Downloaded the demo from FilePlanet – finally got to see some of the 7Mb I pay Road Runner for. Installed it and ran it up to be greeted by a brave attempt at an oceanic air crash. Brave of someone to actually expect someone else to sign off on that. It could really have been carried off well but they give the player control – chance to look around and see the flaws. It’s like someone taking the old ghost-train ride and turning it into a tour. I came perilously close to thinking “wtf, uninstall”.
I’m glad I didn’t.
Lets get the bad out of the way first, shall we? Issue #1, smack dab up top, and I hope you are paying attention to all this implies, is that the standard “sprint” key is designated to a UI page that doesn’t go away if you press the same key. The only one I could find. This did rather spoil the action scenes for me where it is instinct to try and sprint. There is no sprint function, just a weapon selection screen you have to hit esc to get rid of.
My second issue is the current vogue of playing with shadow and making large chunks of a gameworld dark. Please stop. The BioShock demo makes some good use of the effects – which is excellent – but it also tips a nod of the hat to flagrant experimentation and “if its too dark to see, it’ll be exciting” mindset.
And overall there is the inevitable “glass box” problem that such an ambitious setting would have to have. A large part of the game is set under water in what appear to be 1950s houses and you equipped with a wrench.
On to the good.
The graphics are quite excellent. If you resist the urge to ogle and let the storyline carry you, things move smoothly and immersively. Everything takes place in an sub-oceanic city called Rapture which appears to have become separated from the outside world in 1959 and your arrival accelerates aspects of its decay. Some of the effects are excellent, very cinematic.
Gameplay is “FPS with magic”; actually, I found it to be reminiscent of an RPG, the wizard or shaman class perhaps. The NPCs you kill can be searched for loot (bullets, cash, med kit items) and there are various items you can pick up scattered around. It’s a little disconcerting that there is no inventory screen but not a big deal.
The UI is simple and clean and – IMHO – the interface is fairly elegant. There is an odd little “hacking” game – which is essentially “Pipes” which feels kind of out of place, but happens to be one I enjoy :)
In the demo, you only get a brief glimpse of the gameworld., and you seem to move through an awfully large area of content very rapidly which gives it a hedonistic sense of luxury and extravagance. I decided not to pick at the decor and risk spoiling the illusion.
Early on you are introduced to “plasmids”, which are the medichlorians of BioShock, the theory is they change your DNA and give you various powers. You have a red bar for health and a blue bar for
mana, erh, “EVE”. Using plasmids drains your blue bar, the first plasmid you get is an electric shock; you stun your enemies with it and then mash them up with your wrench.
Your second plasmid is a flame-thrower. These two are pretty standard FPS faire, and at first gave rise to a sense of deja-vu in fancy settings. But at the end of the demo (its VERY short) they show you a movie of some of the more advanced plasmids and I have to say it looks like good stuff.
Despite my comments on use of darkness, the demo makes some very nice use of shadow and lighting, the level of suspense is pretty good but its up to you to keep the pace.
This is going to hurt but – 2.5/5 for the demo – it deserves more but it was just the wrong content for a “demo” – but I suspect the game will warrant a 3 if not a 4. I’ll definitely be buying.