As we continue BioShock Season, leading up to the release of BioShock Infinite, community man Rory Mullan takes a look back at where it all began; somewhere, beyond the sea…
Freedom Is No Better Than Chaos
Rapture is a beautiful city. Where no gods or kings exist, only men. It is the pinnacle of man’s achievement, a true paradise where the gifted and the elite aren’t forced to confine to the petty rules of morality. This is where the merits of capitalism combine with the citizens to create a perfect eclipse of ideals, justice, liberty and prosperity. Those were dreams and aspirations become reality, and troubles and injustice fade into the past. Except that was a lie, like the cake. Created to avoid the troubles of the post-war world, a little something called socialism, and to create a perfect liberal economy, Rapture has fallen victim – like any failed liberal paradise – to the abuse of freedom by those in the public and the administration. The citizens discovered ADAM, a powerful gene altering material that is found in sea slugs, and promptly began abusing it until Rapture’s society completely broke down into feral bands of revolutionaries fighting for failed causes and corrupted, brutalised Splicers.
A wise man once said, absolute freedom is no better than chaos.
You, Jack, have been traveling on a plane that was en route to London. When it crashes, you are the only survivor, and make your way to a small lighthouse. This lighthouse is actually a deceptive entry point to Rapture, and unknowingly you are dragged into the madhouse. When the founder and creator of Rapture’s liberal economy, the man behind Rapture’s primary philosophy – let the weak be exploited by those above them – and newly established tyrant, Andrew Ryan mistakes you for a spy and a saboteur from the ‘surface nation’, you are guided by freedom fighter and leader of the working class revolt against Ryan during the Civil War – Atlas. Atlas asks you – in his thick Irish accent – to help his family, who he had taken to Rapture for a better life. This is when it would seem that the economy that was designed to be completely liberal and created by Ryan had failed when the lack of regulation plunged the city into Darkness.
Glorious Dread and Sorrow
This is your first chance to see Rapture. It is a glorious sight, the brilliant 50s architecture, the schools of fish swimming outside and the down-trodden, devastated streets. When in Rapture you are bombarded with constant feelings of claustrophobia, dread and sorrow. The game doesn’t let you forget you are isolated and caught in a situation that really is extraordinarily unique and relentless. Still, it is a very fascinating setting. The futuristic plasmids and technology combined with the 50s architecture and culture, mixed with the claustrophobic scenario creates a very surreal and engaging world. BioShock had no intention of being some generic first person shooter, it wanted to create its own style of atmosphere and feel, though with a huge nod towards System Shock 2. This combined with the fascinating posters and advertisements that showcase the merits of a liberal capitalist haven and the stunning old world soundtrack create one of the best and most interesting worlds of this generation.
But things aren’t quiet long. When Ryan discovers that you have associated yourself with Atlas, he deploys his Spilcers – individuals manipulated and corrupted by the constant abuse of ADAM – to deal with you. It is then you get to experience the very dark nature and history of Rapture, and it’s genuinely unsettling when you discover that those that didn’t go insane had been massacred by those that did. Grim tidings. As you travel, battling Splicers, Big Daddies with their Little Sisters and Andrew Ryan, you discover the best parts of the game. It isn’t the action that makes you want to move forward, it’s Rapture and the stories it tells. Every second you are locked in a perpetual state of wonder and awe, but you can’t escape the feeling of dread and sadness of this failed utopia.
Would You Kindly?
But then, the only way for you to escape this world is to embrace it. This is where the RPG progression systems come into the game. You have to alter your character to survive in this world, and when you fall into the power that comes with abuse, it sends a special message to you as a player. It shows you the motivation of the splicers, and reminds you in a very grim way that you aren’t much better. As you travel around the failed utopia, you are confronted with numerous fights and battles. The gunplay is clunky but passable, and you will forget this once you dive into the fiction and the atmosphere. Saying that, the Plasmids work like fun little magic spells, and leveling them up entertains and motivates engaging gameplay – they’re my favourite part of BioShock’s combat.
Near the conclusion of the game, you are confronted with possibly the greatest piece of video game writing ever. If you haven’t played BioShock – would you kindly buy it? – I won’t spoil it for you here, but when everything comes together and you connect the dots it is a feeling of complete admiration for the writers, led by Ken Levine. This is the kind of talent that makes me excited for Bioshock Infinite – where are they going to take us, 6 years on? Looking back, BioShock is an absolute classic. I whole heartily recommend everyone plays it, if only for the twists and turns. It is a great game, that if you are a gamer, you shouldn’t miss out on it. If BioShock Infinite lives up to the quality and standard set by this game – or even surpasses it, which it certainly looks set to achieve – we are looking at a possible candidate for game of the generation.
– Rory Mullan.