A plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean and there is one miraculous survivor. Stranded in the sea he makes his way to the burning light of a nearby lighthouse. Emblazoned in a marquis above the arch reads ‘Welcome to Rapture’. Inexplicably drawn to a bathysphere deeper within our hero hears words of desperation coming from a nearby radio. The static laden voice asks the survivor to come to Rapture and help him save his wife and child, for Rapture has lost its mind. The survivor cannot speak, he cannot disagree. He would kindly love to.
To the sea floor he goes bound for a city in which the great are not restrained by the weak. Where the human genome has been mapped, a map which they have changed into a canvas. And where a man is entitle to the sweat of his brow.
Published by 2K games, and developed by 2K Boston and 2K Australia with help from other 2K teams. Bioshock was planned as the spiritual successor to System Shock 2 after 2K got bored of making games in the future/space. The original idea did take place in space with a drone, defender, harvester relationship being the primary focus of the game with the player being a sort of brain-washing enthusiast. These themes were too dark and were considered un-publishable but the themes would endure to Bioshock as we know it.
Fun Fact: The underwater 1940s-punk aesthetic of Rapture was created because the team thought cyber-punk was getting a little boring.
Bioshock was released on August 21st, 2007. It’s competition was Wild Arms 5 (PS2), Medieval 2: Total War: Kingdoms (PC), and Lair (PS3).
Last week on this very blog I discussed Dishonored, a game that lies to the player too much for all the wrong reasons. This is a game that employs its deception masterfully. I fear I may have gone too far bringing it up but the game is 9 years old and I just have to point out when people do it right. And in this post-Undertale world the line between mechanic and in-game entity are becoming more and more blurry every day… and it makes me giddy.
Bioshock is a first person Action RPG which features a host of weapons, pseudo-magical powers — called plasmids –, tons of upgrades, and hordes of different kinds of enemies who’ll want to mess up your day. The game leads you on a guided tour of Rapture’s most prominent — and deadly — locations as you find more weapons to keep you up to snuff in combat and plasmids to widen the design space — seriously, just think of all the things you can do with the power of telekinesis or the ability to shoot lightning… in an underwater city.
No matter what you’ll be fighting your way through Rapture. How you do that is up to you. You can spend ADAM to upgrade or purchase additional plasmids, use dollars to buy ammo from hackable vending machines, or use other machines to upgrade your favorite shooter. All of these being totally viable options.
What’s this ADAM that’s in all caps up there? Why it’s the genetic sensation that’s sweeping the city! ADAM is a miracle material that allows quick and easy manipulation of someone’s genetic code, giving them the power to create fire or summon a cloud of angry bees — warning. Sellers of plasmids are not responsible for unintended genetic rewriting or any damage to the psyche caused by use of such products. How do you get ADAM, well you’ll (harvester) have to get it from the Little Sisters (Drones) but be careful of their Big Daddy bodyguards (defender). What you do with the poor girl is up to you at that point but, just remember, you get more ADAM by performing invasive surgery to get the ADAM out.
Between weapon, plasmid, and personal upgrades the only wrong way to play the game is not to explore and discover these things — then again, that’d make a helluva challenge. Even if you want to go through the whole game with the wrench as a melee warrior that’s totally possible and even capable of doing more damage than any other weapon in the game.
Holy philosophy Batfellows! Are you ready to see Capitalism, Libertarianism, and even more isms duke it out for control of Rapture? If you’re not then you’d best get ready because that’s what this game is all about.
I’ve got to say, I really like the hacking minigame. I never though pipe dreams could be so much fun!
Rapture might seem too far out to be real but I find it incredibly fascinating that it’s not impossible to build the fabled city. It would be incredibly impractical — and even more expensive — but Andrew Ryan was not a practical man. The sheer technical possibility of its creation — even in the era of the game the 1940s — shows how much the designers cared about the world they made.
The music in this game is very impressive. I still can’t listen to ‘Welcome to Rapture’ without shedding a tear. It perfectly compliments the visuals musically with ideas of what could have been. Something irrevocably lost, a doomed experiment that could have produced wonders.
I really like the persistent moral choice presented by Bioshock but I feel the good side of the bargain might be too powerful. The big choice is rescuing the Little Sisters and getting a small ADAM supply or killing them — well… they might survive the incredibly invasive surgery — and getting a huge ADAM supply. But if you keep saving the children then you’ll be rewarded with little care packages filled with med kits, unique plasmids, ADAM, money, and even special ammo types. In the end harvesting all of them only offers the player 10% more ADAM than they would have gotten otherwise. Oh… well, I guess the player doesn’t know that. The player has to trust that their good deeds will be rewarded in what presents itself as a Libertarian utopia. That all of Ayn Rand’s ideas go out the window when someone’s kindness is rewarded. When someone does something just because they feel that butterfly roiling of a good deed. That people feel indebted to those who do right by them. Did I just talk myself out of thinking this was bad design?
The final boss SUCKS. After all this buildup and all of these complex psychological themes and intrigue the final boss is a big red jerk you shoot until he dies — three times, just in case one was too easy. The game even has a killer finale leading up to him that had my pulse pounding and my hands sweaty with stress and excitement. But the let down of his defeat could only be saved by the game’s stellar ending. Still, the fight is really boring and plain.
Wet damn this game is good. For twenty dollars on Steam it’s a steal. And that’s not even including buying a used copy for your console machine or how cheap it gets when it’s frequently on sale online. I cannot recommend playing this game enough. I find it incredibly shocking how well it holds up today.
Next Week: Bioshock 2