I really enjoyed this level. Chalk it up to great writing and character development.
This level, and Sander Cohen in particular, is one of the main reasons I decided to re-play the original BioShock. Mr. Cohen appears in Burial at Sea Episode 1, and I’ve heard he plays a rather important role in Episode 2.
It’d be a stretch to say I like Sander Cohen. There isn’t much to admire there, considering most of your actions in this level are driven by his insistent demands that you murder people, then photograph their corpses for his grim magnum opus.
But, like him or not, at least he’s well-written. Whereas Dr. Steinman comes off as a cheap excuse for blood and gore in the game (I just can’t buy into Steinman’s revelationary aversion to symmetry), Cohen has a story grounded in believable motivations.
Before I go on, please note: Everything I’ve written here was recalled from my admittedly flaky memory. I’m unable to verify facts for fear of reading spoilers for Burial at Sea Episode 2. That said, please regard my summary of Sander Cohen’s history with a healthy shot of skepticism seasoned with a grain or two of salt.
Sander Cohen came to Rapture pursuing the promise of artistic freedom. He felt he’d found an ally and fellow visionary in Andrew Ryan, but over time, reality set in. Even in the supposed utopia of Rapture, people were unwilling or unable to appreciate his vision, his genius. Now take that mind, with its penchant for bizarre grandeur, and riddle it with adam, and you get the unsettling shell of a man you find inhabiting Fort Frolic.
Cohen might be a freak show, but he’s a freak show with a great script.
Beyond my efforts to gather notes on Sander Cohen, another highlight of this level was a well-timed, Whovian “weeping angels” sequence.
The setup begins as you descend into a flooded basement. A single light bulb hanging from the ceiling flickers, revealing a plastered and presumably deceased figure sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, facing away from the player. This simple arrangement is especially creepy if you have any experience with old houses and neglected basements. By this point in the game, though, you’ve seen dozens of these figures: well-preserved victims of Cohen’s artistic endeavors. You move on.
As you explore the basement further, you find a “Power to the People” station where you can upgrade a weapon. Huzzah! Take your time, review the list carefully. You only get one upgrade. Once you pick something the machine will shut down and there’ll be no changing your mind, no going back.
There! For better or for worse, you’ve made your choice. There’s nothing else to see here. Time to move on, and…
…and then you turn to find, striking a graceful pose right behind you, the stark white form of a dancer encased in plaster. Your brain barely has time to ask if she’d been standing there the whole time when she gives you her answer, screaming to life and lunging at you.
I forgot about that part. Certainly made me flinch. After dispatching the splicer, as you walk back to the stairs, an empty chair in the corner confirms your suspicions.
Finally, thanks to an observation my daughter made, I now refer to my machine gun as my “lol gun” (look in the lower right-hand corner of the second photo on this post).