A Fight for Survival Under the Sea
By Angela Alvarez
As I cocked my customized shotgun and delivered the final blow to a thickly built and powerful figure with an enormous power drill for one hand, his tiny and frail child companion burst into tears of mourning. She yelled, “What’s wrong with you, Mr. B!” to her protector who lay limp and useless on the ground. The child stood hunched over and barefoot in a blue dress, and her orange-glowing eyes cried into her palms. With her guardian out of the way, she was vulnerable. She was mine. I stood towering over her, faced with an important decision – do I harvest an important life source from her, a process that will kill her, or do I save the child from the parasite and risk my own survival?
This is a scenario that Microsoft’s recently released FPS BioShock presents you with a dozen times throughout the game. BioShock’s theme is simple: the choice is yours. This game gives you the ability to make decisions regarding your own character’s power, weapons, inventions, his manipulation of the environment and his morale. And every choice you make affects how you’re able to play the game, and even how the game will end for you. The fate of your character literally lays in your hands, whimpering and pushing you away as you attempt to extract the life source, Adam, which is a necessity if you want to survive in Rapture.
Rapture is an underwater city built by Andrew Ryan, who believes in freethinking, free enterprise, and individualism. Your character, Jack, finds himself in Rapture after surviving a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean, in the 1960’s. The plane goes down near a lighthouse that leads into the city, and the second Jack makes his way to the ocean’s surface BioShock completely compels you with its graphical beauty. The water surrounding your floating body is extraordinarily stunning, and the moon glistening on the surface and fire falling from the sky add an incredible effect.
The environment you find yourself in once you descend into Rapture via bathysphere is completely immersive and gives you the sense of destruction and desperation, a complete contradiction to the city’s name. The place is deteriorating and crumbling, the tunnels are leaking, mutated corpses are scattered, and it’s visually beautiful. Searching these corpses, trashcans, ashtrays and other objects will be crucial for your survival, because you need and can utilize so much of what remains in Rapture.
Once you reach Rapture’s floor, a man named Atlas makes contact with you through a shortwave radio, and continues to assist you throughout the game, in hopes that you will help him reunite with his family. Several other key characters will try to persuade, intimidate or invite you through the radio as well. Atlas clues you in to what has happened in the city, propelling the storyline and instructs you on the best possible ways of staying alive.
BioShock leaves everything to be customized, allowing each gamer to have a unique experience creating their own pathway to surviving and completing the storyline. Your survival will rely on four things: Adam, Eve, ammo and the environment. Adam keeps the inhabitants of Rapture going. They are willing to kill for it because in Rapture, Adam is power. It is a substance that allows you to mutate your body with Plasmids (but from what we can see, only the left hand exploits these powers), turning you into a genetically advanced, high–defense man of capability and opportunity. There are several different types of Plasmids, ranging from Telekinesis to Electric Bolt, and all of them allow you to manipulate the environment and enemies to your advantage. There are a dozen small girls called Little Sisters roaming the halls of Rapture harvesting Adam from dead bodies, and they are the only way you can get your hands on it. But before you can even lay a finger on them, you must take down their protectors, the Big Daddies. The Big Daddy (or as the child calls him, Mr. Bubbles) is powerful and will ram and shoot you in an effort to keep his companion alive.
Eve is like the ammo for your Plasmids – no Eve, no way to use your Plasmids. It’s found in the form of a liquid, and injected into your veins through a syringe. The other types of ammo in Rapture are typical to weapons you would find in any other FPS – the pistol, grenade launcher, shotgun and a few others, though there are unique types of ammo, each best suited for different enemies. The weapons are customizable and give you the opportunity to decide how formidable and useful each one will be.
You can fully interact with the environment, and keeping a close eye on the way it works is important to making your fight for survival easier. It reacts the way it should to your will – fire will spread, water conducts electricity and you can throw almost anything. Taking advantage of safety hazards such as oil slicks and puddles will give you the upper hand in the many battles you will face – for example, shock an enemy that stands in a puddle for a stronger attack. Vending machines and bots can be hacked by completing puzzles, and successfully hacking rewards you with cheaper goods, and protection.
There are minor problems with BioShock, but they in no way seriously affect the gameplay. While BioShock’s graphics are top-notch, the game does have some issues with textures popping in and out. And for those that use captions during their games, the words at the bottom of your screen move much more slowly than the voices.
BioShock will give you a unique experience every time you play the game, granted you make different decisions each time you do. Completing the game the first time is all the encouragement you need to start the game again. You will find yourself pondering, what would have happened if I did that, or didn’t do that? The replay value is high, the storyline is full of twists and turns, and interesting characters, and the atmosphere delivers the feeling of being a man dying to survive.
This article was originally published in Fall 2007, for Brooklyn College’s The Excelsior.