once a bustling paradise, the subterranean, Art-Deco styled city is now a dilapidated and ruined place, full of nasty buggers who are out to get you. Rapture, you see, is - or was - a self-supporting community created by a former Soviet citizen, a capitalist paradise designed to house the very cream of society. Unfortunately sea slugs came along and ruined it all for everybody. Don't they always? These sea slugs - a new discovery - secreted pure stem cells. Imaginatively named Adam, these cells that can cure disease, improve physical and mental capabilities, and be utilised to genetically enhance the human body. The greedy scientists of Rapture couldn't learn to share though. This caused a civil war to break out in turn causing the present day Rapture that you must survive and escape. You'll do this by utilising the Adam (that sounds weird, but there you go), genetically modifying yourself in different ways categorised under weaponry, engineering, active and physical. From what I hear you'll be able to mix and match, creating unique and astounding superhuman abilities. The question remains though, how long can you do this before you become a mutated monstrosity yourself?
You couldn't be blamed for thinking the style is somewhat reminiscent of Cliff Bleszinki's destroyed beauty, taking wonderfully gorgeous surroundings and presenting them in a decayed fashion, but Bioshock still has a look of its own, its Art Deco style being used very little in other games. The artists seem to have gone all out on the character design and created some really memorable and remarkable enemies, ranging from bio-mechanical monstrosities to creepy little girls in dresses.
What makes this game really interesting is the revolutionary relationship between you and your foes. Irrational have embraced the "emergent gameplay" approach in their design, crafting complex behaviours that emerge from the interaction of simple game mechanics. Apparently the level of interactivity in this game will be unprecedented, resulting in some very unusual AI behaviour. The developers are focusing on "AI ecology", a system that means NPCs will dynamically search for opportunities to fulfil their purpose. The player will even be able to exploit this ecology to their advantage, manipulating enemies as they fit and even turning them against each other. There really is a revolutionary relationship between you and your foes here, as they have a life and even emotions of their own and act in strange and unfamiliar ways to the player. One preview of the game mentions a far-off enemy talking to their offspring only for you to turn the corner and find their child has long since left the land of the living. Creepy. This AI ecosystem will evoke new emotions from us. We'll feel anger, pity, sadness and disgust instead of just exhilaration and fear. If Irrational really pulls that off, it will change video games forever.
So yeah, I'm pretty damn excited about this game. It seems to have everything going for it. The only downside I can think of at the moment is that there will be no multiplayer, which has become pretty much standard in 360 games. This doesn't seem like the kind of game that needs multiplayer though. The sheer innovation that's gone into the single player experience speaks volumes, and that's the real core of this game. Anyway, August 24th (UK release), hurry up and get here!
I bet the day I get this game will be the day my 360 red rings, godammit >.<
I'm blogging! On Dtoid! My excitement is such that I may just soil myself. As its beta at this very minute I'm assuming there's going to be the odd crease to iron out here and there, but expect much blog-tastic blogginess coming out of my blog-hole. Catch on the flip-side, you filthy buggers.