September 2, 2007

Vista busy cursor Everyone is raving about Bioshock, the latest first person shooter for PC and Xbox360 from 2K Games. I’ve just been listening to yesterday’s Windows Weekly podcast, from the TWiT network, with Leo Laporte and Paul Thurrott and both of them are knocked out by it.

I’m not so convinced, not that I’m the best qualified to judge because I rarely play computer games. In this case I’d downloaded the demo of Bioshock to test out my new graphics card. The file was 1.8Gb and took getting on for 4 hours to download. It was quite a performance to get the program installed, including having to upgrade my nVidia drivers.

Going by the blurb, I was expecting the graphics card to struggle. The game is targeting 8800 series cards, but my MSI 8600GTS produced fluid graphics at 1024 x 768 with all the graphics options turned up. The fan on the card was at full tilt though after 30mins’ play. Usually it just ticks over or is silent.

The game is though visually far ahead of anything I’ve seen before. With the demo you get the first 45 mins of game-play but no save option. Other than that it is, I guess, the same as the full game.

I do agree with Leo and Paul that the visual style is very strong. It is supposed to be a nightmarish horror-style game, set in the 1960s in an undersea city called Rapture, entirely built in an Art Deco style. The very faithful adherence to the Art Deco theme and the dark settings make for a haunting and chilling atmosphere. But while I was impressed with the detail and impact of the graphics it takes a lot more to scare me. When all’s said and done it’s more Bioshlock than Bioshock.

And too much is being made of the moral dimension to the game. You, as player, have to confront dilemmas such as whether to save or kill the genetically mutated little girls who appear in the game and are a rich source of a substance called ADAM which you need to succeed in the game. You get more ADAM by killing the girls than if you spare them. Sorry, but this is a computer game. Are you supposed to feel guilty when you blow up space invaders? OK, they don’t look as cute, but it’s just a game. You are trying to win and you know everything you see is just a bunch of pixels controlled by a computer program. Does morality suddenly come into it because the graphics have progressed a long way from a few monochrome sprites shuffling around the screen? Am I supposed to suspend disbelief and regard myself as in this fantasy world? Maybe so. I think the intended attraction of the game is to frighten yourself silly as if you were watching a horror flick. Still, if I see the little girls and can defeat their Big Daddy protectors, sure I’ll kill them because they are just graphics and I’m playing to win a computer game.

Maybe I’m not embracing the spirit of the game. Too bad.



  1. Thanks Paul

    I’m still on the demo and I think I’ll still buy the game, not having played a PC game in years, but won’t let my expectations run away with me.



  2. So, I may just agree with you. When we recorded the Windows Weekly podcast in question, I had just started playing the game, and sure enough, the graphics, atmosphere, and the way the game introduces you to gameplay are all phenomenal. However, as I’ve progressed through about half the game, it’s gotten a bit monotonous. There are far too many weapons/power ups/other junk. It gets complex and you end up just following a navigational arrow around. I had thought originally that this would be a 5-star game, but it’s not. And I’m astonished to see the perfect scores and near-perfect scores it has gotten elsewhere.

    Bioshock is a good, sometimes great, game. But it’s not perfect now that I’ve gotten into it further. I just wanted to clarify this as my comments in the podcast were based solely on the “welcome” portion of the game. As with anything one intends to review, things change over time and with experience. I still recommend it, just not as wholeheartedly.

  3. I came across this excellent appraisal of how FPS games have developed over the years (or more to the point, not developed) and what Bioshock and its predecessor, System Shock, brought to the party. A very well written article that puts it all in perspective. You know, I might just buy the game, suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the game. But I’ll still murder those horrible little girls!

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