My torrent finished overnight and I couldn’t resist having a go. In a word: “Wow”.
On the surface the core gameplay is unashamedly FPS, but even the demo introduces you to subtleties of combining powers and using the environment to your advantage. But by far the best thing is the sheer quality of the entire package - not just the fact that their shaders are very nice (although with my graphical guy hat on, the techniques they’ve used have a lot in common with what Half Life 2 did, albeit cranked up a notch), and that the sound landscape is probably the best I’ve ever heard, but the creative direction and style is absolutely top quality.
A worthy successor to System Shock 2 then? Hell yes. About bloody time, and it’s telling that no-one except the original creators of that landmark title have managed to do it in the intervening years. Valve came closest, but even HL2 didn’t come close to this feeling of immersion. HL2, like so many other shooters, felt like a supremely crafted series of setpieces; really atmospheric but still very obviously a game. Bioshock, at least from my experience so far, feels like a world you happen to have landed in. It’s really hard to explain without actually experiencing it, but it’s like they’ve taken all the individual factors, graphics, sound, story, level design - and combined them in such a seamless way that infuses their world with a level of solidity, consistency and originality that nothing else comes close to. It’s absolutely the same feeling I had in 1999 with System Shock 2 and had pretty much given up on ever getting again.
I do think I’ll want to upgrade my machine before playing the final game though. Whilst my 3GHz single-core + 6800 combo was playable with all the settings on, at busier times it got a bit choppy. I’ve been considering doing it anyway, to improve my build times as much as anything else, but if there’s one game it’s worth upgrading a PC for, it’s Bioshock. I thought about buying a 360 instead, especially since they’re reducing the price for the Bioshock release, but a PC upgrade is about the same price anyway and it’ll benefit me in other ways.