I wasn’t as taken with it as Tycho. The most obtrusive problem is the enemy design. In System Shock your enemies were programmed cyborgs which explained their simple enemy behavior. In System Shock 2 they were mindless mutants, which ditto. But the people in Bioshock are people, and I simply do not understand why every single person in the world is willing to fight to the death to kill me as soon as they see me. You can say, “Splicing drove them insane” except that there are several points during the demo when I hear splicers talking to each other rationally. Of course, as soon as they sense me, they turn into Quake 1 monsters and all I can do is shoot them.
Second flaw, in my opinion – very little backstory. Atlas starts barking orders at you as soon as you leave the bathysphere and tells you nothing about what is actually going on in the city. Yes, one of the charms of games like this is that you piece it together for yourself, but it’s just incongruous not to get ANY information from him…even if it’s misinformation. He doesn’t even tell you about plasmids; your character basically just walks up to a busted vending machine, picks up a syringe and plunges it into his forearm for no good reason (as far as he knows at the time).
The whole demo just feels kind of lazy, as if Ken Levine & Co are betting that you played previous Shock games and know the formula and thus they don’t have to spend time setting things up.
And one more niggling thing…the voice messages you get are vital both in terms of plot and to keep the gameplay flowing, and they are hard to understand because of all the “it’s a late 50’s recording device” scratchiness overlaid on them. I turned on subtitles, but that’s got its own problem…subtitles actually run ahead of the audio you’re listening to, which is annoying, and the only things subtitled are recordings and transmission – no in-game speech is subtitled.
The good? Goshwow, it’s pretty (though my computer can barely run it). The story does seem complex and interesting and there’s a suggestion on one of the voice recordings that Atlas is not being completely straight with us, so it may not just boil down to Ryan == Bad, Atlas == Good. Plasmids are fun. Shooting is fun (if the frame rate can stay high enough to make it possible). Holy crap the game is creepy in spots – excellent atmosphere.
I’ll almost certainly pick up the full game eventually…but unless the game improves immensely, I don’t think it’s going to beat System Shock 2 despite all the pretty.