Bioshock: Pre-review

Having finished all the Orange Box I cared to play–I tried Team Fortress 2, and it seemed cool, but I was just getting my ass beaten all over the place by my online opponents and I don’t really have the desire to play through that to get to the point where I can actually do something useful in the game–I installed Bioshock last Friday.

I couldn’t get the sound to work. Turns out Bioshock has a problem with sound in Windows Vista. The advice 2KGames gave me had to do with RealTek onboard sound, which I don’t have. After screwing with Vista’s “compatibility modes” for a while I found the solution was to run the game with DirectX 9. If you have to do the same thing, be sure to add the -nointro switch to your shortcut (e.g.

"C:\Program Files\2K Games\BioShock\Builds\Release\Bioshock.exe" -dx9 -nointro

so you don’t have to look at a half-minute of lame unskippable branding before the game starts.)

I’ve only played the game for an hour or so so far. My initial thoughts are that I’m not having as good a time as I did with Half-Life 2 and that the Pipe Dream-style “hacking” of vending machines and turrents is kind of fun but really ridiculous.

4 thoughts on “Bioshock: Pre-review”

  1. There are a number of really great things in Bioshock.

    I regret some of the simplification that happened between System Shock 2 and Bioshock (which is basically System Shock 3, or 0, if you like), but I think that the upgrade system for your character, with the augments that you can choose, works out pretty well in terms of customizing your character without paralyzing you with choices. It seems sparse at first, but supports a lot of game styles. Make mine lead pipes and shockerization, but you do what you want.

    Some of the levels are incredible. I’m thinking in particular of the entertainment district, which has some of the flat out creepiest stuff going on that I’ve dealt with in a game in a while. This is where the System Shock heritage really shines through – the “I’m … sorry!” or “Wait, is that a monkey?” moment of Bioshock. Or the sanitarium level of Thief 3 (which is closely related in terms of development teams to the System Shock series, by the way).

    Bioshock rocks, and yet I did not find it to live up to the hype that surrounded it before its release. People gushed about the way you can take advantage of the environment by setting things on fire and so forth, and whatever, sure, it works, but it’s relatively limited, and you often don’t have a choice about what to do as far as that’s concerned. That’s probably the main problem with Bioshock. It’s an evolutionary step in the series and not really a revolutionary step. The series does things that other games don’t, but anybody frothing about Bioshock being a revolution probably never played System Shock 2.

    I am going to suggest a couple of other things that might be worth your time, at least as fillers while you decompress from a Bioshock session:

    #1. The Wonderful End of the World, distributed via Steam. This is a ripoff of Katamari in the sense that you’re collecting smaller things than you to make yourself bigger so that you can pick up slightly bigger things and so forth. Except you’re not rolling a ball, you’re just walking around, which kind of sucks. Nonetheless, the music and level designs are a little bit jazzy, and I think overall the game is worth the $8.99 it costs until July 24th, after which it rises to the dizzying height of $9.99.

    #2. Peggle. If you got the Orange Box, then you should have a free download of Peggle Extreme available to you via Steam. If you enjoy that, and I suspect that either you or Jinghua would, then Peggle Deluxe is another $20 off Steam, and there’s much more in there than Peggle Extreme. It’s a weird game – kind of pachinko like, except the pegs disappear shortly after your ball hits them, and you get various special effects and sounds and music and so forth as you play the game. It is very simple, and yet it provides such positive feedback that it’s very hard to stop playing. My niece enjoys it tremendously, and I’ve personally been fighting hard to finish off all of the challenges in the game.

  2. This reminds me how little I know or care about current games. Maybe it’s just an exposure issue. While Dave was posting this, I was trying to get my Dos emulator to properly play War Craft II and Rise of the Triad. I was also unsuccessful in finding the key jamming utility used to find key combinations that would work for Star Control II.

  3. The Neo Geo port of Star Control II was released to the world at large as a Java application in 2003 or 2004. I don’t remember even having to worry about key jamming issues, but maybe I was just lucky. Check Sourceforge.

  4. i remember having problems with the urquan masters running reliably for me.

    i didn’t know it was javabased but that might well explain it! i seem to have an issue with java apps.

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