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When Irrational Games released System Shock 2 back in 1999, it was hailed as a masterpiece.  Not only was it an incredible, tense FPS, but it also bent and sometimes outright broke the rules of what an FPS could be, putting it in the same category as Deus Ex in terms of immersion and RPG-style character development.  The sense of freedom you had was incredible.  Now, Irrational Games is looking to do it all over again with the upcoming title Bioshock.


Information regarding the game is so far very sparse, and attempts to get a hold of Irrational Games for more info have been unsuccessful.  At the present time, Irrational Games does not even have a specific website or subsection of their main website dedicated to the game.  The information presented here is cobbled together from various sources and should not be taken as authoritative in any fashion.


Bioshock has been described by Irrational Games as the "spiritual successor" to System Shock 2, and the few screenshots give a stark and exciting example of how far apart the two games are, evolutions in graphics technology notwithstanding.  Whereas System Shock 2 took place in the far future aboard a starship, Bioshock puts you back in the '50s, starting you off in fine dramatic fashion as the only survivor of an oceanic plane crash.  Bobbing in the ocean, your character spies a lighthouse, sitting in the middle of the water.  From there, you make your way down to the underwater city of Rapture, and that's where the adventure really begins.  What was supposed to be an undersea paradise for the genetic elite of humanity has turned into a watery hell.  The corridors of Rapture are filled with twisted and mutated creatures which may once have been human beings, and the only way to beat them may be to join them.




Those that have played System Shock 2 will undoubtedly find Bioshock to be familiar and different all at once.  Genetic modifications called plasmids will help alter the basic physical stature and natural abilities of your character, while the art-deco style weapons will have their own kinds of upgrades to improve their lethality.  Security


systems will need to be hacked and deactivated to allow your safe passage, or turned against your enemies to advance your goals.  Diaries, recordings, and cryptic notations scattered around the city provide clues not only to smaller and more immediate puzzles but also help fill in the background on how Rapture came to be in the state it's in now.  However, Bioshock will also have some distinct differences from it's spiritual predecessor.  The isolation of deep space is one thing, but the isolation found at the bottom of the ocean, with a few trillion tons of seawater inches above your head and slowly leaking into the city, is quite another.  More interesting still are the array of moral and ethical situations that you'll find yourself in.  Do you kill one being to gain favor with another?  Do you kill them both, or neither of them?  Are these creatures still classifiable as human or are they beyond any claim of humanity?  Clearly, Bioshock is going to make you, as the player, think very carefully about your actions and their consequences.  Rather than go with a simple "search, detect, kill" AI scheme, Irrational Games has created a new "ecological AI" system.  Pre-scripted actions may still be present for specific plot points, but the majority of creature behavior will be dictated by a system which defines each creatures place in the world and its role in the strange ecology of Rapture.  For those of you wondering about the graphics, Irrational Games has tricked out their variant of the Unreal Engine v3 (nicknamed "Vengeance") and it looks spectacular.  Expect to catch yourself looking up at the ceiling to make sure you're really at home and not 20,000 leagues under the sea.


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Although no official release date has been announced, expect Bioshock to be tentatively released sometime next spring.  Plenty of time to get your rigs upgraded and tuned up to take a trip under the sea.


Axel Cushing

(September 24, 2006)

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