It’s not often that you sit waiting for something to happen because you’re not sure whether or not you’re watching a CG cutscene, but this exactly what happened to me when I played this demo. Water and fire are both the supposed stuff of nightmares for computer graphics and the opening scene of the demo (and, I assume, the final game) manages both to spectacular effect. In real time.
It had me enRAPTUREd from the start, you might say if you liked bad puns. Sorry…
My main concern with BioShock was and still is that I’m a massive pussy when it comes to any game that’s remotely unsettling. I have the Silent Hill Collection on my shelf which remains largely unplayed, and despite buying two copies of the Resident Evil remake (Japanese and US) I’ve never made it past the first boss. It’s a secret shame of mine that I’m exorcising by outing myself on here.
For all the beauty in this game there is a constant and deliberate ominous atmosphere permeating everywhere. You can hear enemies talking and scraping their blades (!), you can hear heavy footsteps of Big Daddies that may or may not be about to cross your path, and even when there aren’t enemies you have giant bronze statues watching you and the groaning of the failing structure as the sea comes to reclaim Rapture. Creepy is an understatement, but it’s beautifully so.
I’m going to work through my little complex when it comes out, though, both because it tries to do something different with the most overdone genre since the 2D platformer and because the buzz and current review scores seem to peg this as one of the games to beat for game of the year. With Halo 3 and Mass Effect to come, I’d be shocked if the GOTY isn’t on the 360.
But still, while the demo didn’t knock my socks off like some will profess (opening sequence aside), I still want to give it a proper go and really try to play it my own way. Even in the demo there are clearly plenty of options on how to approach encounters that it must be quite overwhelming once you’ve done more than scratch the surface of the available Plasmids and weapons.
Just a quick addendum: BioShock needs a photosensitivity warning. I’ve had a couple of game-related seizures (not for nearly ten years now) and the fact that there were two scenes of extreme strobing in the space of a short demo makes me fear for the final game more than all the diving suited giants in Rapture. It won’t be the oppressive atmosphere that forces me to play with the lights on. Well…mainly.