Monday, October 01, 2007
I am done. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.
Graphics (Technical) - 10 out of 10
In spite of my shader woes, I have to say this game utilizes some of the prettiest effects I've ever seen. And once you have a competent card (current midrange cards), it runs quite without a hitch, even when everything was on fire, and shooting electrical sparks, and partially under water to boot. Yes, I have seen all three on screen at once. With a fog effect. And shadows. And dynamic lights.
Graphics (Artistic) - 9 out of 10
The artistic design is top notch, with a couple of things I still take exception too. The period and Art Deco design of the levels was very cohesive and consistent. However, on the (many, many) occasions when I could see the standard bad guys (called Splicers) up close, they had a tendency towards a waxy-ness in finish. I'm not sure if this was deliberate or not, but I personally found them less believable than say Half-Life 2, with it's almost photo realism. It is important to note that this may be because I'm only running DX9, not DX10, as I refuse to install Vista. Looking at some of the comparison screen shots, I think this effect may be less on the DX10 implementation.
The bulk of the textures, however, are quite remarkably well done. I never once thought "Boy, upclose, that's not so good." I should note that there was at least one configuration of "Splicer" that I thought was very like the design and styling of characters System Shock 2, the legendary previous project of Irrational. It stood out, and may in fact be an homage, but looked a bit of place where I noticed it. That may have been intentional.
Sound (Ambient and Vocal) - 9 out of 10
The sound effects and voice acting is spot on. The folly sound bits, though a bit repetitive, help to set the stage, offering plenty of cues to the story and game play. The active sound effects (weapon noises, power effects, interface alerts) are all consistently well played. I did notice a few places where I would have an audio log be interrupted by a scripted voice over, but as you can replay any voice over you hear from you journal page, thats more an inconvenience than an issue. I am curious to see if the sound supports surround and the like, but on both my analog and USB headsets it was all high quality.
Sound (Music) - 10 out of 10
The soundtrack is a mix of period music and original orchestral music. It is somewhat sparse, but when used is used for excellent dramatic effect. The music has been recorded at a reasonable quality, but has often in the case of the period music been modified to sound like the device on which it is represented as being played back on. Music from an old phonograph, for example, is suitably scratchy and tinny.
Gameplay (technical) - 9 out of 10
The standard shoot controls are evident, and the mechanic for swapping ammunition and between weapons and plasmids (your special magic powers in the game) works well. I found the controls to be reasonably intuitive. Certainly if you have played any shooter before, the movement and combat isn't going to be hard for you to pick up. As a Battlefield fan, however, I missed 2 things that I consider standard. One is double tap to sprint, the other is zoom-aim.
The menu interface, though artistic, actually has some minor difficulties. In at least two places the only way to go back to the previous screen is to press escape. There should always be a 'go back' button. In spite of this, the interface is clear and otherwise precise. Options are labeled clearly and organized logically.
In fact the only out of place bit of information as I saw it was the markers for Little Sister/Big Daddy pairs in a map. This information is only displayed on the 'esc' menu, not anywhere on the 'Map'/'Hint'/'Goal' screen, which was a bit odd, but easily over looked.
The game has a goal arrow implemented which is fairly useful. I believe it only actually confused my twice. And there was only one spot where I was certain there should have been an arrow and there wasn't.
Gameplay (Story, length and artistic merit)
Hands down, this is a well crafted game. The story is worth following. And deep and dark. Irrational (ok, 2k Boston, if you insist) has not failed to live up to it's reputation established with System Shock 2 as crafters of great, immersing stories.
Length, a long standing issue of mine, is about right. I'm sure a hard core shooter type can rocket through in less than 10 hours, but you're only experiencing about half the game if you play it that way. If you spend the time digging into the environment, sussing out the audio logs and things, you will, I expect get closer to 20~25 hours on a single run. Your millage will vary according to skill, ability and difficulty setting.
Re playability, on the other hand, is not high. It is after all a story game. Once you've seen it, you've seen it, and I have to expect you're not going to want to go through it again right away. I'm not, at least. I will try a run through at the hard setting at some point, but I would not be surprised if I did not play all the way through.
You should not hesitate to buy Bioshock brand new if you have the PC horsepower to make it work. If you don't have the PC horsepower, you may want to consider the 360 route instead. I have yet to try it on the 360, but will shortly (if that should impact this statement I will update), and have it on good authority that the differences are minor. All reports in, after you settle into the controls the experience is highly similar. At a bare minimum you owe this one a rent with a console, if that's your shortest path to the goal, the down side being it probably represents a solid weekend of fending off the partner to get it done.
at 3:13 PM