Plugged In

REVIEW: BioShock for XBox 360

BioShock

You stand in the foyer of a once bustling medical facility. A soothing voice still echoes over the PA system, touting the benefits of genetic enhancement. Meanwhile, the terrifying laughter of members of the hospital staff, now known as Splicers, bloodthirsty examples of genetic engineering gone wrong, surrounds you in the shadows.

And then the lights go out.

Welcome to Rapture. Welcome to BioShock. Welcome to the most amazing video game you’ll ever experience. In BioShock, your journey after a plane crash leaves you stranded in the ocean. After swimming to a strange tower jutting out of the water, you descend into the underwater city of Rapture. The city — the vision of the maniacal Andrew Ryan — was built to be a safe haven for those seeking to escape the moral and ethical confines of the civilized world.

Welcome to Rapture

But things went terribly wrong in Ryan’s utopia and now the once beautiful city is a wasteland, overrun by its genetically altered inhabitants. Your goal in BioShock is to escape in one piece, but along the way you’ll be tasked with uncovering the mysteries of Rapture and helping those survivors who remain.

You begin with only a wrench to aid you in your quest, but you soon have access to a whole host of weapons. You also gain access to Plasmids, genetic enhancements that grant you abilities like telekinesis or let you shoot fire from your fingertips. Both weapons and ammo can be upgraded and there are several different Plasmids out there to help you survive.

And you’ll need all the help you can get if you’re to make it out of Rapture alive. Splicers, the most common enemy type, feature smart A.I. and will often attack in waves. Best yet, the encounters in BioShock aren’t scripted, meaning you never know where the next threat will come from. Splicers also have access to many of the same weapons as you.

But the most difficult enemy you’re likely to encounter is the Big Daddy, the metallic behemoth that accompanies a Little Sister. You don’t necessarily have to fight a Big Daddy to beat BioShock (they won’t attack unless provoked or unless you threaten a Little Sister). But killing the Big Daddy and harvesting the ADAM carried by a Little Sister is the only way to expand your Plasmid abilities. And without Plasmids, your chance of survival drops considerably.

A Splicer

While the gameplay is top notch, the atmosphere and environments in BioShock are the best I’ve ever seen in a video game, bar none. From the moment you climb out of the water and enter Rapture, you are immersed in a living world that the developers at Irrational Games have recreated in painstaking detail. The NPCs you interact with are just as detailed as the environments in which they live.

You could write volumes about everything that seperates BioShock from the rest of the games out there, but no amount of words could do it justice. This is the next step in the evolution of video games.

BioShock
Developer — Irrational Games
Publisher — 2K Games
Sugg. retail price — $59.99
Rating — M for mature (Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)
Final score — 9.9 out of 10

Enter the Rapture — BioShock demo available

BioShock

Today’s the day many gamers have been waiting on — the release of Madden ’08. But there’s another reason to fire up your Xbox 360 today — a demo for BioShock is now available.

That’s right. Gamers can now explore the underwater city of Rapture in 2K Games’ BioShock, an atmospheric — i.e. creepy — FPS that’s set to take the world by storm when it arrives on store shelves next week. The demo, which checks in at over 1.3 GB on the Xbox 360, is available via the Xbox Live Marketplace. It takes players through a tweaked version of the game’s first level, beginning with your escape from a fiery plane crash.

To say any more would spoil the experience, so just grab the demo, turn off the lights and hold on. BioShock is what next-gen gaming is all about.

The Week in Review

Business is about to pick up. Gaming business, that is.

Tuesday’s Madden O8 launch signals the beginning of the fall video game rush. From now until the end of the year, gamers are going to be bombarded with new releases each week. And I’m not talking about lousy licensced movie tie-ins here. No, this is the good stuff.

So go ahead and celebrate “Maddenoliday.” Just remember that this year, the best is yet to come. Now on with the news:

Continue reading…

Xbox 360 owners have a chance to sample two of the more unique titles set to be released later this year as demos for the action shooter John Woo Presents Stranglehold and the Japanese RPG Eternal Sonata are now available to download on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Stranglehold is based on characters from Woo’s cult classic film “Hard Boiled.” The demo lets gamers tackle the first level of the retail version of the game, set in a Hong Kong marketplace crawling with bad guys. While relatively short (it is a demo, after all), the level shows off what makes Stranglehold worth a look– over-the-top action, destructible environments, slow-motion shootouts and a hefty amount of blood.

If you’re like your games a little less … intense, check out the Eternal Sonata demo. The combat system is turn-based, but not in the traditional sense. And though the story — you’re playing in a fantasy world dreamt up by dying composer Frederic Chopin — is a bit out there, the gorgeous environments and detailed characters are hard to dismiss. After playing through the demo, Eternal Sonata is definitely on my “must-have” list.

You can check out trailers of both games below:

Stranglehold

Eternal Sonata

 Halo 3

The weather is getting hot and so is the gaming news. Here’s the latest:

During a conference call this week, Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games announced that the next installment in the GTA series is being pushed back from its previously announced Oct. 17 release date. GTA IV will now ship sometime during the second quarter of 2008, which means it should be available in late February or early April. Considering the enormous expectations for GTA IV, a delay wasn’t altogether unexpected. Hopefully the extra time will allow Rockstar to deliver on the hype.

Grand Theft Auto IV trailer:

Also this week, Microsoft and Bungie dropped a huge bomb on Halo 3 fanboys everywhere. While split-screen co-op play has been a staple of the franchise since the beginning, the multiplayer action is being kicked up a notch for the series finale. For the first time, up to four players can frag their way through the campaign mode together. That’s right, FOUR PLAYER ONLINE CO-OP!  Let that sink in for a minute . . . OK, now for the details. In addition to the Arbiter and Master Chief, gamers will have access to two new Covenant characters in Halo 3 — N’tho ‘Sraom and Usze ‘Taham. You can read their bios on the Bungie site. Halo 3 is still slated to be released Sept. 25, so if you don’t have three friends, you still have time to make some in order to enjoy the multiplayer goodness.

And finally, the long-awaited Xbox 360 price drop appears to be a reality. Sources have confirmed to Plugged In that a three-tiered price drop rumor that has been making its way around the Internet is, in fact, no rumor. Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 8, all three versions of the Xbox 360 console will see a price drop, ranging from $20-$50. The price of the core system, which does not include a hard drive, will drop from $299.99 to $279.99. The premium system, which includes a hard drive, will receive a $50 price cut from $399.99 to $349.99. And the price of the Elite system, with its 120 GB hard drive and HDMI output, will fall from $479.99 to $449.99. With Madden 08 and BioShock just around the corner — and Microsoft’s three-year warranty against the Red Ring of Death — there’s never been a better time to invest in an Xbox 360.