Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bioshock PC Demo

Bioshock has been getting such good press that I just had to download the PC demo when it came available on Steam today. Its a pretty short demo - I played it through twice to make sure I didn't miss anything.

First impressions: We would you believe immediate my first impression was a slight disappointment when I realised it was a shooter!!! I know. I know. It says its a shooter, it never said it was anything else but for some odd reason I expected something a bit more like System Shock 2 - with upgrades and skills and stealth and such.

Aside: You could never call SS2 a shooter even though it had plenty of guns - my overriding memory of the game was there was always so little ammo available that actually shooting something was a matter of last resort.

Anyway that misunderstanding aside it looks to me like it is going to be a very good shooter with tonnes of depth and (joy of joys) a rich and engaging storyline. The artwork is superb - a hauntingly creepy 1930's Art Deco style pervades the bits of the game I saw so far.

When I launched the demo it defaulted to a 1024 x 768 resolution at maximum graphics settings. I was a little disappointed to find that my 7600GT struggles a bit at those settings. My definition of playability for an FPS is frame rates consistently above 30fps and in order to achieve this I had to lower the resolution to 800 x 600. It actually ran nicely at that resolution and looks pretty good too particularly once I enabled vertical sync to eliminate tearing. Even at 800 x 600 my 7600GT couldn't lock to the 60Hz screen refresh rate though so I got an every second frame lock giving a consistent 30 fps. This is with graphics settings on max. The actual graphics options are very limited - there is no advanced graphics tab. I hope the full game allows for more tweaking because I suspect I may need to be a bit innovative to get the most out of my graphics card.

Anyway I like the demo enough to convince me to buy the retail game at full price and not wait the usual few months for the price to drop. Steam are offering the game at $55 but by the time they add Irish VAT (21%) this would cost me about €50. I expect to be able to get a hardcopy for not much more than that - perhaps even less. Play.Com (a Channel Islands based online retailer are shipping it for €39. I checked in a local bricks and mortar store and they wouldn't give me a price until the day of release (next Friday) but past experience has shown me that there is often a bit of price competition between stores for big name releases so perhaps I can pick up a bargain by shopping around.

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