Big Daddy’s Watching?

Taking a page from Rod Serling, imagine if you will a devastating plane crash in the middle of a vast, empty ocean where you are the only survivor. Against all probabilities,  you see before you a lighthouse spearing upward from the sea. Leaving the certain death of the sea behind, you climb to the top of the spire only to find a mysterious bathysphere that descends to the ocean floor. You climb into the iron confines of the diving bell and make your way to a decaying world of 1940's architecture hidden away under a massive undersea dome. Welcome to the city of Rapture, built at the end of World War II to house and nurture the very best humanity had to offer in intellect, athletics and culture. Thus begins the eerie and imaginative title, BioShock, being developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. This unique title with a dark, oppressive atmosphere promises to deliver a story-driven adventure, intelligent puzzles and the possibility of a true emergent A.I. experience.

So far, the story does sound like a script from a missing Twilight Zone episode. After dropping into Rapture, your character will find a crazy utopia project that apparently never reached any level of perfection. The dome is leaking, the dripping and spraying of water is ever present and the residents either ignore you or act in an extremely unfriendly manner. Apparently, someone decided to create a paradise by jacking up the genetic attributes of the populace with a substance called "Adam", and of course, everything pretty much goes wrong in the way that only a mixture of hubris and technology can go wrong.

Like the venerable System Shock for the PC, the story will be unveiled in bits and pieces through various found audio recordings detailing the catastrophe that destroys the hapless utopians. Without the use of interruptive cutscenes, you will discover that Adam is actually derived from a newly discovered sea slug, which sounded so appetizing that the inhabitants of Rapture became addicted to their genetic mutations. They split into opposing factions, eventually degenerating into an animalistic society ignoring the encroaching ocean and the degradation of their once proud paradise while hungrily scavenging for as much Adam as possible.

A few of the locals include the "Little Sisters", young girls who scamper about the ruins, and, in a creepy twist, harvest "Adam" from the corpses littering the domed city by drilling into their inert forms. Now, to survive some of the dangers of Rapture you are going to need some of that sweet "Adam" for yourself, but if you think shaking down the kids is going to be actually like taking candy from a baby, think again. The Little Sisters are protected by the powerfully brutish "Big Daddies" who wander around in old-fashioned diving suits that remind me of that Captain Cutler's Ghost from Scooby-Doo. They will pretty much ignore you unless you get too close to the Little Sisters or themselves, showing a more naturalistic A.I. as opposed to them jumping out of a "closet" and swiping at you. Another group you will encounter is the "Splicers", an aggressive cadre of radically mutated women gone mad on Adam who will jump around, climb on ceilings and attack you on sight with hooks for hands.

To combat these obstacles, you will have a few weapons yourself: a bizarre, modifiable rifle, Adam enhancements that will provide some interesting super-human abilities and your own particular intelligence. Much like the "RPG", Deus Ex or Thief, this title will give you many different options and approaches to resolving problems. You can modify the rifle appropriately and utilize the proper ammo to take out your different enemies, you might use Adam to give yourself a speed boost to avoid possibly deadly encounters or you might use one enemy to take out another using your noggin and, in the case of Splicers, a type of irritant that will attract their aggression towards other bystanders. The only thing I would be afraid of here is the possibility of too many air vents allowing you to circumvent things or security devices nearby that may allow you to use automated defenses to take out your foes. These outs were a little too frequent in adventure games in the past.

All of these elements will come together in a tense environment where emergent gameplay, stylized art direction, unique puzzle designs and an ambitious story will attempt to deliver a special experience for gamers sometime in 2007. 2K Games certainly may be taking some risks with BioShock, but there may be a number of  advantages in coming up with a fresh, new franchise. Hopefully, all of these great ideas will come together in an Xbox360 game that will attract the gaming public beyond another Halo or Splinter Cell sequel.

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