Bioshock Demo Review

By Mike on 9:19 pm

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I spent the better part of yesterday evening downloading the Bioshock demo. It's a hefty file at 1.8gb. Lets take a look at the demo.

The system I ran it on is by no means spectacular but it's capable of running all but the most demanding games on medium to high quality. So far, the only game I've found it to struggle with is Microsoft's FSX, mostly due to its advanced physics. System specs as follows.
AMD Athlon X2 3800+, ASRock 939Dual-SATA2, 1gb PC2700 DDR2, nVidia Geforce 7600GS 256mb manually overclocked, Creative Soundblaster X-FI XtremeMusic, Windows XP Home SP2. I consider this to be a middle of the road system. It's pretty typical of what you'd find these days in your average user's home.
I installed the game on my gaming hard drive. An 80gb Maxtor 7200rpm PATA. An older drive but I prefer to keep my primary SATA drive for other stuff since its faster. Installation was pretty strait forward. Unzipped it, clicked setup, told it where to install it, yes, yes, ok.
Getting into the game. Easy menu styles. It automatically set up the optimum settings for my computer, medium high. No stuttering even with 2xAA and 2x AF turned on. This is where I usually keep the filtering settings, since its the same settings game consoles use. The game can be played with either the keyboard and mouse, or with the Xbox 360 controller. I tried both and controls were pretty easy with both. The Xbox 360 controller is already preset and using it only requires one click. Once you've done that, the menus switch to a console style.

Visually, Bioshock is stunning. The game takes place in 1960. You're involved in a plane crash and are the sole survivor. You discover an mysterious lighthouse, the lone building on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. It belongs to someone named Andrew Ryan, a businessman. The place is empty except for a bathysphere at the bottom of a flight of stairs. You get into the sub and are taken down below the ocean. A movie comes up explaining Ryans dream, the city of Rapture. The screen scrolls down giving you stunning vistas of an art deco styled city under water. The views are truly stunning. The sub then pulls you up to an airlock. You're met with yet another loading screen and then.... BSOD.

Yep, the first time I tried the demo, I got the dreaded Windows blue screen of death. Reboot. Went through the whole scene again. I got to the same spot, the game crashed to the desktop. I hopped onto the internet to check the review sites. Apparently this is not isolated to me. Large numbers of people who bought the retail version of the game are complaining of problems ranging from no sounds to frequent crashes to the desktop and BSODs. The game is also available for the Xbox 360. While the game doesn't crash on the 360, gamers are complaining of frequent frame rate issues. The PC version seems to play smoothly, it's problems are far worse.
To put the icing on the cake so to say, Bioshock also uses the highly intrusive SecuROM DRM system. You'd think they'd learn to stop using DRM, particularly after UBISoft's Starforce copy protection fiasco. In Bioshock, the DRM system only lets the game be installed on two systems at a time. Some gamers with dedicated gaming systems frequently like to reformat their computer and install Windows fresh. Supposedly it makes the system run faster. The problem is that if you don't unistall Bioshock first before formatting, it still counts it as being installed on a separate systems. Do this twice and you have to phone them and explain why their game doesn't work. It also secretly installs strings into your computer's system registry that cannot be removed by even users with administrator level access. This is the same thing that Starforce and Sony BMG's rootkits were doing. Even the demo has DRM. Why?! As soon as I saw that, I uninstalled the game and did a registry clean.

I think Bioshock proves the point I was trying to make the other day quite nicely. Bioshock seems to be an outstanding game but its crippled by bugs and intrusive copy protection. In my opinion, it should not be for sale and should be removed from store shelves immediately until the problems are fixed. Games already sold should be recalled.
Of course by this point the developer usually makes some remark that they cannot possibly test it on all computer configurations. My system is typical for a midrange system that Dell would sell or that you would find for sale at Best Buy. If its having problems, you're probably going to have problems. Of course I know me demanding a recall is about as likely as me winning the lottery, and I don't even buy lottery tickets. The poor suckers who bought the game will now be forced to wait for a patch to fix it, then another patch ad infinitum as I pointed out the other day.

If PC gaming is dying, this is what's killing it. You invest hundreds of dollars in a system and all they give us is shoddily made "blockbuster" games that don't even work. 2K Games is going to have to do a complete turn around. To add salt to the would, I ate up 2gb of my 60gb monthly cap downloading this garbage. Bioshock looks like such a great game which is the sad part. I was considering buying it until I uncovered the mess. Way to go 2K, you're crap lost you a sale.

So lets get to the numbers.
Graphics: 9 out of 10 - Stunning art deco visuals
Audio: 9 out of 10 - Great sound
Gameplay: 0 out of 10 - Where's the game?
Controls: 7 out of 10 - Typical console shooter
Overall Quality: 1 out of 10 - looks great but its broken
Value: 0 out of 10 - broken games shouldn't 60 cents let alone $60

Overall Rating: 1 out of 10
-Has potential but needs a complete overhaul.

2 comments for this post

To be absolutely fair though, no game can be guaranteed to work on everyone's system. I've just tried the BioShock pc demo myself, sure it took a few hours to download, but using Steam, its relatively pain free. No DRM worries here. As for the first point, I was running windows vista home premium with a nvidia GeForce 8500 GT, with a core 2 quad at 2.4 GHz and 4Gb of RAM, hard drive cluttered as hell, and not a single problem with bioshock. Whilst Vista might not be perfect, and is certainly a step down from XP, its the most recent operating system from microsoft and as such developers will focus on making their games work for it. As for you're DRM rant, are these people not allowed to protect their interests? They have to make a living as well.

Posted on 17 December 2008 at 19:22  

Wow, resurrecting the dead here. Anyway, I'm not a professional reviewer so I can only comment on my own experience. I'm not sure what was causing the crashing issue but all I can say was I got the demo from a legitimate source and it didn't work.

As for my DRM rant, the issue at hand isn't so much about protecting interests. The problem is that legitimate consumers are being played monkey in the middle in the unending battle between the pirates and software publishers. More often than not, it's the legitimate gamer that gets punished as more draconian restrictions are placed on games. Take the huge amount of controversy over SecuROM in Spore. Of course they have rights to protect their property but they don't have the rights to build planned obsolescence into their titles. In this regard, DRM can hurt a game's reputation, which will ultimately hurt sales more. The fact that the music industry is moving away from DRM shows that it is not a worthwhile tool for protecting their interests.

Posted on 18 December 2008 at 16:48