Such is the case in BioShock, an upcoming first person shooter from 2K Games. In the early half of the 20th century, Andrew Ryan builds a utopia under the ocean. He recruits the best people in all their fields; scientists, athletes, artists, and so on. This underwater world is done in an opulent 50’s Art Deco style. Everything is done in this style, from the furniture to the advertisements. It really feels like you have stumbled across a city owned by the privileged and elite. Except that everything is broken and the ocean is running in. Obviously, something horrible has happened here.
Everything was fine in Ryan’s utopia, until a special breed of sea slug was discovered. This slug excreted what were basically super stem cells called “Adam.” The Adam was then refined into a usable for called “plasmids”. Plasmids are mutable DNA that allow people to boost their natural attributes, making better scientists, better athletes, and better artists. Plasmids rapidly became the most valuable commodity and war broke out to control it. Unfortunately, in the conflict, the slugs are killed off, destroying the supply of plasmids. A new way of harvesting plasmids is found, but the source is disturbing to say the least: the dead.
The harvesters of this new source of plasmids are small children. They look disturbingly ill with pallid complexions and large eyes. They hide in small sealed tunnels until the need to harvest plasmids comes up. They carry a large syringe to extract the plasmids, which they then swallow and process internally. The demo shown had a young girl gathering the Adam, nicknamed a “Little Sister.” It may seem like sickly children are not the best choice to carry such a valuable commodity in a war torn city, and this would be true if it wasn’t for the “Big Daddies.” Big Daddies are huge hulking things in old style diving suits. They are incredibly tough and incredibly powerful. As you wander through the city you will occasionally stumble across a Big Daddy as it is hunting through the ruins. Their focus is on protecting the children, so unless you attack them or get to close to the children they will ignore you completely.
Other enemies are not nearly so forgiving. One aggressive type of enemy is the Slicer. These were ordinary people before the war who were forced to use plasmids to alter themselves just to survive the conflict. They have grafted blades to themselves which they use both for combat, and climbing. Slicers are constantly scuttling around and scavenging from the dead bodies. They are twisted and deformed creatures who truly represent the ravages of the conflict.
Since the city was a utopia before the war broke out, there were no weapons. Every weapon that was created in the war and afterwards has been cobbled together out of regular household items. After breaking into a bar you are shot at by a sentry gun that is built into a chair. After setting off alarms you are attacked by a mobile sentry that is built out of an outboard motor. Even the weapon you are carrying is a hand made gun crafted out of various items scavenged from around the city. This theme of improvised weaponry continues throughout the entire game.
BioShock is all about using the right tools for the right job. Ammunition is at a premium, which makes conservation vitally important to your survival. Different types of ammo are more effective against different targets. Armor piercing rounds are good against the mechanical sentry guns. Anti-personnel rounds are good against the Slicers. Unfortunately, you don’t always have the right type of ammo when facing an enemy. This leaves you with an important decision to make. Do you waste precious resources in an inefficient fight, or do you try to find another way around?
Collecting plasmids plays a huge role in your strategy. As you collect various plasmids you can graft them to your DNA. Each of these will add some sort of bonus to you. Some will give you a boost of speed, allowing you to sprint for short distances. One of the most impressive plasmids displayed was an aggressor plasmid. This plasmid lets you shoot out a blast filled with pheromones at a target. These pheromones drive Slicers into a fury forcing them to attack whatever is covered in the pheromones. If you target a Big Daddy with the pheromones the Slicer will attack them, switching them from patrol mode to attack mode. Big Daddies are much tougher than Slicers resulting in a very one sided battle, allowing you to get past without expending any of your precious ammunition. In these combats the enemies will use the same AI against each other as they would use against you, making for a very realistic combat.
BioShock takes place entirely underwater. Having survived a war, the city is in horrible shape. As it decays it is slowly letting the crushing pressure of the ocean crack it open. Water leaks in constantly, filling tunnels and blocking your path. Fish can be seen swimming around outside the windows, and will swim away from you if frightened by movement or gunfire. Since water plays such a huge role in BioShock, a committed artist and a programmer were hired to work solely on the water effects. This commitment to detail shows the high level of quality that can be expected from BioShock. BioShock is scheduled to come out in 2007. It’ll be a hard wait though. After all what could be better than in a fallen utopia under the ocean?
I like a wide variety of games. I’m great at action and rpg games. I tend to be too much of a perfectionist with first person shooters and stealth games. I’ll spend 20 minutes in a level, only to reset it the first time a guard sees me. Platformers aren’t really my thing, I think the technology has better things to offer than that now. And I don’t do sports games.
I love games with a good story. I’ll play for hours just trying to get to the next plot twist. In a perfect world, I’d be writing my own video games someday