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Shock to the system

Shock to the system

Gamers hold certain legendary titles in high regard, even if they appear terribly dated to modern audiences. Next to Goldeneye for the N64, the game most often mentioned in this context is the PC game System Shock 2, which was a first-person shooter with a deep plot and stealth, adventure, and RPG elements. Behind closed doors, 2K Games showed off an early build of BioShock, a spiritual, if not literal, sequel to that gaming classic from the same developers, Irrational Games.

Set in an art deco midcentury underwater city, BioShock is easily the most impressive game I've seen so far at this year's E3. While the game unfolds from a first-person point of view, it's definitely not a first-person shooter. In the short demo level we saw, ammo was scarce, and obstacles had to be overcome with cunning and stealth as often as firepower. Like the classic System Shock games, situations encountered in the creepy ruins of the underwater city can be tackled a variety of ways. For example, a rotating security camera can be avoided by destroying it, by hacking a nearby security console, or by simply by dashing by when the camera is pointing away from the player.

Besides the open-ended gameplay and deliberate pace (punctuated by moments of frenzied action), BioShock had some of the best graphics we've seen on any Xbox 360 or PS3 game, despite still being in the early production process. Water and lighting effects were as good as any next-gen tech demo, and the highly stylized art deco city was a welcome change from the usual mix of warehouses, urban street corners, and space stations. It's easily a leading contender for Best of Show.

Currently being developed for the Xbox 360 and PC, BioShock is expected sometime in 2007.