The year is 1984, almost forty years after the foundation for Rapture was laid and long after the departure of Sofia Lamb from the decimated city. To most intelligence agencies across the globe Rapture has gone silent; no radio transmissions have been intercepted in almost five years and no traffic has been monitored coming in or out of the underwater city. To the outside world it appears that Andrew Ryan’s mad yet partially successful dream has come to a bitter end.
Meanwhile, on the surface, the tides of change are coming in. Four years after the death of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Community Party, the Soviet Union is entering a state of collapse. The still newly appointed General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, is struggling to contain the situation and hopefully restore power to the once great nation. It is still fighting a fierce war in Afghanistan and Soviet satellite states are abandoning communism in favor of democratic and capitalistic approaches. Even attempts to restore the public and international trust via doctrines such as Glasnost are not helping to save the fledgling nation.
On one chilly November afternoon Gorbachev receives a classified report concerning the perceived dead state of Rapture. Survivors of the city are few and far between to locate but in the documents it is revealed that an interrogation of a former Little Sister who was rescued by Jack and brought to the surface gave detailed accounts of Plasmids and their ability to alter human DNA into a malleable yet controllable weapon. Engrossed by the possibility that this could be the tool needed to return the Soviet Union to prominence, Gorbachev calls together a meeting of his best and most trusted military minds to discuss recovery operations. A plan is formed, detailed, and, just a week prior to New Years, enacted.
A Soviet fleet is dispatched to the 63°5’N, 29°55’W, the location of the lighthouse above the dead city. In what is perceived to be the largest deployment of Soviet naval assets since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and NATO’s militaries are placed on high alert and begin to deploy their Atlantic fleets in an attempt to shadow the Soviets. Learning that a Soviet reconnaissance force has been put in place in and around the sea above Rapture, intelligence officials deduce that the Soviets are mobilizing to take control of it and the technology within. Fearing a resurgent Soviet threat and the possibility of a new arms race, one that the Americans would not have a leg-up on, President Reagan orders an American team to Rapture in hopes of beating them to it.
They fail and the Soviets arrive first. As the Soviet fleet enters the scene on New Year’s Eve they attempt to contact their reconnaissance force; nothing. All attempts to reach them fail and the fleet’s admiral orders a Spetsnaz team to the patrol crafts adjacent to the lighthouse. When the team boards the lead craft they find no one. All the equipment is intact, all their weapons are still unloaded and in their proper space, and there is even coffee in the pot, albeit cold. In essence the men have simply vanished. Thinking the men may have gone down to the city itself the Spetsnaz team is recalled to the flagship where they board a minisub that will take them down to the city.
As the sub descends the small portholes gaze upon the art deco buildings that have stood tall and strong for almost half a century. Despite years of war and lack of maintenance they still look intact and almost habitable were it not for them having no signs of power or life. As they approach their destination, the same bathysphere terminal Jack arrived at twenty-four years prior, the team sees lights coming from inside. As the sub docks and the team exits they are greeted with a horrific sight: the mangled remains of the reconnaissance crew now ripped apart and strewn across the floor and walls. Only one body remains intact, crucified against the wall. Above it, written in the blood of the men, a message reads: “Rapture will rise tonight.” Reporting in to the fleet, the team is cut off in mid-communications as static fills the airwaves. The lights suddenly goes out and a scream comes from the point-man whose body flies past them. One by one the team is literally torn apart while gunfire partially illuminates the source of death. Whatever it is, it’s huge. As it continues to tear its way through the team, the last man watches as his leader is grabbed by the head and thrown against the wall. The final man runs and manages to get into a derelict bathysphere; the creature closes fast but stops just short. It stands there for a minute breathing a guttural, animalistic growl and it stares at the last man. With an ethereal voice that sounds more like a beast than man, it speaks.
“Your time will come little one.”
With a grunt, the bathysphere is lifted into the air and is hurled against the wall, crashing against it with a large clang. As the man slips into unconsciousness you hear an almost demonic laugh as the title screen rolls.
The Way to Play
In most modern shooters you see the same format over and over again: cover, shoot, cover. Bioshock changed this formula with the introduction of Plasmids, a tool that would become utilized by players as much as the weapons themselves. Should the base gameplay of the Bioshock experience change to fit the modern methods established in Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the likes? In my opinion: absolutely not.
In the original marketing for Bioshock, the game was advertised to be a horror title that would live up to the legacy left behind by System Shock 2. It succeeded, in part. Throughout first playthrough of Bioshock, I often felt like I was ill prepared to deal with the challenges ahead which added to the horror . The only thing detracting from this feeling of horror is the - unfortunately - necessary role of the Vita-Chamber.
If you remove the fear of death, there is almost no reason for a player to feel fear. Without the threat of loss of progress a gamer can do some Leroy Jenkins-style charges over and over again to defeat the enemy over time. In order to truly appreciate the horror aspect of Bioshock, one needs to disable the Vita-Chambers to really feel the consequences of foolhardy balls-to-the-wall escapades and.
For Bioshock 3, I would propose to either make the Vita-Chamber a story-imperative piece of technology or to get rid of it all together. I can picture a sequence early on in what would be Bioshock 3 in which, as the player is being briefed on Rapture 101, a distant explosion from another building causes a power surge that causes the Vita-Chamber network to be completely destroyed or at least becoming disabled. In the case of the latter, I’d suggest that they only be active in segmented areas or levels and that they would require powering up in order to be utilized if worse comes to worse.
Another suggestion I would have is for the Vita-Chamber network to be narratively crucial. Sure, Bioshock 2’s story opens with the main character being revived from death ten years after he died inside it but after that they only do what they were built for.
One idea might be to make resurrection a necessity in order to advance the plot. Suppose our main character is trapped in a room that is slowly filling up with water. On the other side of the room, separated by a glass wall, is a Vita-Chamber that needs to be powered. Right next to him is the control panel. A time limited hacking puzzle causes the Vita-Chamber to power on, allowing the player to kill himself instead of suffering a painful drowning and a game over screen.
And there are other improvements that can be made as well. According to the Rapture narrative, Jack and Subject Delta are the only two known to have had their genetic information stored in the Vita-Chamber network. In Bioshock 3, years of neglect might have made the network vulnerable to hacking, allowing anyone to be resurrected. Imagine, if you will, a boss enemy that continues to resurrect over and over again, endlessly hunting you down as you progress through a level until you are able to disable the local Vita-Chamber network. How terrified would you be, low on ammo and EVE and hearing the approaching footsteps of an enemy that you don’t think you can take down again with your limited resources?
The game might also introduced consequences of a revival. When resurrected, you automatically have all of your inventory back, ready to face the enemy head-on once again. If your equipment did not come with you and all you had was your one bar of health of a single bar of EVE, it would certainly spice things up. If you'd then have to seek out your lost weapons and tools in an area ridden with enemies, the challenge would be complete.
What Evil Lie in the Hearts of Men?
Splicers are a key ingredient of the Bioshock series. These denizens of Rapture who became addicted to ADAM have been driven mad in their never-ending quest for more. These people were victims of their own devices and thus many of them find themselves stuck in a never-ending cycle of rage and sorrow. With thousands of them patrolling the streets of Rapture seeking their next hit of ADAM it is understandable that they would make a great common foe to run into.
Therein lies the problem: the evolution, or rather the devolution, of the Splicer. According to the story of Bioshock, ADAM is able to unlock the potential of human DNA at the cost of physical and mental deformation. While Bioshock depicted the madness one suffers from after ingesting ADAM into oneself, the Splicers more or less appeared like any other normal human being. Conversely, during Bioshock 2, which takes place eight years later, players were shown aging Splicers whose physical appearance had been deformed severely in most cases, leading to many of them being obligated to wear masks.
What if Splicers change even further and twenty-five years after first splicing up they were still alive? How would this be represented in the game? We actually have some choice examples to examine this idea with, notably Frank Fontaine from the end of the first game and Gilbert Alexander from the second. In the first instance we witness the over-splicing of one in a very short length of time. Fontaine’s transformation in that time turns him into a sort of demigod not unlike that of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. In this case Fontaine appears to retain his mental prowess. In the instance of Alexander however this is not the case. Whereas Fontaine was transformed into a hulking pinnacle of the male form, Alexander instead turned into a gigantic, almost prenatal human not unlike a child still in the womb. The contrast between the two is stark but it does give clues as to how large a threat a Splicer can become if exposed to too much ADAM over period of time.
In a way Bioshock’s Splicers are a bit of a commentary on Darwinism and evolution. Not unlike the possibilities of the genetically-altered beasts of the Resident Evil series. Is it possible that prolonged and continued exposure to ADAM would induce genetically destabilizing conditions that would allow for continuous, unrelenting growth not unlike that of a cancer tumor? If this is the case, then wouldn’t the type of ADAM ingested by a Splicer help artificially determine the genetic outcome of him/her?
With that in mind, the Splicer could be a far more fearsome character than they have been so far. It could also introduce a hierarchy instead of just a simple variety. Imagine if Spider Splicer’s continued to evolve to a state in which the lower half of their bodies actually resembled a spider. Imagine the Houdini Splicer having their skin pigmentation altered to a permanent state of translucence rather than just being able to teleport wherever they wanted. Or, even beyond that, imagine a Splicer whose body exhibits plant-like characteristics and can manipulate the environment around it with releases of pheromones. The possibilities are endless.