Over the course of this generation, one of the more interesting new intellectual properties has been a spiritual successor to a long dead one: Bioshock. It was produced in part from the mind of Ken Levine, who helped shape famous titles such as Thief, Freedom Force, and series namesake System Shock 2. He, and his team Irrational Games, made one of the most iconic series in gaming today.
Despite the continued success of the Bioshock series, 2K as a whole is looking to branch out in new directions rather than continuing to milk their genetically-enhanced cash cow. Irrational Games is working on a new, unannounced project that is reported to be unrelated to Bioshock. 2k Marin, the lead development studio for Bioshock 2, is working on XCOM, a 're-imagining' of the classic sci-fi franchise. With both studios working on other projects, gamers are left to wonder when, if ever, the Bioshock franchise will surface again (pun intended).
It stands to reason that 2K is missing out on a grand opportunity by (seemingly) not actively working on a Bioshock 3. Is Bioshock on hiatus just to make room for XCOM and the new game that Irrational is working on? Personally, I think the series is better served by concluding it rather than putting it on hiatus. I am excited about the possibilities of XCOM but would rather play another Bioshock than play something else. And when I say 'conclude' I really -do- mean conclude the series. Let it go out on a high note, ending the Rapture story and ensuring that we will never return to the destroyed city beneath the waves.
Warning: following includes spoilers to the storyline of Bioshock 1 and 2.
At the heart of almost every great singleplayer game is probably one of the most important aspects of gaming in general: a story. Sure, gameplay is essential in creating a masterpiece but when combined with a great story you can completely alter how one approaches the game as a whole. Bioshock doesn’t deserve this fate and neither do we.
I’ve always enjoyed games that explored the concept of a Cold-War-gone-hot scenario. Titles such as World in Conflict and Freedom Fighters have always excited me, as have books like Red Storm Rising. After all, during one of the most dangerous times in recorded human history never has the fate of our entire species been in such doubt as it was during that forty year period after the fall of the Nazi regime.
Andrew Ryan, one of the main antagonists of the first Bioshock, knew the risks of what must have appeared to him as a no-win scenario between the two superpowers. To his eyes the world was too polarized between politics and religion to allow for survivability in a world where the power of the atom had been harnessed for destructive purposes. I believe that was one of the many reasons he founded Rapture: to help ensure that, if the world above the waves fell into a disarray of war and nuclear fire that the pinnacles of humanity would live on.
If I am correct in assuming that Ryan’s vision for an underwater utopia was fear of the outside world then there were definitely reasons to justify such a drastic course of action. After all, the Soviet Union finally developed an atomic bomb in 1949 and steadfastly deployed the weapon for use amid rising fears of invasion by NATO and the United States. In response the Western powers drastically increased their arsenals and the friction lead to the largest arms race in the history of mankind.
While societies above the waves quibbled over the use of a nuclear weapon, deep within the North Atlantic a new type of weapon was being discovered: a genetic one. Sometime between 1948 and 1951 Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, a former German scientist who had come to Rapture following World War II, found herself passing through Neptune’s Bounty, one of the first areas you visit in Bioshock, and watched a former soldier unloading a barge with another worker. What she found fascinating was that the worker’s hands had been paralyzed during the war several years back. When she asked how his hands had become functional once again he said that he had been bitten by a sea slug and that the following morning he had awoken to find himself able to articulate his fingers for the first time in years. When asked if he had kept the slug he said yes and offered it to her, ignorant of the repercussions.
This gave way to the birth of ADAM, the genetic currency of Rapture and the very reason for its eventual downfall years later. The viscous substance the sea slug created was able to alter the genetic material within the human body. Ryan did not see the possibilities of such a life-altering discovery and refused to offer funding to Tenenbaum’s research. Another man named Frank Fontaine, whose funds came from smuggling illegal goods into Rapture, did. His funding lead to the eventual creation of Tonics and Plasmids, the weapons that would soon alter life for the worse rather than the good of the people as intended. And thus, on New Year’s Eve in 1958 it all came to a head when Fontaine, under the guise of Atlas, lead teams of Splicers - citizens who had become addicted to ADAM after ingesting Plasmids - in strikes against key locations within Rapture, igniting the Rapture Civil War.
ADAM and its weaponization of the human body through Plasmids could fundamentally alter the balance of power in the world and potentially the course of warfare forever. No more would the mightiest weapon be that of nuclear fire; instead you would fear the ordinary man who walks down the block who could cause you to burst into flames with a snap of his fingers. An army of Splicers has the potential to topple an entire nation and all it would have to do is live among us waiting for the right time to attack.
So what would have happened if either of the Cold War superpowers had gotten a hold of ADAM and Plasmid technology? Ryan was justifiably fearful of this possibility. This is very apparent in the meta-narrative behind the fall of Rapture in actions such as closing down the bathysphere transportation system in and around the city, effectively cutting off Rapture from the outside world. Nowhere else in the series is this more apparent than during the opening events of Bioshock in which the main character, Jack, gets trapped by Ryan in-between stations and accuses him of being a foreign agent here to procure Rapture technology.
But what if Ryan’s worst nightmare came to life? Here is one scenario I’d like to offer that provides a glimpse as to what that could be like.