Monday, August 13, 2007


Developer: 2K Boston
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Aug. 21, 2007
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Ayn Rand meets underwater FPS.

0:01 The Hard difficulty level is disabled initially. You gotta prove yourself first, I guess. Kind of annoying.
0:02 "They told me, son, you're special. You were born to do great things. You know what, they were right." Screams, then the title, drenched in water. I'm hooked already.
0:03 I'm drowning? A purse floats into view. Then a plane fuselage. I surface to find flaming wreckage. I also find I can move, which is surprising, becauseI could've sworn this amazing reflected fire on the water was pre-rendered.
0:05 I swim towards a big piece of fuselage and it explodes. I seem to be OK, but the spluttering coming from my speakers indicates otherwise.
0:06 I watch what looks like the tail of a plane sinking below the water. Splashing looks a little fake, but that's really nitpicking.
0:07 I finally make it to land. I walk about as fast as I swim, which is to say, rather fast. I enter a castle that reminds me of Myst and the lights go out as the door closes behind me. A crimson banner reads: "No gods or kings. Only man." Ayn Rand, eat your heart out.
0:08 A plaque: "In what country is there a place for people like me?" -Andrew Ryan. Heady stuff. A lonely violin in the background plays in the distance: "Somewhere, beyond the sea..." Creepy.
0:09 The lights come on as I climb down the stairs and enter a bathysphere. A filmstrip plays. "Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow." Andrew Ryan rails on about Washington and the Vatican. "I chose Rapture." The filmstrip falls away to a breathtaking oceanic view. "Rapture can become your city as well." Thanks!
0:11 The atmosphere is so thick I'm almost choking. Neon signs, aquatic sea life, and more drift past my window. The scene is unfortunately broken by a ten-second loading screen.
0:12 I watch helplessly by flickering light as a man gets ripped apart by another with a scythe. "Is it someone new?" The killer lets out a blood-curdling scream. The bathysphere shakes among electrical crackling and scratching. I want my mommy.
0:13 Back in full control, I pick up a radio. Atlas, my new guide, says he "aims to keep me alive." Well isn't that nice. I have to get to higher ground. "Take a deep breath and step out of the bathysphere." Do I have to? I'm still a-scareded.
0:15 Placards strewn about the floor: "Rapture is Dead." "Let it end, let us ascend." "Ryan doesn't own us." Intriguing. A sign on the wall says all bathysphere travel is forbidden. Whoops. Sorry about that.
0:17 The scythe-wiedling maniac gets gunned down by some automatic defenses. Atlas blames it on the "damn splicers" or somthing. I turn on the subtitles so I don't miss a word. "Would ya please find a crowbar or something," Atlas asks. Gladly!
0:19 Only now does the real tutorial begin. I get a wrench and learn how to swing it and crouch. A flaming couch greets me as a I crawl through an opening. Eep!
0:20 My first fight with a screaming "thuggish splicer." He looks like a zombie. It's over quickly. Some little girl is talking about fire creepily in the background. An old advertisement, perhaps? The splicer is still twitching on the ground. Ew.
0:22 I've always wondered why eating potato chips and candy bars gives you more health in video games. In my experience, those things harm your health.
0:24 Practically everything that isn't nailed down reacts to a swing of the wrench. The little things matter!
0:25 Signs describe plasmids as "evolution in a bottle." That's not creepy at all...
0:26 I inject a plasmid and fall to the floor as my "genetic code is being rewrtitten." Some guys in masks walk by and decide I'm not worth the trouble. A guy in an old diving suit clambers by with a little girl. Weird.
0:27 I wake up to find I can shoot lightning from my left hand. Cool!
0:31 I take down my second splicer using the "zap 'em and whack 'em" one-two punch suggested by Atlas. Easy peasy.
0:33 Atlas tells me a sob story. "I know you must feel like the unluckiest man in the world right now, but you're my only hope..." Gotta go to Neptune's bounty to rescue his family. I guess I owe him, but altruism is weak.
0:34 Creepy! A mom with some sort of antennae on her head cries over a stroller. I approach and she lunges at me with a shotgun, screaming "Baby and me! Baby and me!" I'm practically shaking as I take her out. Atlas tells me the plasmids did this. Is this going to happen to me?
0:35 There's a revolver in the basonet. Just when you thought it couldn't get creepier.
0:36 Signs advertise the Rapture Masquerade Ball for the new year 1959.
0:37 I take out a couple of arguing splicers, one of whom has a shotgun.
0:38 Drinking two bottle of merlot in a row makes me tipsy. Whoda thunk it?
0:41 The cigarettes are called "Nico Time." I laughed.
0:43 It's a little annoying you can't seem to save any items for later. On the other hand, it streamlines things quite a bit. No stalling in inventory screens.
0:44 I find an impromptu shrine to Andrew Ryan, who created this underwater hellscape. I smash the picture. It's surprisingly cathartic.
0:47 I gt a new flamethrowing ability. "Light up foes to 1000 degrees. Warning, fire spreads!"
0:48 So far the foes have been pretty easy. They just lunge at me and I shock-and-drop. The game has been very friendly with health and power ups too.
0:50 Atlas tells me about the "little sisters": little girls who have the DNA that helps keep rapture running. He tells me to throw out whatever I thought about right and wrong. Looks like he's setting me up for some little girl slaughtering later on.
0:51 I watch through glass as someone goes after a little sister and is quickly and mercilessly slaughtered by a "big daddy" in a huge shambling diving suit.
0:52 A sign: "Eve's garden, come bite the apple."
0:53 The women seem much tougher to kill than the men. Interesting.
0:54 I set off a security alert without knowing how or why. I take out a security bot with a lightning bolt and then attempt to hack it with a mini-game. It's Pipe Dream! I used to love this game. Now the bot helps me take out his brethren.
0:59 This is getting a little annoying. I keep setting off security alert with no warning and no apparent reason. Meanwhile, "atruism is the root of all wickedness," according to a sign.
1:02 I set off another secuirty alert, this one with a flame thrower. Three splicers come out at me and catch me off guard. My first death,and a good place to stop, I guess.

Would I play this game for more than an hour?
Oh hell yes.
Why? Humminah humminah humminah humminah (The excellent atmosphere, story, controls and concept have left me speechless).

This review based on a demo version downloaded from Xbox Live.


Steve Jacobs said...

I had the same problem you had with the security alerts going off, and I couldn't figure out what was going on until my second time playing the demo. There's a camera when you first enter that area that will turn and look left and right on either side of it. You can avoid it by watching the red light it emits and moving towards it when it is looking down the opposite hallway.

That's cool about the effects of alcohol, though. I never drank any because I figured that it wouldn't do the guy much good anyway.

Anonymous said...

Nice review. I am definetely looking forward to this game, even though I can't afford a 360 or a gaming PC. =(

James Pikover said...

Ha, when I played it at E3 I had the same exact impression. The second time around I saw some other things, like no shadow left by the protag, the list of different routes, diaries, and some more.

The speechless part included. Absolutely amazing. Can't wait for it to come out already.

David said...

Great demo. The opening sequence is amazing, but a bit too short. Very Cthulhu-meets-Fallout-esque. This is a definite buy, although I'm worried that it will too much about shooting and blowing stuff up than exploring, etc. Fingers crossed.

Unknown said...

Played the demo last night and I was completely floored! I know the debate still rages about "games being art", but if any game deserves to be called "art", this is it.

Great review Kyle. :)

The Sports Satirist said...

Great game from start to finish.

James Everest said...

I don't think that should have taken you an hour to do, but nice recap

Kyle said...

@James, I probably could have blazed through the demo in a half hour or so, but (1) I was going through pretty deliberately to make sure I missed nothing and (2) I paused often to write down impressions.

Mad Chef said...

I thought it was pretty odd that when you find a giant syringe filled with blue liquid, that you go right ahead and inject yourself with it.....don't you?!

alby13 said...

nice one.. i enjoyed your playthrough description :)