I had an opportunity to get a closed-door look at two of 2K Games' next-gen heavy hitters, The Darkness and BioShock. We won't see either game until 2007 at the earliest, but both were complete enough to be shown running in playable, real-time form on an Xbox 360.
The Darkness is a genre-bending action shooter with some heavy horror elements: namely, that the hit-man protaganist becomes possessed by a demonic power. As a result, your character gets energized by the lack of light. For instance: shoot out lightbulbs in a dark alley, and you get tentacles and demonic attack dogs to add to your standard arsenal of firearms. In addition to the game's creepy atmospherics, it also boasts a cool in-game feature called Darkness TV--essentially, any in-game video monitor can display real video clips, running at what appeared to be full speed (24 to 30 frames per second). It's unclear how the feature would be used, but it was certainly an impressive use of the technology provided by next-gen consoles. The Darkness is being developed for the PS3 and the Xbox 360 by Starbreeze, the makers of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
Next up was BioShock. The game is from developer Irrational Games, who created 1999's System Shock 2--widely considered to be one the of greatest games of all time. BioShock is sort of a shooter with some role-playing elements, and the Irrational guys who were running the demo repeatedly emphasized how immersive, interactive, and detailed everything in the game was. At least I think that's what they were emphasizing, because I was too busy getting sucked into what I was watching on screen. The game takes place in an undersea society called Rapture that's been wracked by violence. Rapture has a 1940s art deco look, and the environment is simply amazing: leaking water is everywhere, be it puddled on the floor, spraying from a cracked pipe, or flowing down the wall, and it all looks hyperrealistic. Furthermore, every object in the world is searchable, accessible, and able to be manipulated. Irrational was keeping mum on the details of the story line--you spend the game unraveling the mystery of exactly what's going on--but it appears that Rapture's problems are related to an elemental life force known as Adam that your enemies drain from the myriad corpses strewn about the city. But the bottom line is that BioShock looks stunning, offers a mysterious atmosphere, and presents the player with a free-form approach to achieving the game's objectives. It's slated to appear on the PC and the Xbox 360 next year.