Bioshock (PlayStation 3 free demo review)
Last year, Bioshock was the one game that made me favour the 360 over the PS3. But when I heard that the PS3 would receive the game in due time, I figured I would just wait it out and go with the machine that had the delicious Blu-Ray player. Here are my thoughts after playing through the newly released demo...
Bioshock is an intelligent Ayn Rand inspired first person action game that takes place during the mid 1960's in the underwater city of Rapture; a city home to artists, scientists, philosophers, splicers, big daddies, and a host of other grotesqueries. You play as a plane crash survivor who seeks refuge in a lighthouse, and then descends into the curious and heavily atmospheric world through a bathysphere. Your first sight inside Rapture proper is a vicious murder, and your first companion is the voice of a man named Atlas, who tasks you with rescuing his family as he watches over your first steps.
While my experience with video game demos in general is fairly limited, I thought the demo was rather long and paced well enough to be consistently engaging. You control the protagonist from his brief swim in the ocean's chilly waters up until you're forced into the medical centre well inside the confines of the underwater city. Over the course of your play, you experience a wide variety of gameplay elements and are introduced to a few of the games enemies, including the infamous Big Daddy/Little Sister tag-team.
Your main weapon is a humble wrench, ideal for viscerally bludgeoning the average quarry and then knocking out their teeth for sport. Further down the road, you find an electricity plasmid that genetically modifies your left arm to shoot lightening. Lightening that is useful for breaking machine turrets or giving splicers a case of the twitches. Since I consider myself a rather vigilant explorer, I was also able to find a fire plasmid that comes with a delightful "don't wait, incinerate!" slogan later on down the line, that while lacking the incapacitation quality of the lightening, remains very fun to play with. There is also a simple revolver and machine gun to be found and enjoyed, but I reckon the demo wanted to highlight the genetic modification gameplay above the standard shooter elements.
When enemies attack, they are relentless. They leap at you brandishing bits of pipe and quip some rather interesting period dialogue as they throw themselves at your mighty wrench. Idle enemies are also amusing to observe, as can be surmised when you encounter a woman talking gently to a revolver in a stroller as if it were her child.
While your time with the residents of Rapture is well spent, I found myself disappointed that I was never pitted against a Big Daddy. But then again, I don't think I would've faired all that much better than a poor chap who assaulted a Litter Sister, and promptly got pinned to a wall with the Big Daddy's massive drill. The demo isn't long enough for me to make an informed opinion of the enemy's artificial intelligence, but on more than one occasion they seemed to be smarter than me.
Atmosphere appears to be a key component of the Bioshock experience. There are moments when immersion begins to set in and enemies that can be heard but not seen begin to give you chills. The environments are detailed and artistic, with period architecture and technology helping to authenticate the experience. While I was unable to play the demo with ideal audio conditions, the sound design appears to be very strong, with audio and effects enhancing instead of obscuring the action. You know the room you're entering before you even set foot inside just by the ambient noises of splashes and scratches. The actors behind Atlas and Andrew Ryan are also coherent and expressive with their lines.
The vibe Bioshock sets off is definitely one of survival horror. Even when equipped with fireballs in one hand and a machine gun in the other, you're inclined to creep around corners instead of speeding from room to room. Exploration also seems to be encouraged given the liberal amount of goodies lying on tables and chairs. Surprisingly, no room ever feels likes it's been "cleared," as it may be empty on one pass, and occupying a splicer or two on the next.
The demo is an introduction to the gameplay and style of Bioshock, so the story takes a back seat to the proceedings. No burning question is ever truly raised, and depending on the cut of the player, you may or may not recognize the philosophical and literary inspirations. Thankfully, reading Atlas Shrugged does not appear to be requisite.
Bioshock is 1430 megabytes, so it's a hefty download. Fortunately, you'll just end up deleting it on October 21st once you buy the full game (and you'll definitely be buying the full game). The demo is roughly 45 minutes to an hour long for a thorough player, and is certainly worth another play through or two. It satisfies a person like me who has been waiting over a year to play this game, and certainly does its job of making you want to pick up the whole package.
Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think of my review
This review was written at 1AM. Take from this fact what you will
Other reviews I've written on the Escapist
Grand Theft Auto IV