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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s this: Never Promise Anything. Yes, I know, I was supposed to have a podcast (or two) by now. I was all set to do GAME ON! GOES TO THE MOVIES, when both I and my cameraman/editor Bob realized that, since those games had been out MONTHS ago, and were all mediocre (I won’t bore you with what they were specifically, but yes, they were) it wasn’t worth it to do the podcast unless I had stuff I really wanted to talk about. Hence, why there still hasn’t been one.

HOWEVER (I say this in all caps) the fall game season is definitely shaping up to be a time where we may see me finally have passion about games again. Still, as you can see, you’re reading so…yeah, no moving pictures just yet.

What we do have is a look at one of the best (and most anticipated) shooters of the season, out today on Xbox 360 and PC. Sure, it’s only one review for this column…but what a game it is…

SHOCKING

bioshockbox.jpgAs many of you know, I’m not a huge FPS fan. Yes, I’ll play the occasional shooter, but as a standard, they’re not my favorite genre. Well, if they’d all play like BIOSHOCK, I might just change my tune. Without a doubt, BIOSHOCK is this year’s most compelling, engaging, fully-immersive single player experience yet for the next generation. Actually, I’m sure you’ve read that by now…but here’s why…

As the only survivor of a plane crash into the Atlantic, you manage to swim your way to a mysterious lighthouse, which transports you below the surface to Andrew Ryan’s utopia (or is that dystopia) of Rapture; a secret city beneath the sea. What was intended to bring about a second age of man, sadly, due to far too much genetic enhancements for the citizens, quickly becomes over run, run down, and scarred, a shambles of it’s former glory. Folks who’ve messed with their genetic code too much (known as Splicers) now roam the halls of Rapture, seeking out ADAM, the newly created stem cells found within a sea parasite that allows for genetic enhancement. ADAM is usually harvested from the dead by creatures known as Little Sisters; zombie like children protected by giants in dead sea gear known as Big Daddies. In order to progress, you must harvest the ADAM from the Little Sisters (or rescue them, if you can) and find your way out of Rapture before Andrew Ryan (or the city itself) kills you.

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ADAM is the source of your new powers, such as Plasmids, biological modifications that allow you to augment your body with an array of powers. Fueled by EVE, a serum that fuels your forces, you can send electricity flying from your fingertips, burn folks from a distance with fire, levitate and pull objects towards you (or push them away) with telekinesis and more. As you progress, you gain new Plasmids, as well as the ability to modify them. From the power to enrage your foes into attacking each other instead of you, to sending swarms of hornets from your very veins, to even convincing a Big Daddy that you are no threat, you can do it all with just a little shot to the arm.

But supernatural powers aren’t all your weapons. In fact, there are much more standard ways to fight. Pistols, shotguns, and more can be found below the surface with which to do battle with the denizens of the deep. As you continue on your journey, you can buy more ammo at vending machines (or hack into them to get a reduced price) or even invent your own brand of ammunition at U-Invent kiosks. Tonics enhance your other abilities too, such as how much health a certain item can give you, or how well you can hack into security cameras, safes and more.

It’s not all guns blazing and powers flying, however. BIOSHOCK features one of gaming’s most compellingly deep narratives, that keeps the player going through Rapture, rather than just fighting endless streams of foes. The story motivates you, as you initially intend to save the family of the man who helped you through your first encounter in Rapture; a man named Atlas whom you only get radio transmissions from. As you watch the undersea world in it’s now shambled form, you realize there’s so much more of a big picture, and your quest isn’t so much about saving yourself and Atlas’ family, but everyone in Rapture. Or is it?

BIOSHOCK would be nothing without it’s story pacing. With no cut scenes, all story elements are told in-game, such as with conversations with NPCs, or through found audio diaries lying around. The game’s graphics, however, really transport the player through this world. The art-deco style, trashed through years of genetic splicing, is beautiful and horrifying at the same time. What once was clearly a thriving community, now lies in ruin, and the game showcases that beautifully. From the leaking pipes overhead, water cascades down into your vision with some of the best water effects seen today. The Splicers themselves are a sight too…with horrid modifications and deep AI keeping you constantly on your toes. Set them on fire, they seek out water, shoot, and they seek cover. It’s truly the single player experience 360 owners have been waiting for.

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Everything about this game SCREAMS “next-gen”, from its presentation and story to just how the game plays. Switching between Plasmids and weapons with ease, gaining health items (there is no item screen, just a few HUD items when needed), and selecting different ammo types on the fly couldn’t be simpler. This is the thinking man’s FPS, not quite a hybrid of FPS and RPG, but enough story elements to almost have you convinced otherwise.

It will be tough to see how long the joy of playing BIOSHOCK will last once HALO 3 is released. The game’s box lists downloadable content, but 2K Games haven’t said what will be available yet. Still, as far as single player experiences, this one is not to be missed. HALO may have the multiplayer advantage, but nothing is a deep, as moving, as horrifying, as stunning, or simply as cool as BIOSHOCK. A Must Buy.

One Gamer’s Opinion:
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THE GAME ON! RATING SYSTEM

 

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Ratings From Greatest to Least:

Kick Ass, Right On, Okay, Eh, and Stinker (aka CRAPTACULAR)

 

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