X06: BioShock Updated Impressions

Events go from creepy to downright crazy when a fight breaks out during the latest demo of BioShock.

BARCELONA--At the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this year, we saw a demo of Irrational Games' BioShock, and we were so impressed that we named it best in show. It's been several months since we last saw anything new from the BioShock team, but we finally got another glimpse of the game in a brand-new demo for Microsoft's X06 event in Barcelona. The title of the second BioShock demo is "Hunting the Big Daddy," and as you might expect, the focus of the demo is on combat. Specifically, the demo focused on the incredible flexibility of the combat system.

According to Ken Levine, lead producer on BioShock, the development team has set out to "redefine first-person shooters." From what we saw, the team is on the right track. The demo skipped the introduction and cut straight to the action, but just in case you missed our previous coverage of the game, we'll fill you in on the details.

BioShock takes place in the fictional city of Rapture, which is a mostly deserted retro-futuristic city at the bottom of the sea. The city is populated by strange creatures known as little sisters, who carry special genetic material known as adam. You need this material to enhance your own physical attributes and increase your odds of survival in this eerie metropolis under the sea. You don't have to hunt the little sisters--who are creepy enough since they look like innocent little girls. The little sisters aren't easy to get to, though, because there are massive creatures known as big daddies. These hulking creatures will do anything and everything to protect the little sisters, so if you want that precious adam, you'll have to work for it.

Taking down one of those big daddies is the focus of the second BioShock demo. The demo takes place in the first level of the game. The main character is dropped into the city of Rapture with no way out. The city is entirely submerged beneath the sea, but it's fully contained, so you can explore it at your leisure. The city is perfectly preserved in many areas, to the extent that you can even still hear the local radio station and see the signs for movie theaters and casinos. It's a strange look at a once-vibrant world that has been left to slowly decay at the bottom of the ocean.

For a game with such a solitary atmosphere, it didn't take long for the action to pick up. As the demo began, the main character took a short walk past a casino and entered the medical pavilion. Inside the pavilion stood a shambling creature in what looks like a doctor's outfit. This creature is known as a splicer, and it has the ability to teleport to evade attack. In a nice, if gruesome, touch, the splicers leave behind a cloud of lingering flesh particles when they teleport. When the character approached the splicer, it teleported away and then threw a gurney across the room. The main character was able to kill the splicer quickly enough with a few well-placed rounds from his revolver.

This is where the real trouble began. The dead body of the splicer attracted a little sister in search of adam. When the little sister arrived, the main character tried to get at her to get the precious adam, but as mentioned earlier, the little sisters don't go anywhere without the protection of a big daddy. In this case, the big daddy grabbed the little sister and put her out of harms way. It's an interesting, bizarre, and almost touching relationship between the hulking monstrosities and the tiny little girls. In fact, as the demo went on, we saw the big daddy put itself between danger and the little sister several times, and the protection of the little sister was clearly the only priority of the big daddy.

The big daddies are well equipped for the job, and they take a heck of a lot to put down. In the demo, we watched the main character shoot the big daddy first with a pistol before moving on to a shotgun. When neither of those weapons slowed the big daddy down, it was time to run. In fact, it was time to teleport. The main character teleported around a nearby corner, and the big daddy lost track of him. While ducking the big daddy, the main character used a special ability to grow a puss-filled pocket of flesh out of his hand. This pustule is apparently a splicer irritant, meaning that splicers will attack it wherever you throw it. The main character threw a pustule at the big daddy, which caused a nearby splicer to attack. At this point, the big daddy and the splicer turned on one another and began fighting. It seemed like the coast was clear as the main character quietly slipped out of harms way...at least until he stepped in front of a security camera. When he made the mistake of tripping the security system, a handful of hovering security robots showed up in seconds and began attacking.

At this point, the main character could have simply blasted the robots out of the sky, but one aspect of combat that Ken Levine mentioned several times is the idea that you can turn problems into solutions. To illustrate this point, the main character used a special hacking skill to reprogram the sentry drones. Once the drones were reprogrammed, they followed the main character and attacked any threatening creatures in the vicinity. The drones then attacked the big daddy, which was still doggedly pursuing the main character. By this point, the big daddy had already taken more than a few rounds from both a revolver and a shotgun, had survived a fistfight with an angry splicer, and was still going strong. When the big daddy approached, the security drones began to attack it, meanwhile another splicer appeared on a balcony above and began chucking rudimentary grenades down at the main character. Once again, in the spirit of turning a problem into a solution, the main character used a special telekinesis ability to catch the grenades in midair and then throw them at the big daddy. At one point, the main character was also able to shoot a propane tank on the floor and then use telekinesis to pick up the makeshift bomb and toss it at the big daddy. After all of this, the big daddy finally went down.

In case you lost track, that's several pistol and shotgun rounds, an angry splicer, a couple grenades, a few sentry robots, and a propane bomb to take down a single big daddy. The entire battle lasted between 5 to 10 minutes, which is ages in the world of first-person shooters where twitch reflexes and one-shot kills are the standard. There's no telling how many big daddies there are in the game, but it looks like you'll have your work cut out for you if you ever hope to get the precious adam from the little sisters.

The combat in BioShock looks amazing, and it looks like your options as a player are nearly unlimited. Whether you want to use explosives, run and gun, shove enemies over ledges, or turn enemies against one another, the choice is yours. There are six modifiable weapons in the game and more than 60 special genetic powers. Plus, just about everything in the environment is interactive, from propane canisters to teddy bears. The environment also reacts to your input, so if you set something on fire, it will continue to burn and eventually envelop large areas, which needless to say can be a hazard or yet another way to deal with pesky enemies. Manipulating the environment and discovering new ways to exploit the sophisticated enemy artificial intelligence to your advantage are much more integral to the BioShock experience than simply blasting everything that moves.

The demo ended with the big daddy dead and the little sister cowering in fear as the main character stood over her wielding a pipe wrench. Whether you have to kill the little sisters or not is still a mystery--one the developers have promised to shed some light on in the next demo for BioShock.

Beyond the disturbing moral implications of hunting little girls and the dynamic, free-form combat, one of the most striking aspects of BioShock is the atmosphere. Everything from the lighting to the water effects to the retro-sci-fi character design adds up to a world that looks amazing and makes you feel like the central character in a twisted but compelling tale. Needless to say, we're anxious to get a chance to fully explore the city of Rapture.

Whether you're a fan of first-person shooters or not, you'll want to keep an eye on BioShock. We'll have to wait to see if it truly lives up to its goal of reinventing the first-person shooter, but based on what we've seen, we have to say that the game definitely looks like a step in the right direction. The dense atmosphere, open-ended combat, and morbidly interesting story make this one of the top Xbox 360 titles to look for when it ships next Spring. We'll keep you updated as soon as we see more of BioShock, so stay tuned.

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Discussion

172 comments
kevy619
kevy619

wow, i just saw some new footage from an un-named site. This game is now my second most anticipated game of the year! Mass Effect is the only game that has me more excited.

Aoshi_23
Aoshi_23

This game looks bloody amazing, I can't wait to reserve it and once I get to play, my head will probably explode due to the awesomeness. This game is going to kick ass and anyone who says otherwise probably deserves to be put in a cage with a Big Daddy. This game= 100% kick ass. end of story Note: The release date says August 21. Why does this article say Spring?

cosmothehound
cosmothehound

your not underwater. technically yes. but think of it as being in a bubble . or atlantis.

phatgirl
phatgirl

This game looks really cool, but everytime i think about it I cant help but remember the underwater portion of Star Wars KOTOR that had you walking incredibly slowly under water.

slayersdeath200
slayersdeath200

this game is looking cool cant wait for the xbox live demo

xxxSteveHxxx
xxxSteveHxxx

Really looking foward to this title. Any idea when a Demo may release on the X360 Marketplace?

ged3321
ged3321

Looks raltehr dull on the monster front. Same thing i am seeing in every movie preview... same monsters.... sigh... and it has such a huge game to live up too SS2. I would hope with todays tech that diversity and graphic design wouyld be paramount. Heres hoping all the same 3 monsters i have seen in the reviews arent ALL the way through the game.

SoberWarock
SoberWarock

The graphics look awesome, lets just hope the gameplay is even better, because I prefer gameplay rather than graphics, really. I hope the environment isnt as small as doom 3

tnugent7
tnugent7

It's like the little girls from The Shining, blast away. Was that The Shining? I can't remember.

Mugen76
Mugen76

This game is promising some really lofty goals. I hope Irrational Games hasn't bitten off more than they can chew. However, with their success of System Shock, maybe they can deliver another "shock" to the game industry. Hahaha, I kill myself.

LordLeckie
LordLeckie

For me Bioshock is just one more excellent reason to get a 360, however with the whole "killing little girls" thing i can understand how some people wouldnt be too comfortable with it, im not really bothered by it i mean look at it this way is it less evil to kill kids than adults i mean how many people here ran around in GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas commiting mass murder on a whim? is that any less evil than killing genetically modified girls? Not to mention the fact that in the end all the little sisters are is well arranged lines of ones and zeros

daveb1978
daveb1978

That link to that PS2 site doesn't bring up anything for me other than some kind of PS2 site / magazine logo. Hmm... Funny how the PS3 is making its way on ports of existing games... Seems that not many "original" titles are coming out for a while, apart from Resistance (aka "Call Of Duty with Aliens") :)

ChiefHunter1
ChiefHunter1

Can't wait to get my hands on the gameplay for BIOShock, the game looks amazing already.

TraXxX
TraXxX

This game reminds me of Condemned! Can't wait till it comes out.

astor47
astor47

i think this is the only game which can really compete and even beat Crysis

rennik_l
rennik_l

Very, very rarely do I ever say "I can't wait for (game title here) to release". I believe the last one was... Half-life 2. Well I say it again for Bioshock. This game looks fantastic, and definatly one worthy of a full comp upgrade for. If I had the cash, I would so pre-order this game, and I still might.

emerio
emerio

This game isn't out yet. But im a hardcore fan already. I seen this trailer back in 06 on e3 and then again on SPIKE TV!. I was amazed.

ChrisZewski
ChrisZewski

don't coun't on co-op dorianintx, considering the syshock series was soo focused on a TRUE single player experience and given the horror and suspense element in this aspiring game. Although with the current swing in co-op and Gears showing that it could be done well, i can't say i'd be surprised to have a friend using a second controller.

Nate2583
Nate2583

Yeah.looks like a definite buy. Graphics look incredible. Sony playstation sucks. True Story.

dorianintx
dorianintx

Deos anyone know if this game will have xbox live co-op?

jismman
jismman

I dont think words could describe how undeniably cool that game looks. I mean - the moral choices like killing a little kill or not? But then you think...would it be immoral to let her live? is it right to steal from her? would I be doing the right thing by killing her?. I dont know, personally i would let her live. The bio-mods look amazing! i hope the mod from the trailer is in the final product (where he jabs himself and the wasp(bee?)'s spurt out of his arm). I think without a doubt this game will hit hard on the first person genre and redefine what it is to be an FPS game. Cant wait for a demo ^^ - only slate would be that the game is most probably going to be very demanding in the way of how your system could operate it, im sure a very hefty gfx card and alot of RAM would be needed....maybe :)

racerx737
racerx737

This. Game. Looks. Amazing. When I first read about it in Game Informer back in March, it seemed interesting but didn't really grab my attention. Then I downloaded the trailer off of Xbox Live, I watched it about 10 times in a row even though it was 1:30 in the morning and I had class at 8:00. The graphics were stunning and, though gruesome, extremely captivating. I can't wait to see how this game turns out, it looks to me like it's on track to be incredible.

Grovel
Grovel

wow this game seems great so far, cant wait for a demo to come out

ironlung000
ironlung000

lovely. hope I will be able to run it when it comes out :)

Cretosdx
Cretosdx

I WANT THIS GAME!!!!!!!!!

puckhead778
puckhead778

this game looks absolutely stunning.....graphics, gameplay, and just ability to free raom and make do with random objects will be amazing!! can't wait for it

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

I just luv the setting, underwater retro-futuristic city.

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

I just luv the setting, underwater retro-futuristic city.

ZombieDr
ZombieDr

this is the best anyone who thinks that it's a bad game has to really stupid anyway this game should have the most possibilities on EARTH. I think that there's gonna be the largest line ever at GAMESTOP when this comes out i really hope they release a demo on the marketplace some time soon

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

This is THE GAME to get! I'm not much of a horror fan since those games sorta creep me out lol. But I must say I'm looking forward to getting it this spring. I wonder if there's a co-op? Or maybe mutliplayer lol.

trentn13
trentn13

woot cant wait to get into chillin with some big daddy's and little sisters haha [Only on 360]

Jeff_Boldt
Jeff_Boldt

lstr_of_smg, the main resource in the game is adam, you don't have a choice regarding it, you need adam. The moral choice comes into play when you're deciding how to get adam, the "little sisters" go through the game environment collecting adam from the various corpses, so you can choose to gather adam the same way they do, you can choose to gather adam from killing the little sisters, or you can come up with other ways of getting it, regardless though you need to gather adam.

CarterQER
CarterQER

Course this games gonna be good, its from the same people who did system shock after all

LsTr_Of_SmG
LsTr_Of_SmG

Surely you should be able to choose whether or not to harvest Adam and the should be rewards for both: Upgrades for those that harvest Adam by killing the little sisters, and something else for the more moral people. Now THAT would be interesting. :D

Clsmoothest1
Clsmoothest1

I'm not convinced on this one, they need to prove all this stuff can work together in a enjoyable way. This game could be a big success or a big flop with pretty graphics. We will see in the spring.

Gingtin
Gingtin

Everyone i've talked to about this game is soooo ready for it. HURRY THE HELL UP........WE NEED THE SHOCK!!! i'm there dudes

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

Calls Bizare. Very Bizare. BIG DADDY? hehehe Little sistner? u got to be kidding me. Couldn't they come up with more creative names. Anyways It looks very different and I am gonna buy it.

crawfish406
crawfish406

It seems like pretty much every game to come out these days involves you making 'moral decisions', but I think that Bioshock is one of the only games to actually live up to this promise (how many games have you played recently that have asked you to shoot a little girl in the face just so you can get stronger/faster etc?). I can't wait for this.

bossmatt95
bossmatt95

BRING ON THE BIG DADDIES!!!!!! :P

Jeff_Boldt
Jeff_Boldt

Wow, Just... Wow. This game is graphically amazing aswell as insanely ambitious in what it's trying to do not only for itself, but for an entire genre. If Irrational Games can succeed in redefining (atleast for this game) the nature of the genre, then the horizon line for other games dissappears entirely. I hope for the sake of future games that BioShock turns out to be what it looks like, not just a graphically immense concept piece, but a revolutionary advancement to a fairly stale genre.

qrawler
qrawler

This game is going to be smart, I loved system shock 2 great game, but this game looks and sounds brilliant, loved the vidoes, must buy for me!!!

Andrew0824
Andrew0824

To Renegade Fury: Have you ever been stung by a bee or wasp? Imagine a hundred of them attacking you. You're a human being (I'm assuming) and you could easily kill a little bug, but I bet you'd still run away wouldn't you? Plus, what good what that huge drilling thing do against inseccts? Just because you're big and tough doesn't mean you're immune to every sort of attack.