BioShock Q&A - Final Impressions from GameSpot and Final Thoughts from Ken Levine

We provide our final thoughts after playing BioShock, and creative director Ken Levine shares his final thoughts on developing the game.

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The highly anticipated, hybrid shooter BioShock will be released soon, and we had an opportunity to play through part of the game, as well as to look back on the game's development with creative director Ken Levine. While we'll save our final impressions of the game for our review, we're pleased to say that the game appears to live up to most of the expectations. Get more information and see more movies and screenshots at GameSpot's BioShock launch center.

If you've been following the game in the past, you probably know about the various "plasmid" powers that are available to you. They're superhuman abilities you can acquire by injecting genetic material into your character's veins. If BioShock were a fantasy game, plasmids would be magic spells. In this case, plasmids make use of "adam" (the genetic energy that powers plasmids), and you use them to create various extraordinary effects in the world, which drains your "eve" meter. You can blast your enemies with fire, ice, or lightning, or create traps, or manipulate the environment to do your bidding. There are quite a few plasmids to choose from, so you can definitely customize your character with the ones you prefer. Although you start with the capability to wield only two plasmids at once, you can eventually unlock more plasmid slots (up to six total).

Gatherer's Gardens are where you'll go to buy new tonics and plasmids, although you can also find some hidden away elsewhere.

In addition to plasmids, you'll also be able to equip a number of "gene tonics." Tonics are basically ongoing enhancements that "buff" your character to make the going a bit easier for you in some parts of the game. There are three types of tonics that you can equip: physical, engineering, and combat. Physical tonics mostly involve ways to heal yourself, such as getting more healing from first aid kits, or restoring eve when you use a health kit. They can also restore health and eve when you hack something, or even restore health when you smoke cigarettes or cigars that you find lying about. (Smoking usually restores some eve but deals a bit of physical damage to you.) Engineering tonics strengthen your ability to hack into machines in the undersea city of Rapture, such as security bots and cameras. Tonics like "slow" will slow down the speed of the hacking minigame, which gives you more time to complete your connections, while "security expert" will let you hack into turrets, security cameras, and other security-related machines more easily (but not things like safes or door locks).

Lastly, combat tonics govern your fighting acumen. There seems to be a wider variety of combat tonics than there are in the other categories, given that so much of the game revolves around fighting. Thus, there are plenty of ways to add tonics that will enhance how you choose to play. So if you like blasting enemies with your freezing plasmid power, for instance, then you can use the "frozen field" tonic to increase the amount of damage you deal with cold attacks. A fair number of combat tonics actually revolve around making the wrench, your default melee weapon, more useful. Although you get a wrench early on in the game, the enemies you face off against will quickly become too powerful to take down with anything but real firepower, unless you down some extra tonics. While we played, we used the "wrench jockey" tonic to upgrade the attack power of the wrench, the "wrench lurker" tonic to let us move more stealthily and sneak up on enemies, and the "static discharge" tonic, which emitted an electric shock to anyone who struck us in melee combat. We wound up being pretty deadly with the wrench, which made for an entertainingly unique gameplay experience after spending much of the game using plasmids and ranged weapons to take down our enemies.

In keeping with the game's emphasis on allowing creative plasmid use, your choice of tonics isn't permanent. If you're having trouble in a certain fight, you can always head to the nearest "gene bank," where you can switch around the tonics that you currently have equipped. For example, even when fully upgraded, using the wrench is a poor idea when facing off against a "big daddy," the monstrous guardians of Rapture that resemble behemoths in dive suits. So if you feel the need to take one of them on, it's wise to switch out your wrench upgrades for things like "armored shell," which reduces the amount of damage you take. After you kill the big daddy, you can feel free to switch back to your other loadout. Gene banks pop up pretty often in BioShock, especially before boss fights, so you'll be able to experiment with plenty of different configurations until you find one you like.

BioShock is going to lead the fall gaming frenzy when it's released on the 21st, so you won't have long to wait to make your own gene-tonic combinations. Look to GameSpot for a full review of BioShock soon, as well as a game guide when it finally hits store shelves. For now, stay tuned for final thoughts on the game's development from creative director Ken Levine.

GS: Ken, now that the game's development is finished, tell us in your own words: What is BioShock? What's the purpose of the game?

No matter how much you try, you're probably not going to beat up a big daddy with a wrench.

Ken Levine: BioShock is a first-person shooter set in a failed underwater utopia. The game lets you use everything, from fully modifiable guns, to the amazing genetic powers, to every aspect of the environment (from fire to water to physical objects). Even your foes and the city's security system can be turned into critical allies.

GS: Why did BioShock end up as a first-person shooter, rather than a full-on role-playing game, like some of Irrational's other projects?

KL: Well, we've never really done a full-on role playing game. From a character-growth standpoint, BioShock is as deep as, or deeper than, our first game, System Shock 2 (over 70 genetic powers, modifiable weapons, hacking, skill tracks, etc.). The key difference is that our goal was to make everything immediate to the player, who would instantly understand the cause and effects of these dozens of powers. RPGs are somewhat abstract and "stat-based." We wanted the player to feel the effects of his character growth directly by his interaction with the world.

Scary Movies

GS: What is it about BioShock that separates it from most first-person shooters?

BioShock is all about an undersea utopia that crumbled, and the ecology of guardians and crazed survivors that followed.

KL: This is a big question, but I'll try to give you a small answer. Two things: the player and the world. Our goal with BioShock was to make a player-driven game, one where players would tell us how they would want to play it. That's why everything in the world behaves as you would expect it to, whether its fire, water, electricity, and the enemies. Because they act as you would expect them to, you can use that knowledge to improvise solutions in the game. I don't think there's a first-person shooter out there that makes you feel so powerful, so in charge of the environment.

The other thing is the world of Rapture, the underwater city where the game takes place. Rapture is a real place to us, and from the approximately 20 million comments on the demo, a real place to other players. It's a place you can get lost in, a place of a thousand surprises. People love games like World of Warcraft for the million tiny details that make sure Ashenvale is Ashenvale, and Molten Core is Molten Core. After players visit Fort Frolic, the insane realm of lunatic artist Sander Cohen, and the dying forest of Arcadia, they'll believe the world of a first-person shooter can be just as rich, and just as meaningful, as in a massively multiplayer game.

GS: Clearly, the game is aiming to offer elements of horror and suspense. Aside from having crazy people charging at you with knives and guns and superhuman powers, what do you think will really make BioShock creepy and unsettling for players?

KL: Rapture is a terrifying, and ultimately, sad place. The denizens of the city aren't monsters: They're people who've lost their minds and, more powerfully, their way. They live in a twilight of the present and the past, where they half-believe that their children are still alive, their bodies and minds are intact, and the world still holds hope. Walking around the city, you can hear them croaking off-key songs of the period, or talking to their long-dead loved ones, like the mother cooing to the empty crib in the demo.

These people had lives, families…and minds. And now they've lost everything. Unfortunately for the player, they're not happy about it. There's a rage in them that is born of fear, desperation, and loss, and it messes with your head.

We took a lot of inspiration from The Shining when making the game. If we end up half as scary as that, I'll be grateful.

GS: How do you hope people will play and enjoy the game once they get ahold of it? What kind of experience might the game offer to players with different personalities, such as players who might want to try to blast their way through the game with guns blazing, or players who might try to use stealth to win, and so on?

KL: My favorite aspect of BioShock is watching how differently people play it. The key thing is that we never lock you into a "class" where you have to play the game a certain way. We really let you approach any situation how you'd choose: with weapons, with genetic powers (plasmids), with hacking, with taking control of your enemies, by using the environment to your advantage…the list doesn't end. No room is the same, no battle plays out the same way twice.

GS: The game seems to have a ton of variety, an open-ended structure, and a lot of ways to customize your character. How do you think BioShock will encourage players to try playing through the game more than once?

KL: First of all, it's really one of those games where you'll want to save often--not because you die constantly, but because you're going to want to replay rooms to try things a different way. It's very "sandbox" that way. But there are also multiple endings and different growth paths based on how you interact with the "little sisters," the genetic gatherers who prowl Rapture guarded by the hulking big daddies. But BioShock is also a game of nooks and crannies. There's never been a shooter with more "non-critical" space, space designed for players to explore and discover. We think a real completionist could spend more than 30 hours going through the game. There's no shooter that can make that claim.

GS: How do you feel BioShock will be received by all those eager fans? What part of the game do you hope players will enjoy the most (or hate the least)?

KL: Well, it's pretty clear now from the demo that people dig the beginning, so now we have to see how they feel about the rest of the game. BioShock is a game of big characters and big moments. I love entering the world of Steinman, the insane plastic surgeon in the first level of the game, or Sander Cohen, a homicidal artist with a taste for the theatrical, in Fort Frolic. There's so many moments that I feel strongly about that I can't talk about yet. Because talking about them would spoil the fun.

The idea behind BioShock is open-ended gameplay.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about BioShock?

KL: Well, first, I want to thank GameSpot. You guys were the first to believe in the game and ran the first story on it. If not for that story (and the outpouring of support from the community), we might never have sold the game to a publisher. The press and the public can make a difference. They can help show publishers that there's cool stuff out there that might not be something they're 100% comfortable with. BioShock pushes boundaries, both in gameplay and story, but it wouldn't have been possible if people didn't believe in it and get behind it.

GS: Thanks, but your success belongs to, and always will belong to, yourself and your team. Good luck, Ken.

Discussion

213 comments
wizaard
wizaard

plm3d_basic, I agree with all of your points, but I'm not basing my decision solely on technical considerations. I play both PC and console games and I find they offer me two fairly distinct experiences. One basic difference is that I play PC games sitting at a desk and console games lounging on a couch. It's not quite that simple but that'll have to do for an explanation. I'm leaning toward the 360 at the moment.

SetsuOkun
SetsuOkun

no the obvious is : now about the remake of system shock 2?

dynomitemasta
dynomitemasta

Yeah, how about the obvious question next time. Is Bioshock coming to the PS3?

ALZex
ALZex

Just wondering why this game is so expensive!!!! Get so irritated with these game developers trying to raise the bar... Its just not worth it!! Especially concidering I pay in Rands!!

Rebel4lyfe06
Rebel4lyfe06

This game is amazing i must have played the demo a dozen times just to admire the environment. The game is beautifully designed and Ken Levine has done an amazing job. Best game of 2007 !!!!!!!!

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

Someone is bound to beat a big Daddy silly with just a wrench, and when they do they're gonna post it on youtube. Mark my words

MissedTheBoat
MissedTheBoat

I played the demo, and I'm really excited for this game. It might be the thing that finally gets me to buy a 360. The action was incredible, it was so intense it was almost too much. Really creepy, interesting, theatrical atmosphere. Cant wait.

Merodach
Merodach

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

burtbudley
burtbudley

I just hope my new rig is ready by Friday for this game. C'mon Umart.

Seifer_Almasy_1
Seifer_Almasy_1

"your favorite part was hacking the helibot??? REALLY? you must really love Pipe Dream. my favorite part was shooting lightning out of my hands then beating down my enemies with the wrench. but thats just me i guess. " LOLOL

mageddo
mageddo

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

kansas17171
kansas17171

i sharted blood when i played the demo. ive bought a case of depends for the the game finally comes out!

GaMeWiZaRd93
GaMeWiZaRd93

I played the demo 4 360 n it was great. Every part of the demo had a scary feeling 2 it which made it more fun. Can't wait 2 get my hands on it n play it

Crawl_to_China
Crawl_to_China

your favorite part was hacking the helibot??? REALLY? you must really love Pipe Dream. my favorite part was shooting lightning out of my hands then beating down my enemies with the wrench. but thats just me i guess.

SaintBlaze
SaintBlaze

This game is going to be awesome but hopefully it's not as creepy as everyone says it is.

Andreezy
Andreezy

the demo on the 360 was awesome! my favorite part was when i was hacking into the turret and the lil helibot, i cant wait till i get the game and have a big daddy fight for me.

littlestreakier
littlestreakier

i played the demo, it looks like it's gonna be an amazing game. happy i have a 360 :-D

d3r7y
d3r7y

This is going to be a great game! And its going to be one that you'll play over and over again. Which to me is worth the almighty dollar. This is a game that you'll get your money's worth!

Ellipsis667
Ellipsis667

This is the first of quite a few games I feel like I need to pick up during these last couple months of the year. I can't wait to dive deeper into the world of rapture(no pun intented... alright, pun intended). I've got 5 or so games pre-ordered and Bioshock's starting off this amazing run of games. I'll tell yas this: November is gunna be a pricey month.

anything57
anything57

yup, bioshock pc demo released on monday 7pm (cult of rapture website !yay!)

CptJoey
CptJoey

I am getting it as soon as it is released!!!

PHeMoX
PHeMoX

"why oh why did they can the PS3 version, I was really looking forward to playing Bioshock hopefully there will be a PS3 one in the future" Lol, be glad it was canned, because you wouldn't have liked the result anyways ... besides, it looks and plays better with Vista and DX10 anyways. :)

--SharkTooth--
--SharkTooth--

Whaaaaa? How come you didn't release the review yet???

KingBahamut
KingBahamut

why oh why did they can the PS3 version, I was really looking forward to playing Bioshock hopefully there will be a PS3 one in the future

britannia07
britannia07

a dont get it y r they monsters n cray people ?? what went wrong with this utopia more back ground history need a think

Savier989
Savier989

Risey, its not that GS gets it last, they refine their reviews more than other site, because well, because people come here for their reviews mainly.

riseyboy
riseyboy

I find it strange how tk2 compliment Gamespot for believing in them and this game would not be possible without there support and yet they are the last to receive the full game for review *lol* Ign and 6 other online and mag related sites have already reviewed and scored between 9 - 10. I always read gamespot reviews as they seem more professional than most others, however, i have noticed lately they seem to be last in reviewing some games. Keep up the good work Gamespot, but get in the cue first ;)

Diggfinger
Diggfinger

Don't even want to read/see more about it. I'm buying an Xbox 360 just for this game!! Yes sir, I am a NERD!!! :D

Carbinesoldier5
Carbinesoldier5

Mr. Levine looks real and true with his statements. You can really tell he's hoping for the best with his and his team's big project. I hope the game lives up to what Irrational Games intended to make. I'm going to play the demo and then make my final decision. I wish good luck to you Ken, and everyone at Irrational Games! I know your game is going to be great. Video Gaming... Lives!

CaribouLou5
CaribouLou5

I'm getting it on PC for sure. I just like my FPS on PCs, with mouse and keyboard. Plus, my PC is far more powerful than a 360 so I will enjoy better graphics and framerate. I downloaded the demo on 360 anyways, and it really is incredible. Can't wait to play the whole thing.

gangsterjc
gangsterjc

cant wait 4 the game and the review

martyboy9
martyboy9

hey dude same here!!! i think it would look da bollocks on pc, but then again ive got a 20"HD widescreen moniter and vista ultimate, 4GB of ram, an inno nvideo gforce 8800 gts 640MB and also an intel Quad core qx6800 extreme addition each processor running @ 2.66 GHZ each!!!!!! soz but i just had to boast bout dat!!!! :p :) plus ders no point me gettin an xbox 360 if ive got dis PC to play da **** out of!!! lol

spuddyt
spuddyt

yeah, demos that are at the StART of the game tend to involve lots of beginning cutscenes

Titanicles
Titanicles

I played the demo of this game, I personally didn't like it, too many cutscenes and not enough gameplay. I suppose you can't judge a game by its demo, although that is what demos are for. I think the proper game sounds quite a bit better than the demo, luckily.

eric7233
eric7233

you lucky sob's!! Some people lucked out and got the bioshock game from toys r us cus they put it up for sale by accident!. They have corrected it and it is no longer avail there till 21st. This game in my mind is a contender for greatest game in gaming history although mass effect should give it a run for its money. I'll probably spend a good 250 hours with this game since theres so many things you can do and then go back and do differently to see how things pan out. I know that it will be fun to keep playing this whole game over and over as well as specific parts of it because I have already played the demo about 10 times and plan to doing it a few more just to see if i can come up with any new ways to defeat the bad guys. Bravo to Ken and his whole team, this is a master peice.

Samsa3
Samsa3

To Noema- True, but you'll also have to sit within two and a half feet of your monitor to even discern all of those extra textures and effects. I'd rather be able to sit ten feet away with a 60" SXRD XBR and, say, a Yamaha RX-Z9 with some Polk or DefTech 5.1 goodness (granted, those cost tons more than the equivalent PC package, but it also means other people will be able to enjoy it :-) ).

kingpong11
kingpong11

woot, im buying a 360 just for this 'n' halo 3 also why cant people just learn to spell!!! seriously, im sick of people saying things like: "omgzzzzzzzzzzzz dis g4m3s gunnah b3 orsuuuuu|\/|!!!!!" just die already

dunnowhathuh
dunnowhathuh

Geh, Aussies an Europeans have to wait 3 days longer for it, it's driving me insane! Three days mean so much when you're a System Shock 2 fanboy.

Zion34
Zion34

thanks Gamespot for seeing Ken's vision and now its upon us, only 4 MORE DAYS!!

jscherdell88
jscherdell88

CACTUAR_MASTER ...your comment makes no sense

fonkyandfresh
fonkyandfresh

Yeah, I played the demo on Live and was instantly blown away. This game is well on its way to surpassing all of my prejudices of the FPS genre. Levine and his team were able to make a gorgeous, captivating game with an interesting storyline as an FPS, which is something which I though was only possible with other genres such as RPGs. Having only played the demo, many people were disappointed with the linear paths laid out for you in the game, but as we are now beginning to hear the game "unlocks" only slightly after where the demo ends. All together, great game, great demo, and great work!!! 1UP gave this game a perfect score and I think they thoroughly deserved it.

Username289
Username289

You gotta love the beginning with Ryan..... "I chose Rapture!". That was a kick ass way to show the city.

iory2
iory2

i played a demo it really looks like a beggining of an amazing game cant wait for it to come out i will definatly buy it nice use of unreal engine 3 too

Arch-Vil
Arch-Vil

I WANT AN XBOX 360 NOW ! ! ! !

_dead_rabbit_
_dead_rabbit_

I just played the demo for this on Live. It was intense! I loved the use of darkness in the game.

masterchief1994
masterchief1994

Know what sucks Bioshock comes out the day after my b-day.This is the first shooter game i've ever seen underwater

Noema
Noema

Well, if being a 'dumbass' means I'll get to play the game at 1920x1200, with DX10 effects, 4xAA and 16AF, higher resolution textures, smoother frame rates and the ability to mod the game down the road, count me in.