I spent much of the weekend playing through the new game Bioshock on my Xbox 360. Wow, what a game, and a work of art. It took me around 20 hours to play through, but I want to go back and do it again, as the choices you make in the game influence how the story progresses. I'd like to make a few different choices, and see what happens. What makes this game so special? Outstanding story telling (which is pretty rare in a video game), excellent art design, and game mechanics that let you play in radically different ways. Most first-person shooters are just that, you run around shooting things. In this game, if you want, you barely even have to use a gun.
The game is set in an art deco underwater city that was founded in 1946 by Andrew Ryan (Andy Ryan = Ayn Rand) in an attempt to create a utopia where science and art would be unconstrained by morality, government, and religion. Of course, things sort of went wrong...
I'd write more, but I don't want to give away any of the story, and it's very engrossing. Here's a blurb from IGN's review that sums up how I feel too:
But to call this game simply a first-person shooter, a game that successfully fuses gameplay and narrative, is really doing it a disservice. This game is a beacon. It's one of those monumental experiences you'll never forget, and the benchmark against which games for years to come will, and indeed must, be measured. This isn't merely an evolution of System Shock 2, but a wake-up call to the industry at large. Play this, and you'll see why you should demand something more from publishers and developers, more than all those derivative sequels forced down our throats year after year with only minor tweaks in their formulas. It's a shining example of how it's possible to bring together all elements of game design and succeed to the wildest degree.