Rapture Revisited – Replaying Classic BioShock

All right! I’ve finished writing my latest blog post, my gaming schedule is clear, and it’s finally time to play the last chapter of BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2!

Or rather, it would be if I wasn’t such an obsessive-compulsive goob when it comes to playing my favorite games.

Narration Audio

[audio http://archive.org/download/rapture-revisited-01/rapture-revisited-01.mp3] Download

Rapture Revisited

Here’s the deal: Some time back, I heard tell that the story in Burial at Sea Episode 2 depends heavily on characters and events from the original BioShock. That’s easy enough to believe, seeing as how Sander Cohen already made a memorable appearance in Episode 1. I fully expect Episode 2 will delve even more deeply into BioShock lore. I can’t recall what originally put that idea in my head, but there it is.

That being the case, one thing is clear: I must now play through the original BioShock in its entirety.

Again.

Naturally, this is the only way to ensure maximal immersion and enjoyment of BioShock Infinite’s final chapter.

So, here we go once more: The plane, the crash, the lighthouse. The descent into the city under the sea. Big daddies and little sisters, Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine.

Returning to Rapture feels strange. I’ve played this series to death. Over the past year or more, I’ve played BioShock, BioShock 2, and Minerva’s Den. I played BioShock Infinite all the way through at least three times, and I’ve played Burial at Sea Episode 1 twice. I did most of this purely for my own enjoyment, but there were a few playthroughs in there that were more research than recreation.

Minerva’s Den was the last BioShock game I played. It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Everything in the game felt put-on, contrived. It felt like I was the lone visitor at some sad BioShock reunion that everyone else ignored or forgot. It was the sort of feeling you might get if you went to Disneyland one too many times and found you could suddenly see through all the animatronic facades. It was somewhat enjoyable, but so much of the magic was gone. As the end credits rolled, I sat and stared at the screen like I was waiting for the real game to begin.

So tonight, as my bathysphere sank into the darkness and Andrew Ryan preached his objectivist sermon to a captive audience of one, I expected more of those hollow emotions to set in. True, there was a bit of a lonely, nostalgic vibe, but I’m more surprised at just how well this game has held up over time. Yes, the graphics show their age, but if you play with a modicum of self-imposed perspective, if you make any conscientious effort to see the game as it must have appeared at its first release, it’s easy to understand just why it had such a huge impact.

No gods, no kings, only man

Game designers still have a lot to learn from BioShock. Not once have I felt artificially impeded in my progress. The game allows me to flow smoothly from one encounter to the next, hindered only by enemies and my own incompetence. The narrative is established so quickly and so well you don’t notice the game has a strong element of story. It blends seamlessly into the experience.

I thought I might make it all the way through to Dr. Steinman tonight, but no. There was quite a bit more to work through than I remembered. I guess the doctor will have to wait.

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