Interviews// BioShock's Ken Levine

Posted 3 Aug 2007 17:26 by
In terms of original games (as opposed to sequels, tasty as they might be, like the delayed Grand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3), Irrational/2K Games’ BioShock is going to be contending with Rock Band as 2007’s mostly hotly anticipated title. So, you can now get benefit from SPOnG’s hands-on experience of a specially built demo of the game. This essentially comprised the first half-hour or so of BioShock’s gameplay, but I also got the chance to grill Ken Levine, Irrational’s boss, and the man who forged his reputation as the lead designer of the much-loved System Shock 2.

There’s no doubt that, post-BioShock, first-person shooters won’t ever be the same again – in fact, we’ll start wondering why we ever tolerated all those mind-numbing corridor-shooters. BioShock is such a cauldron of innovation that it’s difficult to know where to start. There are awesome graphics, for example. The game (set in the 1960s) takes place in an incredible, once-Utopian abandoned underwater city called Rapture, which you reach after your plane (on which, authentically, you’re seen enjoying a virtual cigarette) crashes right next to a submersible lift which is the only way of reaching it.

Instantly, you’re plunged into an agreeably twisted and dystopian world populated by zombie-like genetic engineering projects gone wrong, most notably hostile “splicers” and little girls protected by huge Big Daddies clad in old-style giant diving suits, not to mention automatic security systems. Luckily, you have an unseen Irishman to guide you, and the ability to genetically upgrade yourself with plasmids, bringing abilities like firing electric bolts from your fingertips, telekinesis and releasing swarms of wasps from your veins.


It swiftly becomes clear that BioShock is designed to be the antithesis of the average corridor-shooter – ammo is in pretty short supply (although it’s pretty inventive, and every weapon has three levels of upgrades), so you have to use your brain to surmount seemingly unstoppable enemies (the first time you deal with a Big Daddy, for example, is a pretty harrowing moment) by, among other things, using the environment. Thus, you can fire a napalm grenade and set someone on fire, at which point they’ll run to the nearest pool of water (top-class AI breeds some unusually believable behaviour in those you meet). This is your cue to zap them with an electric bolt or two.

You also find security stations that let you hack, for example, into flying robotic security cannons and reprogram them to take on your enemies (in the early stages at least, the hacking process involves puzzles requiring you to build specific water-flow paths using pipe components). Levine demoed a level with a number of enemies that showed off the inventiveness you can use to progress, such as creating an uber-grenade by attaching sticky grenades to a bin, then chucking it with telekinesis.

To upgrade yourself, you need to collect Adam, the best source of which is the little girls, who spend their lives scavenging dead bodies for it – although, when you do overpower their minders, you’re faced with a moral choice. Either to suck every ounce of Adam from them, and upgrade quicker, or settle for less Adam and release them from their zombification (Editor’s note: obviously, this is not to be confused with SPOnG’s own Adam Hartley)

Vending machines abound, as well as U-Invent stations, which let you alter weapons and abilities in unusual ways. Initial genetic abilities are also gained via syringes full of plasmids. Since you inject these in your arm and the game includes little girls, it’s safe to say that The Daily Mail will work itself into another lather about BioShock. Which will be just as preposterous as the Sony goat saga, as this is one of the most intelligent games we’ve ever seen, especially as far as the storyline is concerned.
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Comments

king skins 7 Aug 2007 14:46
1/2
can't wait :)
Joji 20 Aug 2007 22:31
2/2
Really want this game. Its strange, because Assasins Creed I wanted more. Bioshock, I'm glad its out before Halo 3 and Mass Effect, so we can all appreciate it like it deserves to be.

Thanks a lot, Irrational and Take 2.
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