BYTES REVIEW | Bioshock, a submarine dystopia

Sagitta Tech
6 min readMar 7, 2019

It has been more than ten years since the world of digital entertainment was introduced to a work of art in games. If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience this game - or would like to remember it - it’s never too late to revisit Bioshock’s Rapture.

So, prepare to hold your breath and dive with me in this underwater world that mixes the fantastic with the real, where madness dominates and there is danger and mystery in every corner of a ruined city.

An almost perfect city

Before we recall the importance that Bioshock had for the industry and the FPS genre, we have to comment on the most powerful element of the game: its history.

Without revealing too many spoilers (as revealing details of Bioshock’s narrative is the same as spoiling a birthday surprise), just know that in a quick sequence of events your character will end up in Rapture, an underwater city that should have become an utopia.

In a matter of seconds you realize that something has gone terribly wrong and that this futuristic dream is now just a nightmare in which you desperately need to escape. It is a perfect mix of science fiction and horror in the right measure.

In the early twentieth century, disillusioned with political regimes and humanity in general because it seemed to limit the power of human thought, eccentric millionaire Andrew Ryan decided to bring together the world’s greatest minds in various fields of science to build his dream city.

Rapture was built at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, far from any bureaucratic power or even from the limits of morality and ethics. It was a place where, in Ryan’s own words, “science could flourish without limits”.

The idea sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, intentions always are. The problem was that Ryan did not take into account human feelings such as greed, anger and selfishness and, in a short time, his longed-for utopia fell into chaos.

A civil revolt unleashed by the mysterious Atlas exploded and the city became a hell inhabited by citizens maddened by the fascinating power of ADAM.

This substance was discovered in marine larvae, and Rapture scientists found that it could modify DNA and give the X-men worthy powers to the user. To live up to the biblical nickname, the tonic that recharges the powers generated by the different Plasmids (the formulas created with ADAM), received the name EVE. Nothing more appropriate.

The only thing the scientists didn’t warn about was the side effects of the drug. Psychotic outbreaks, cell degeneration and violent mental disorders were just some of the symptoms that excess and lack of ADAM could cause the human body.

The story is still full of parallel plots and mysteries to discover as you delve deeper into the city and try to find a way to return to the surface. Little Sisters, girls modified by ADAM to look for the substance in corpses, will be walking around with their faithful protectors, the Big Daddies.

These monsters (who were once normal men) wear a scuba suit and protect the girls fiercely, posing a greater threat than any nut that the player will encounter on his underwater path.

Injecting a Plasmid on the FPS

But a game does not survive only on history (although several titles achieve this feat). Thus, there are two elements missing from this recipe that created a remarkable game for a whole generation. The first would be combat mechanics.

Unlike the style already consolidated up to that time with FPS, Bioshock created a system in which the player could use a weapon with one hand and a power based on the incredible Plasmids with the other hand.

This feature made fighting fluid and exciting, where you needed to be quick to choose which weapon to use in combination with which power.

The other element, on the other hand, would be the game’s scenario, which still impresses today due to the wealth of details and all the attention that the development team devoted to creating an immersive experience. I highly recommend it for those who have never had the chance to play the game to try the HD version, as the setting is impressive.

From the effect of water falling on the walls, to the sound of sounds in the distance, everything combines to create a 1950s noir atmosphere perfect to add a touch of survival horror to the game. At no time do these two genres conflict or pass in front of the other in Bioshock. The game’s narrative is in charge of balancing horror with action in the right measure at all times.

Bioshock managed to give good scares when it was necessary to explore some environment in search of supplies and was faced with a hidden enemy. Perhaps the only part of the gameplay that managed to break the pace of the game a little was when it was necessary to hack a machine to obtain resources, since the puzzle with the pipes could be annoying in the middle of combat.

In addition to these main elements, Bioshock added a finishing touch that managed to leave the plot’s course in the player’s hands: choice. During the journey through Rapture, as soon as you destroyed a Big Daddy you were given two options: save or kill Little Sister.

If you saved her, the girl would flee to safety and you would gain some ADAM in the process. Otherwise, her profit from ADAM would be higher, but the girl would disintegrate into a disgusting slug.

Depending on how greedy you were in the game, the ending would change. It was a very Manichaean issue (in which there are only two choices: good or bad) when compared to the immersive experiences of the current industry, but, for the time, it was a milestone.

Another essential element to create the unique atmosphere that Bioshock has is its soundtrack. Period songs with classics like Frank Sinatra and others play all the time through Rapture, with scratched record sounds and unregulated audios, contributing to the decadent atmosphere that the city exudes.

There’s always a lighthouse…

Of the following two titles that followed the style of Bioshock (Bioshock 2 and Infinite), it is certainly the first that remains with more affection in the memory of fans and players. So much so that the elements of the game were mixed in a plot elaborated to compose part of the history of Infinite.

Certainly, for all those who completed the journey through Rapture for the first time, the feeling that remains after firing the last shot or using the power of a Plasmid for the last time, is that no one would have imagined that something so surreal and fantastic would have started with just a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean.

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Sagitta Tech

O Sagitta Tech é uma página dispara uma flecha certeira na direção do que é mais interessante no mundo da tecnologia e games, por Luís Antônio Costa.