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Around this time last year we got our first little taste of what could be expected from Bioshock, when 2K Boston/2K Australia released an impressive 14 minute gameplay trailer. Bioshock is considered by its developers to be the "spiritual successor" of the well acclaimed System Shock 2 as there are a number of similarities between the two. Like in most first person shooters, players work their way through levels as the story unfolds, collecting various items and weapons. There are also special powers that give the player telekinesis or electro-shock, which are useful when fighting the numerous bad guys that you will run into.
The game takes place in an underwater city called Rapture and while this is an action first person shooter, at times the player will need to use stealth to sneak past security cameras and bad guys. The player can also hack into security stations to turn automated drones on to the enemy. There is much more to this game than meets the eye, which can be discovered when playing the 1.8GB demo which was released just weeks ago.
The full version of Bioshock has also been released for both the PC and the Xbox 360, allowing us to purchase a copy and do a full analysis of how the current crop of videocards do in this next-gen FPS. The game uses a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3, also used by Epic's Gears of War and upcoming Unreal Tournament 3 game. Given that Bioshock is a single-player only game, we were a little amazed by the hype that surrounded it, yet the fact it offers breathtaking visuals and while the gameplay itself is quite good, the jaw-dropping visuals keep you entertained right till the very end.
Now, we see how this could become a problem for some. Bioshock will retire most graphics cards, as we have found that even when using low quality visual settings at quite low resolutions, even newer graphics cards such as the GeForce 8600 GTS and Radeon HD 2600XT really struggle to keep up in this game.
As such we do believe this game needs to be played at a reasonably high resolution with maximum in-game visuals enabled to be fully appreciated. This article should give you a pretty good idea of what graphics cards can and will provide you with playable performance using such settings. Of course not all of us can afford a graphics card upgrade at the drop of a hat, so we will also show you what settings you may have to use for good enough frame rates, and if your current graphics card is even capable of playing this new first person shooter.
In order to evaluate the performance of this game we have taken five popular ATI graphics cards and five Nvidia graphics cards. These have then been tested using the low, medium and high in-game quality settings at three different resolutions that are generally supported by 19", 22" and 24" LCD monitors.