“I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.”
These are the words voiced via recorded message by the founder of Rapture, the City under the Sea, as you delve down into the fathoms to reach your only sanctuary after swimming toward the open gate of a lighthouse that harbours the entrance to a broken world. You are the sole survivor of a plane crash that almost claimed your own life and now you must tread the halls of a lost city, the final representation of one mans shattered dream. Yes, Bioshock has returned.
It has been nine years since I first walked the ramparts of Rapture yet Bioshock is a legend of the games industry that has aged incredibly well as it more than stands the test of time. As I once more attempt to survive the aftermath of the ‘fall’ of the city that occurred during the devastating events on New Years Eve of 1958 after the ensuing civil war where the most dominating factions of the upper and lower classes fought for control, I can’t help but smile as my mind is once more woven into the tantalising tapestry of this brilliant game.
To those who are unaware, you play as the character Jack who now has the unenviable task of trying to navigate the dark and haunting yet beautifully crafted art deco, steampunk setting as he tries to figure out just what happened and how he can survive. The city of Rapture has fallen and the streets are now plagued by its survivors who chose to ‘splice’ themselves with genetic mutations that have ‘gifted’ them with unnatural strengths and capabilities but is also the sombre reason why their bodies are deformed and their psyches are broken. In the beginning, you are guided by the one and only friendly voice to greet you as you have to shoot, splice and scavenge to survive against the deformed horrors stalking the many passages of this once blissful utopia of free trade and free will, all the while being haunted by the voices and machinations of the last remnants of the cities masters.
“What is the difference between a man and a parasite? A man builds. A parasite asks ‘Where is my share?’ A man creates. A parasite says, ‘What will the neighbours think?’ A man invents. A parasite says, ‘Watch out, or you might tread on the toes of God.” – Andrew Ryan
Rapture is the vision and creation of a man whose very ideals and principles are founded in the concepts of meritocracy and a powerful desire to be free of all outside governance, religion and interference. Above all, he has a powerful hatred of the disease of ‘altruism’ as perpetuated by the ‘parasites’ from above. This city was to be the heart of science, art and industry and its whole economic position was a concept Andrew Ryan (voiced by the talented Armin Shimerman) referred to as ‘The Great Chains of Industry’. As you traverse this blood soaked city you will walk amongst malevolent medical facilities, sinister smugglers dens, underwater forests, entropic entertainment hubs, war damaged housing districts and ravaged research facilities to see what has become of its denizens, the victims of utopian ideals gone wrong that are now referred to as splicers save for a few of the ‘sane’ dwellers who have hidden themselves away.
Bioshock is a game that showcases just what qualities this industry can produce outside of the judgemental and malformed misconceptions that still plague this medium of entertainment. It is a true masterclass in superb storytelling, powerful immersion, marvellous musical accompaniment and gratifying gameplay as it continues to be one of the pinnacles of creative accomplishment as well as commercial and critical success even now. It is one of the greatest examples that a video game can not only be viewed but also lauded as a prime candidate of artistic achievement and debate.
Even better that it has been remastered alongside its companions Bioshock 2, which is just as brilliant and breath-taking, and Bioshock Infinite that changes the formula to send you into the clouds to struggle against the principles of another ‘utopian’ society founded by the zealot Zachary Comstock. I doubt there is a book, game or film that will twist your mind and subvert your thoughts as much as this one. Give it a go, I dare you!
If you are looking for something mesmerising yet horrifying, demented and dark yet beautiful to look at, something that delves into the intricacies and moralities of society, commerce and the perceptions of free will and has you doubting your very ideals if but for a moment, then I could do little better than to recommend that you delve down deep and rise high into the skies to visit these glorious games. For the readers amongst you who just love a good story and maybe crave something a little deeper than your average shooter, then you will be pleased to know that the works of Ayn Rand (particularly Atlas Shrugged) and George Orwell have been mentioned as having heavily influenced the games. For the movie aficionados, the game’s Lead Designer, Ken Levine, has cited Schindler’s List and Logan’s Run as major inspirations.
“Whatever you thought about right and wrong on the surface, well, that doesn’t count for much down in Rapture.” – Atlas
So, will you walk through the depths of the deep to survive amongst the depraved and truly mad fragments of this unique dystopia? Will you murder the innocent to gain the genetic power for yourself so that you stand a better chance against the tirade of tyranny fighting against you? Will you fare better than the others if you choose to take on the monstrously dominant behemoths that guard this source of power?
Would you kindly take the time to visit the Cities under the Sea and Amongst the Clouds so that you may see for yourself?
“A man chooses, a slave obeys…” – Andrew Ryan
Forged From Reverie.