December 23, 2012

Bioshock’s Atmosphere In The Limelight

The dark and deep recesses of Rapture are old now, and it’s time that we visit the sky born city of Columbia.

It’s raining.

You’re rocking side to side in sickly motion as you grasp your stomach. The boat that you’re sailing in couldn’t be any longer than three meters, and the ocean you’re sailing on hides any comfort of a visible horizon from your eyes. Two sailors, a man and a woman, are rowing their paddles in yellow raincoats and fashionable yellow hats. You are curious as to what the destination is, and even more curious as to why these two are speaking of you, and not to you. You consistently ask questions only to be answered with more questions, and almost no empathy to your predicament.

These are the beginning thirty seconds of Bioshock Infinite. It’s brand new, and somehow all too familiar an atmosphere of a dark nature.

Watching the demo, you can only feel uncomfortable by the fact that these circumstances are unexplained. Dewitt opens a small box while the infamous yellow duo blabber on, and in it we see him rotate a picture of a beautiful young woman by the name of Elizabeth. On the back, the words “Bring her back, unharmed” are scribbled cleanly and largely in black ink. In just one minute, we’ve heard nothing but pointless chatter, and still we’ve seen aenough plot twist and character development to last another hour.

The writers of Bioshock concentrate on nothing but the best methods and elements of human nature so that they can ingrain an experience deeply into your mind. Even in the design of the lighthouse, the texture of the wood that you step on and the rays of red hues that shine through the clouds are clear representations of a game that speaks to you beyond your controller.

To make you feel in the dark what you cannot see with your eyes.

When Bioshock first made its splash in the gaming community some five years ago, it hardly needed a press conference to explain why you should shell out sixty bucks at GameStop. Its bubbly animation was no handy cap to its unbelievably bloody nature. Enemies were of the ugliest design, both in faces and voice acting, and even the way their body movements frightened players. But it wasn’t just the design of the characters that blew our minds, because their actions denoted a behavior that we’ve never seen replicated in any game.

These guys laugh maniacally while bashing in skulls with giant wrenches and concoct schemes to trap players in flooded rooms with electric currents. They don’t just aspire for your death, they cringe for your blood and tears.

Of course, the blood and magic of the series aren’t the only things in store for you next March. You have to take into account just how different a world Columbia is. In a scene from Infinite, a campaign spokesman is yelling his heart out to a crowd of possible supporters. The awkward part of this scene?

There is no crowd.

He’s talking to himself.

It helps to understand that part of Bioshock’s role as a video game is to depict the nature of certain eras from different periods in history without actually being in those eras. The message here is non-existent, and this scene simply serves to show you the nature of his character. In a nutshell, this is the bulk of Bioshock’s appeal as a game.

How highly does that appeal reach?

We’ll find out next March when we visit the sky city of Columbia.

Image Credit: 2k Games

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