Mechanically Beautiful: The Bioshock Series

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The “Bioshock” series is considered one of the greatest video game series of all time. In fact, on IGN’s “Top 100 Games of Our Generation” list, gamers voted Bioshock 2 at #76, Bioshock: Infinite at #9, and Bioshock at #6. These games have captivated players for years, and not only through interesting stories, but through an incredible art style as well. The worlds and characters of Rapture and Columbia are so unique and pure that they immediately bring the player into the game itself. While it may seem cheap to just throw all three of these games into one article, they all have such similar elements that it wouldn’t make sense to only focus on one of them.

“Bioshock” was released in 2007 by 2K Games. This game focuses more on setting than story as it introduces the players to the twisted world of Rapture. Rapture is an underwater city created by Andrew Ryan in the mid-1940s. Ryan wanted to create a Utopia free from the surface’s government. However, the invention of Plasmids as well as rising tensions between citizens caused a civil war, leaving Rapture to ruins. In “Bioshock”, the player controls a man named Jack. Jack has just survived an airplane crash right where Rapture is located. Taking an elevator underwater, he discovers a radio which he uses to talk to a mystery man named Atlas. Atlas claims that he can help Jack, but he asks him to save his family first. The player then strolls through the world of Rapture as Jack, discovering more about the rise and fall of Andrew Ryan and his city.

Source: bioshock.wikia.com

The dystopian world of Rapture is unlike any that I have seen before. Even though “Bioshock” is set in 1960, Rapture still carries the aesthetics of the 40s and 50s, which I am a huge fan of. The setting uniquely captures what Rapture was in its prime as well as how it crumbled. The player can simply look at the propaganda posters throughout Rapture to see how it was without much explanation. Rapture is so twisted in an amazingly curious way. There is one doctor that you encounter near the beginning of the game who used to do plastic surgery for patients. He slowly starts to go insane the more he does plastic surgeries. You discover this simply by walking into his office, where you see various posters of mix-and-match faces, as well as some recordings that you find. As you approach him, you discover that he has been taking citizens and trying to “make them beautiful”. He has them hanged on a wall after he’s killed them out of frustration, whether it is because they were too thin, too short, or too ugly. This is just one example of how Rapture corrupted people’s minds and made them twisted and insane. (If you can tell from my past articles about Alice: Madness Returns and Limbo, I like twisted games.) The concept of Plasmids is also something that corrupted the minds of Rapture’s citizens. Plasmids are genetic powers that can be powered by EVE and purchased by ADAM. The religious symbolism is one thing that I love about this concept. Another thing is how this affects the citizens who overdose on it. These deformed creatures become the main enemies that you fight throughout the game, known as Splicers. You also see how ADAM has affected the children of Rapture – mainly, little girls. Little girls have become Little Sisters, possessed by their ability to seek out ADAM from corpses. These girls are protected by men in machines, known as Big Daddies. While this concept is explored more in “Bioshock 2”, the concept behind them is also fascinating. Overall, “Bioshock” is a uniquely twisted game that pulls the player into the history and world of Rapture.

“Bioshock 2” focuses more on story then setting, since “Bioshock” introduced the player to the world of Rapture. In this game, you play as a Big Daddy named Subject Delta. You start the game by watching a scene of Delta and his Little Sister, named Eleanor. A woman named Sofia Lamb uses a controlling Plasmid on Delta and commands him to shoot himself in the head. Ten years later, in 1968, Delta reawakens with no recollection of what happened. Using various messages from Eleanor as well as help from a man named Sinclair, Delta searches through Rapture in an attempt to defeat Lamb’s forces and reunite with Eleanor.

Where “Bioshock” lacked in character and story, “Bioshock 2” excelled. This story manages to play at the player’s heartstrings right from the beginning. You start to feel sympathy for Delta as he pushes his way through Lamb’s relentless attacks. You also start to feel bad for Eleanor, as you learn that she has been locked away and conditioned by Lamb in an attempt for her to be a Messiah of the people and learn all of their memories and thoughts. Even Sinclair is an interesting accompany to Delta, especially towards his demise at the end of the game. While “Bioshock” had sympathy for the main character towards the end (in that awesome plot twist), he was basically a stranger throughout most of the game. While that was part of the game’s plot, it still seems like “Bioshock 2” correctly captured each character’s personality. Lamb, Eleanor, Sinclair, and even the new Big Sisters all have unique and expressed personalities that help add to the game’s story. While most of the setting of Rapture remains the same, there are some additions. Thanks to Delta being a Big Daddy, he can travel through the flooded areas of Rapture, which you could not in “Bioshock”. Towards the end of the game, you actually play as a Little Sister that is being controlled by Delta. You discover that the Little Sisters see everything in a beautiful and heavenly scenery, even if that is not how it actually looks. You can also see how Little Sisters view the corpses containing ADAM. The flashes between reality and what the Little Sisters see is extremely interesting and adds a new perspective on the already interesting world of Rapture. While “Bioshock 2” seems to be considered the worst game of the series, it still is a beautiful game that captures another story and perspective of Rapture.

Subject Delta. Source: artasgames.wordpress.com

“Bioshock: Infinite” has the perfect blend of story and setting. This game takes place in the all-new world of Columbia, a floating city. In this game, you play as Booker DeWitt, a man who has been sent to rescue a girl named Elizabeth from her home, where she is locked away. If Booker rescues her, he will “wipe away the debt”, which remains a mystery until the end of the game. This game has the job of introducing the completely new world of Columbia. Columbia is an extremely religious city founded by Zachary Comstock. Graphically, Columbia is absolutely stunning. The first images you see of it as you come up from an elevator just blow you away. While the first two games were beautiful in a dark way, Columbia is extremely bright. Every little detail is visible. You actually get the sense of a Utopia, or simply a serene paradise that you would want to stay in. Of course, that all quickly changes once the gritty secrets of Columbia are discovered. You start this discovery at the famous Raffle, where the price is throwing stones at an interracial couple. As the game goes on, you discover various other secrets that break Columbia’s façade. The Vox Populi is one example. They are a rebellious group who goes against the rule of Comstock. This causes tension and violence between the citizens of Columbia, similar to the fall of Rapture. The steampunk design of Columbia and its enemies are also unique and contribute to the game’s multi-layered atmosphere of reality and fiction.

Elizabeth. Source: plusxp.com

The characters and story of “Infinite” is probably the most important component of the game. Early on, you discover more about the character of Booker. In truth, he’s a drunk who couldn’t handle himself after the Battle of Wounded Knee and kind of became a jerk. Then he meets Elizabeth, who is one of my favorite characters of all time. Elizabeth is an independent young woman who has been forced to live in her home since she was a baby. She has spent her captivity teaching herself many skills by reading the many books that she owns. She also has the power to make “Tears”, or portals into other dimensions. She uses this to create cover for Booker as well as help them escape peril. Elizabeth is so great because she can take care of herself in battle; it literally says that once you enter battle with her. She also finds various items for you throughout the game, including ammo and money, as well as picklocks doors to help you advance. At one point in the game, Elizabeth is no longer by your side to help you. Without her, I ran out of Salt (the equivalent of EVE), ammo, and health kits. I ended up attacking every enemy with my Sky Hook (the equivalent of a wrench or spin drill). It was terrible. I realized that I needed my companion, which doesn’t usually happen in video games, especially with women. This, as well as the growth with Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship throughout the game, causes a feelin
g of sympathy and likability towards the characters. Even other characters, such as Comstock, Daisy Fitzroy, the Luteces, and the Songbird are also all unique and interesting. The plot twist at the end of the game is what is the most amazing. You discover that, in another dimension, Booker decided to become Baptized. He then changed his name to Comstock and created the city of Columbia. Because Comstock’s interdimensional travel caused him to become sterile, he went back through another dimension and took Anna, Booker’s daughter, from him to “clean him of his sins”. Anna’s name was changed to Elizabeth. The letters A.D. that were carved into Booker’s hand now make sense – Anna DeWitt. This plot twist, and the overall ending, were extremely emotional and made the game a truly unique experience.

Everything about the “Bioshock” series is unique, twisted, and beautiful. Even the music to these games is great – in the first two games, it was classic jazz. In Bioshock Infinite, it’s jazz with a mix of covers of modern songs. I could go on forever about these games. Overall, the graphics, story, characters, worlds, and music make this series truly one of a kind, and truly mechanically beautiful.