Yesterday I had the opportunity to finally have a sneak peek at the much hyped game BioShock. Had heard a lot about it from friends and I was eager to see what the game was. Unfortunately my PCs have nowhere near the hardware configurations required to push the game even at its lowest setting. But yesterday I was visiting a friend of mine who is a avid gaming freak. His system has the new 8800 GT (or was it the GTX, can’t quite recollect, anyways), and it so happened that he had already installed BioShock.
I must make some confession here. Initially I had figured BioShock to be one of those mad shooting FPSes which, I am sure, all of us (or at least I have) played gazillion times before. I had a notion that it was another of those graphic pipeline consuming hogs that are filled with unnecessary eye candy just to make you go “whooo… cool graphics dude!” How wrong I was! BioShock turned out to be quite different. It has a more depth in game play than just dark corridors and shooting bright eyed monsters. The fact is I should have expected that from a team that brought us SystemShock 2. It’s just that FPS games have just got so nauseating in the past couple of years that I tend to turn away from most of them. I am not a big fan of SystemShock 2 and there are several things about the game that ticked me off when I first played it. Sure many may disagree with me, but I though that the game was not properly beta tested and while some innovations were made in the FPS gameplay they were not fine tuned enough. The weapons degraded far to quickly and that is one other game that I dropped half-way.
But BioShock is different. I think the team has got it right this time. Again the game seems to be modeled on decision-consequence behavior, meaning your decisions directly affect the gameplay. Over the past few months, ever since I started playing Oblivion, I have become fond of this type of gameplay and to see it in a FPS game is refreshing. I don’t know how much affect this has to the overall game-plot since, and I must confess, I have played only a very small part of the game, about 2-hours or so. A more interesting Cricket match got my attention away from BioShock, but now I sorely miss playing the game. Too bad my PCs don’t have powerful cards like the 8800.
The graphics of the game are (, you probably already know,) wonderful and allow for total player immersion in the game. That was to be expected. An engine like the powerful UE3 engine in the hands of good artists and game-designers can give scintillating graphics, and BioShock doesn’t fall behind in that respect. The scenes are flush with nice post-processing effects and the water effects are beautiful. I had heard that the BioShock team had heired a special engineer and an artist just for doing those effects, and it shows in the quality of those effects. One of my friends had told me the game featured amazing refraction effects on glass, and I did make it a point to look at those, and yes, he is quite right. Shadows and Lighting seems to be a combination of pre-baked lightmaps and shadow maps. I am not quite sure if the game features LDR or HDR, but I suspect strongly that the game does use HDR lighting since you could distinctly see some bright patches on the gun and some totally in shadow, but yet visible. I am not quite sure though, I think I will have to have a re-look at those.
So was the BioShock hype overrated. I think not. I thing the game does deliver on all the hype meted out. Awe! I miss playing BioShock already :(.