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August 22, 2007

Filed under: gaming»software»bioshock

Lapshock

Because I know I was looking for this information and couldn't find it: Bioshock (the demo, at least) does run playably well on my Thinkpad, which is using an nVidia Quadro 140M (roughly equivalent to a destkop GeForce 6600). Obviously it doesn't run native resolution with everything turned up, but I seem to get good results from 854x480 and High settings, or native resolution and low settings.

Neither of these is an optimal solution, of course: replaying Halo and Half-Life 2 on the laptop, which runs them better than my old desktop, is a revelation in how much easier they are to play with high resolutions and smooth framerates. But Bioshock is certainly playable, especially considering that I beat and enjoyed both of those other games at similar view sizes (and without all the eye candy). If I were willing to try a combination of medium settings and non-native resolutions, I'm sure I could do quite well.

Actually, it does raise the question, though, of how well something has to run before it becomes unplayable or clumsy. When I used to play Counterstrike, before I realized that it wasn't much fun being beaten by obsessive players with better reflexes and equipment, I would always hear that the really competitive players turned off as much detail as they could, in order to boost the resolution and still keep a good framerate. The argument, I believe, was that it's easier to be precise when your view is sharper, even if it's not as pretty.

But then, I don't really play multiplayer anymore. So what makes the game "better?" Which side of the tradeoff between resolution and eye candy, given limited hardware (since I am never going to be the kind of person that spends $600 on a video card), works best for an individual? For me personally, I've been choosing shiny effects over more pixels, particularly for a game like F.E.A.R. where the graphics are kind of the point. I find that I don't notice the low resolution once the game is in motion anyway, especially on a 14" screen.

As for Bioshock, the demo is reasonably fun, but it's short (I downloaded two gigs for that?), and I don't really understand what all the fuss is about. It's slick and well-presented, but there are some jarring exceptions: I always thought System Shock 2's menagerie was odd-looking, and Bioshock shows that Irrational still can't do a human model that doesn't look vaguely like a creepy marionette. The hack minigame, also, is one of those things that yanks me right out of suspension of disbelief. Why am I suddenly playing Pipe Dreams? It's been thirteen years since the first System Shock game, and no-one can think of a better way to do this?

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