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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Xbox 360
2K Games
Irrational Games
GENRE: First Person Shooter
August 21, 2007

BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite

BioShock 2

BioShock 2

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on June 08, 2006

First Impressions: Nazi Supermen are our superiors?

Lost at sea, drifting after surviving a horrific plane crash ? alone and frightened, suddenly a beacon appears in the dark ocean. It's a small island, with a lighthouse. Making your way to the rocky outcropping, you climb up and enter the structure. Inside is a bathysphere, and with nowhere else to go you climb in and descend into the depths, eventually entering a huge underwater city. Equal parts art deco and Andy Warhol, it's clear that all that remains of an astonishing great and secret society is war torn ruin ? death everywhere, miles of destroyed paradise ? all slowly but surely being reclaimed by the sea ? swallowed whole. Rounding a corner, you see a small child feverishly working over a corpse. Draining something from the body with a syringe, the little girl brings it to her mouth and drinks hungrily. Horrified, you reach for a weapon ? but then you recognize a vague, massive and hulking shape in the shadows ? the child's ?Protector?.

This is life in Rapture, a city conceptualized and built by a Russian visionary named Andrew Ryan in 1946 (the game proper takes place in the 1960s). Designed as an intellectual paradise where doctors, scientists, architects, artists and athletes ? the best and the brightest mankind had to offer ? could live unencumbered by the everyday trivialities of the average man. All was well in Rapture until the discovery of a new species of sea slug ? one that oozed a liquid filled with crude stem cells. In short order, this miracle was named Adam and quickly became prized and coveted for its incredible healing properties, as well as its ability to drastically improve mental and physical attributes. Unfortunately, Adam was controlled by a resourceful but clearly corrupt and misguided citizen of Rapture named Fontaine. As the game opens, you arrive in the city years after the war ? which was eventually ?won? by Ryan, but at the cost of the very humanity of the populace ? and find Rapture in its current state of destruction.

As you may have guessed, you're seriously in for it at this point, and Irrational Games ? creators of the coveted thinking man's FPS System Shock 2 - is making sure they bring everything revolutionary about that game into the next generation with BioShock. While there's no shared storyline between the two titles, gamers can expect many of the devices from SS2 to show up in BioShock ? though they'll be refined and modernized for the current hardware of course. Branching pathways, hardcore decision making that truly affects the outcome of the narrative and affecting, emotional weight attached to the in-game events are just some of what you can expect.

The little corpse harvesting children and their Protectors ? huge, genetically modified (yes, Adam gives you superhuman powers, but it also deforms and mutates human beings into?.something else) beasts that lumber along, emotionlessly destroying anything that threatens the Harvesters. ? will beset you at every turn. The incredibly creepy atmosphere the haunted Rapture exudes looks intense, and the player can expect some very impressive AI that takes encounters well beyond point and shoot. For instance if you leave the Harvesters alone while they go about their grim business (yes, they're collecting Adam, and storing it in their bellies ? up close they look freakishly alien and far less like little girls) the Protectors will ignore you for the most part. If you come too close it may push you away from the child and if you attack it will turn the full force of its fury on you ? different player choice determines radically different outcomes from every encounter. In addition, other creatures will roam around the city, alternately attacking the player and the Harvesters, and these can be used against each other in many ways. You'll have to make the agonizing choice to enhance yourself with Adam in order to survive, or retain your humanity and likely perish. Using Adam you can trick Protectors into working with you or disable security systems that would otherwise be unattainable. You'll be able to adopt telekinetic powers and manipulate objects within the city, or turn your ammunition into a sentient force that hunts down its targets. By manipulating the Protectors you can pit them against Aggressors (remnants of Ryan's army, doomed freaks that pass through Rapture looking for anything to slaughter) and kill the Harvesters to take their Adam and enhance yourself. Or, you can just go with the weapons expert branch and blast the living hell out of everything you see. The emergent AI will react to many different situations, something to always bear in mind when thinking about how to approach a scenario.

Though BioShock will have RPG elements to it in the form of Plasmids ? upgrades that are available at machines stationed throughout Rapture ? you won't be stuck in any particular direction skill wise. At any machine you can swap out attributes or start from scratch in whatever discipline you want, so once again the developers are allowing huge amounts of freedom in choosing how to play. As well the game will offer hints if you're having trouble, such as suggesting certain types of weaponry and ammo depending on the particular foes you're facing at the time. Rather than present the story in cutscenes, Irrational has chosen to allow the player to solve the mysteries of Rapture within the game. Plot points will unfold through personal logs, letters and other interactive media which charts the rise and fall of the undersea city.

Visually, the game looks absolutely insane running on the 360. Though it's still at least a year away, the design of the city is amazing, blending old and new to create a neo-40s sort of feel to everything. The character models and environments are looking incredible, and the animations and AI behavior set the bar for realism. Overall, BioShock is shaping up to be a gaming experience not to be missed.

Final Thoughts
If anyone has the clout to pull off something as ambitious as this project it is Irrational Games. System Shock 2 is a cult classic and a favorite of many gamers for a lot of good reasons, and with BioShock, it looks like we may have another classic on our hands for this generation.

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