October 26th, 2007

Pretend it’s the year 2007. Oh wait, it is that year. Okay, pretend it’s August, and Bioshock just came out. You go to The Village Voice website, and you read a review. It starts something like this:

Little girls roam ruined halls with giant needles. Old-time records fade in and out of blood-spattered bathrooms. Outside, swimming past a glass-faced building, is a giant whale.

This is Rapture, the underwater dystopia of Bioshock. Bioshock is that first-person shooter that’s got everyone talking, and with good reason. From its opening moments — as your plane crashes into an black, inky ocean, as you descend through a seemingly abandoned, watery metropolis — Bioshock sets itself apart from other games. Not only is it aesthetically striking, it’s surprisingly intelligent. Though most of the gameplay is indeed spent shooting anything and everything that moves (that’s typical in a genre defined by giant, floating guns), there’s an amazing amount of artistic detail here for the less trigger-happy player to stop, admire, and even analyze.

The city of Rapture–so the story goes–was founded by Andrew Ryan, an industrialist who believed that every man was entitled “to the sweat of his own brow.” The little people of society, however, with their “petty morals,” shouldn’t get in the way of greatness. Of course, this Ayn Rand-style individualism goes seriously awry in Ryan’s world, which is now more dark and wet and creepy than great. Rapture’s citizens, the ones who haven’t fled or been killed, are wacked out on self-improvement mutations, which have in turn left them deformed and fighting mad. Suddenly The Fountainhead is looking more like Brazil or City of Lost Children — that is, if they were inhabited by art deco zombies.

Bioshock is packaged like a mainstream game. Its box promises — goody goody — customizable weapons and kick-ass powers like shooting lightning out of your hand. But don’t be fooled by Bioshock’s mainstream PR, or its mainstream fan base (for a thought-provoking game, it’s got a surprisingly enormous following in the video game world), or even its honest to goodness mainstream elements. The game employs a lot of straight-up clichés — its system for collecting items, its economy for buying new power, its predictable blocked doors. Sure, in a mainstream kind of way, Bioshock is an excellent game. But it’s in the unusual, artistic details that it really steps above the game masses and becomes great.

Well, now you’re back in October. Bioshock is not new. The review is not a review. And it’s author just couldn’t deal with not doing something with that intro section. Ah, the magic of time travel…

Tags: bad Bonnie, reviews

2 Responses to “You Are Magically Transported Back in Time…”

  1. Alex Says:

    Andrew Ryan is so Orson Welles. In the way that he’s the real mysterious star of the show, to a point, and the story’s about what he created and his downfall and how the player’s only really a vehicle to tell that story. Like how that barely memorable main character in Citizen Kane is only really there to uncover the mystery behind that whole Rosebud thing. Yes.

    And yes I know that there’s a point in the game where that ends and it’s all about the player again. Well. Jack, not the player. So don’t correct me on that thankyouvehrehmooch.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I think that’s actually a great point. There’s definitely something very Orwell in Ryan’s voice as well.

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