Monday, June 11

Culture Shock

One of the most anticipated console games coming out soon is Bioshock for the Xbox360. While in gameplay and mechanics it seems to be just another first-person shooter, the game's design, look, storyline setting and mood give it a survival-horror/adventure feel that makes it accessible and desirable for gamers who don't necessarily like run-and-gun titles.

Set in an alternate, art-deco world, Bioshock puts you in the shoes of a hapless passenger of an airliner that crash-lands into the middle of the ocean. With trappings of LOST, you make your way to a strange lighthouse-like structure which soon leads you down into the underwater city of Rapture, a man-made utopia gone absolutely MAD. Once one man's dream to create a perfect society where genetic engineering can perfect the human body and form, it soon becomes apparent that something has gone horribly wrong in paradise.

Rapture is in ruins, with seawater leaking into the city in many parts. Corpses litter the many labyrinthine chambers, shops, avenues and sectors, and genetically-altered/deformed inhabitants calling themselves Splicers roam the city like bloodthirsty predators. To survive, you have to arm yourself, not only with guns and other weapons, but with Plasmids- special compounds that will alter your genetic structure and imbue you with various powers, such as the ability to throw electrical blasts or freeze enemies solid. The most powerful plasmids and upgrades you can get can only be acquired by using Adam, a special material that's as valuable as gold in this twisted world. However, there's a problem. Adam can only be found in the corpses that litter Rapture, and the only one that can collect them from their macabre source are the Little Sisters... tiny, mutant little girls that crawl out from the pipes, searching for the material. To get Adam, you have to make a choice- to 'save' the Little Sister and get a little bit of Adam, or get all the Adam from the tyke by 'harvesting' her. And that mean killing the kid.

While it's kind of made clear that the LS's aren't really human- the producers intentionally made this a bit of a dilemma for the players. Can you stomach killing a little girl for a nice upgrade, or will you play moral white knight and go another, perhaps harder but less unsavoury road? Your choice will affect the story as it plays out as you go deeper into Rapture, an intriguing bit that players will have to discover later on.
But don't think that even getting to the Little Sisters will be easy- each is watched over and protected by a Big Daddy, a monstrous, lumbering figure in an old-style, heavy-duty diving suit. These walking tanks serve as Bioshock's bosses and take quite a lot to take down- but you'll have to do it somehow to progress through the game. By using a combination of powers, weapons, using other enemies and the environment as your allies, you'll hopefully master the world of Rapture and penetrate the depths of this sunken nightmare.

With an intriguing story, incredible graphics and gameplay elements, Bioshock really looks like a game to look forward to. It hits the Xbox360 in August 2007.

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