by Wade Manns – The Corsair
Genre: First-person shooter/adventure
Rating: M (for violence, blood, gore and strong language)
In the field of video games, few settings serve as effective dystopias like the Rapture of the BioShock series. This underwater city was founded by the wealthy industrialist Andrew Ryan, a staunch objectivist who believed that mankind should be free to pursue its wants and aspirations without the cold hand of morality or ‘the state’ or any kind of higher authority blocking its path. As a result of this, his citizens began research into genetic engineering, which is a risky proposition in any society. (And, to warn you, some plot points here may also bend standard morality.)
They made a breakthrough in the discovery of what they called ADAM. Secreted in a processable form by a previously undiscovered species of sea slug, this substance had the power to rewrite its users’ DNA, giving them new abilities or simply changing their looks.
This substance, when paired with specific DNA rewrites known as Plasmids, gave the users actual powers they could use in their world, whether the ability to set things on fire with a snap of the fingers, or to pick up objects from across the room. With the advent of these chemicals and the ambition to better themselves, the citizens of Rapture slowly decayed into a frayed mental and physical state, becoming known as Splicers.
A doctor working under Ryan, Tenenbaum, discovered a way to implant the ADAM-producing slug in the stomach lining of certain citizens of Rapture (and later on, even those who were not citizens), and condition them to go around and extract the ADAM from the inevitable corpses resulting from excessive splicing so it could be reused. These extractors became known as Little Sisters, for they were, after all, only little girls.
A bloody riot on New Years Eve of 1959 forever altered the landscape of Rapture and turned it into about as desolate a wasteland as an enclosed, urbanized space can be. Ryan managed to survive this ordeal, and repurposed the maintenance workers of Rapture, encased in diving suits, to be the mindless protectors of the Little Sisters. These protectors were known as Big Daddies.
That’s where the protagonist of the first game, Jack, comes in. He hijacked a plane and crashed it into the Atlantic near the lighthouse entrance to Rapture, where he worked for a revolutionary who called himself Atlas. Atlas wanted to kill Ryan, apparently for turning Rapture into the leaking, derelict waste it was, and he needed Jack’s help. Jack fought through multiple levels of the city, killing ravenous, mind-blasted Splicers, as well as taking much of the ADAM he needed from the Little Sisters. He did this by either directly harvesting the sea slug or removing its influence on the Sister without harming her. He did, of course, have to deal with their Big Daddy protectors beforehand; these are arguably the toughest fights in both games (though in the second, the Big Sisters, who are even tougher, make appearances).
Ryan was found and summarily killed, and Atlas turned out to be one of Ryan’s competitors, Frank Fontaine, who now believes he possesses the ultimate power in Rapture; he had become a monster due to his excessive splicing, with brass-like skin and incredible powers. He too is slain after an epic final battle, and Jack, depending on how he dealt with the Little Sisters, either returns to the surface to live out his life in peace, or stays in Rapture to cruelly use the resources under his control and build his own empire.
The second game places you in the role of the first Big Daddy to be pair-bonded to a Little Sister. Subject Delta, as you are known, has free will and a much more agile style than the production-scale Big Daddies which are encountered in both games; unfortunately, you’re just as vulnerable as Jack was in the first game, at least at first.
You’ll go through a more linear form of locations you touched on in the first game, but exploration still exists. You’ll also have to watch over your own Little Sisters as they extract ADAM (and are attacked by Splicers who are attracted by the prospect of getting more of the vile-but-necessary substance). And like Jack, Delta has his own personal agenda in Rapture; he must find the Little Sister (now grown) to whom he was first bonded ten years prior: Eleanor, daughter of the new “leader” of Rapture, Sofia Lamb, who’s developed a religious following after the deaths of Ryan and Fontaine.
The graphics in these games are top-notch, showing Rapture the way it’s meant to be shown, a leaky, cracked, falling-apart underwater city, due to implode at any time due to the pressures of the ocean. Though prosperous in its time, it’s clear this place is no longer habitable in a normal fashion. This is aided by the sound design, which casts ominous creaks and groans throughout the sound stage and makes one feel very claustrophobic.
Add to that some of the best voice-acting you’ll hear in games, both by the main characters and the roaming Splicers, and you’ve got a pair of tremendous, epic, immersive experiences. If you can stomach some of the more controversial plot points in the game, and enjoy this type of game, you’re sure to love this. Five stars out of five, for both.