Bioshock Remastered: Crab deception under the sea
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
I was relaxing at a beach the other day when a crab with a thick Jamaican accent appeared. It advertised how everything is better under the sea and how much land is overrated, it convinced me. Because of the sterling sales pitch I planned to pick up the Bioshock collection. However when I got home I discovered that the crab had gifted me the entire collection! ‘Wow’ I thought ‘This crab really wants me to visit this undersea wonderland...” Rapture seemed like the perfect place for someone like me. Free from the shackles of the government and other vampiric institutions-plus it was under the sea.
One game later:
THAT CRAB SCAMMED ME!!!
Nice game though.
Jack was simply another passenger on a plane heading to some unknown destination over the Atlantic. After a devastating crash where he was sole survivor he takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned lighthouse. Once inside however he discovers an entrance to the crumbling remains of a once promising Utopia: Rapture. Now trapped inside with only the voice of a mysterious Atlus as a guide he tries to find a way out and survive the onslaught of Rapture’s mad, mutated citizens. Along the way he discovers harsh truths about his past and connection to Rapture’s overlord, Andrew Ryan.
If you had not played Bioshock before you would think that, from what I have described of Jack. That he is pretty compelling, fully voiced character. The former is correct but the latter is not. Asides from a few lines at the start he is completely silent for the rest of the game. Even though Jack is a silent protagonist and yet still be more than a camera is testament to the writing. Unlike a lot of the silent protagonists who exist only to allow the player to insert themselves into the game. Jack undergoes revelations to his character. We are drawn into his situation and sympathise with him when things go from bad to worse. All without him saying a word.
Politics (Not as bad as it sounds):
There are too many memorable moments to chose from, when Rapture is first introduced to the player as narrator by Andrew Ryan. The first encounter with a Big Daddy/Little sister, or the twist around “Would you kindly”. The game’s story is fantastically memorable. It’s also a unique location and position in Dystopian fiction. There has been no Dystopian setting before or since that has been set under the sea. Because of this Rapture is rare example originality within the genre visually and within location. Bioshock is also unique in setting in terms of the political ideology behind the downfall.
More politics (Still not as bad):
Normally Dystopic fiction takes the extremes of Fascism (1984, Handmaid’s tale, Fahrenheit 451, etc) or of Communism (We, Animal Farm, 1984 (depending on interpretation) etc). Rapture’s downfall is rather the fault of extremist Libertarian beliefs. I have yet to see another Dystopia that does not follow the favourite two extremes (Communism/ Fascism). Rapture is a one of a kind entry into Dystopia fiction that cannot be ignored. Rapture is an artistic marvel that deserves to be studied by anyone looking to write a setting or simply as rare truly original setting and idea on the corruption of ideals in the face of authoritarianism.
Would you kindly?
I want to talk about the twist for a paragraph or two, because it is that good. We all know that the phase “ Would you kindly” is related to mind control and that Jack was being controlled by Altus(Who would reveal himself to be Frank Fontaine) . The build up towards the reveal is spectacular and the reveal itself by Andrew Ryan himself. He forces Jack to kill him with the “Would you kindly” command. I have grown to love games who understand the interactive nature games and the somewhat existential sting of losing control within the medium. Bioshock predates some of the famous examples (Undertale, DDLC or Pony Island) and it holds up to day. The “Would You Kindly” scene is a masterpiece twist and meta existential horror.
And some bad things:
I have praised the game’s writing and it’s well deserved. The only problem is a fault epidemic to games at the time of original release. The moral choice system: If you decide to harvest even one of the innocent little sisters then you will get a bad ending. Regardless of if you change your mind or if there are nuanced reasons for survival in the rotting society, in the moral choice system there are only good things and bad things. No nuance or room for forgiveness, just good people and bad people. Because I harvested two little sisters out of need to get by and had a change of heart out of pure empathy. I was branded by the game as a greed driven monster. I am not angry I am annoyed when games only give black and white moral choices and expect it to be nuanced.
Gameplay is a FPS with RPG elements. Its gunplay is fine, not the most nuanced in the world. You dash around shooting things while devouring health kits all the way. The guns are decently punchy but there is no strategy aside from picking the ideal gun and run around the room until everyone stops moving. Strategy however comes in with the inclusion of plasmids. The magic (?) of Rapture. From vast array of stuns, traps, and other abilities allow players other ways of getting past turrets and the many enemies Rapture throws at Jack. They make up for the somewhat rudimentary gunplay. The encounters with the Big Daddies are equally thrilling and terrifying even if you tend to die very fast without means to avoid the damage.
The hacking minigame is rather frustrating, lacking in skill and reliant on a random element. I found the best way to hack was to uncover as many tiles as possible and link them together as fast as possible. The only time I failed was when the game just spawned broken tiles/tiles that trigger alarms in such away that makes the puzzle impossible. However that impossible to win state was rare. The hacking is fine if an annoying reoccurring distraction from the real game.
Each part of Rapture explored in the game are levels, places where you have to travel to in order to complete whatever task/s are assigned to that particular area before moving onwards. They are levels hidden under the guise of maps. It’s pretty standard but gets the job done even though there is no reason to go back once you have completed each map . Every area is a semi open world map. You can simply follow the objective marker and get the job done but you have to scavenge around in order to insure survivability. Health kits, Eve hypos (mana kits so to speak) run out very fast in most combat situations (the fights with Big Daddies especially) so it will be in your best interest to find as many advantages you can.
This encouragement of exploration is further stressed and rewarded by hunting down the Big Daddies and saving/killing the Little Sisters. In order to take full advantage of the Plasmids you have to find and kill the Big Daddies in order to get to the Little Sisters because there is no other way to gain Adam. Exploring is too the only way to find all the collectables (film reels that provide Director’s commentary (Which I stupidly did not pick up) along with the audio logs that provide back-story to the fall of Rapture. The game is endless rewarding to explore from a gameplay perspective.
Art style and Graphics:
The graphics, for a remaster most importantly are rather unimpressive. There is a bit of polish that makes everything seem a little bit shiny. The art style however is outstanding. The contrast with the bright colourful 1950s decor against the sombre darkness of the sea and Dystopia is wonderfully realised. The horrific science fiction monstrosities that are the Splicers and the Big Daddies contrasted by decor and 1940s/1950s tunes. (Beyond the Sea and How much is that doggie in the window as examples) all create a wonderful atmosphere of dread and tragedy.
Before I began my play through I was warned that Bioshock Remastered had some performance problems. Namely multiple crashes. I was lucky as the game only crashed once. However performance problems manifested (please note that what I am describing happened to me and might not occur for you). The game kept opening in Windowed mode even though it claimed it was full screen. I had to trick it to become full screen every time I opened up the game. Even more distracted was the fact I could see outside the map every time I died (which was alot considering how hard the Big Daddies hit). It breaks my immersion (personally) every single time I am reminded I am just playing a game with hideous outer map reveals each and every time the camera fell down.
Also this sort of thing...
Rather ugly isn’t it?
If not for the persistent performance and optimisation issues I would have no problem putting this title in the Hall of Fame. It’s wonderful disturbing adventure though a wholly original world. I would recommend to people with the caveat that you will encounter some problems that can distract or even game breaking.