N00b Diaries: Bioshock Chapter Three – The Wide Road to Hell

Day Eight:

By this point, I thought the game had etched the peripheral line past which other games fear to tread; etched that line and stepped boldly over it. Then I got to the theater level, and found that Bioshock had actually power-vaulted over said line. About the time that I hear Sander Cohen’s reading of “The Wild Bunny” while transfixed by the mask on the wall perched in front of the statued man, I really understood that all bets were off.

But this isn’t profanity for the sake of mere shock value, or the macabre as seen by the sane. This is gorgeous and unmitigated insanity! For example: I had to stop in the flooded men’s room for the purpose of admiring the shadow play of the three arranged figures. I was not at all ashamed to say that it didn’t matter when Don intoned “You know those are real people, right?” I was impressed by the distinctness of the inverse shadows on the back and front wall, how one perspective showed the three characters dancing separately and the other combined them into something like a mythical three-headed creature.

Suddenly this seems like a confessional. At least I think it does, being that I am not Catholic and have never actually been to confession. I feel like I need to ask forgiveness, from whom I am not sure, for thinking that Cohen’s self-indulgent homicide/art is actually one of the more beautiful things I have seen in the overwhelmingly beauty-filled world of Rapture. I know that it’s wrong to think of this as pretty even though this is a fictional world.

Maybe that’s just the point, though; the world of Bioshock has become so real to me that I am attaching a deeper level of morals to it. How do I best describe this… you see, I have found myself having empathy for the Little Sisters, but that’s not out of the ordinary. I have empathy for Sanrio characters, for the love of Pete. But now I am feeling regret for my empathy toward a character whom I like, whose “work” I appreciate, regardless of the fact that they and it are supposed to be plainly bad.

I felt a bit of pride in my role as Cohen’s moth. I am not sure if it is because of this or because of my passing some sort of threshold in gaming ability, but I have suddenly become a killing machine. My wallet’s full and all of the Little Sisters are saved, but I am still taking down Big Daddies because they use up more ammo. I am becoming inventive with my use of plasmids, especially the cyclone trap, and setting up perimeters embedded with proximity mines.

I find myself wandering around Fort Frolic long after the picture of the intended victim is taken, knowing that splicers will keep getting tossed at me. I’ve hacked every health station in the level even though I haven’t needed to, just to sabotage the splicer I let make his way to one with his last breath. I have hacked security cameras, not so much for the protection or the convenience, but so that I can be alerted to an enemy, pin point his location by following the security bots, and take him down along with them like a cruel hunter amidst his starved and angry dogs. I have most recently taken to experimenting with different pairings of ammo and plasmid attacks… just for a larf. I tell you, I am a peaceful person. I just have never been so completely absorbed by a game.

I start to get a little worried when I attempt numerous different angles after I found myself disappointed by the last victim’s initial photograph. Is this the road to madness? I put the controller down and slowly back away.

Day Nine:

I placed the last photo and watched as the man himself descended the grand staircase. He unlocks the plasmid and tells me I am not getting whatever is in his muse box or whatever. I suddenly get really uptight.

“Wtf, man? What didn’t I do right? Don, did you get what was inside of the muse box thingie?”
“Uh, huh.”
“What did you do that I didn’t?!?”
“I killed Cohen, Lexa.”

Oooooh, riiiigght. You’re supposed to kill the boss at the end of the level. I don’t even want to approach any exploration of the reason that I the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. It has, however, become abundantly clear that I need to get the fuck out of this level.

Only now, as I am writing this, do I realize that Cohen had holed himself up in the projector room in Fort Frolic, and it was the only place on the map that was inaccessible throughout the level (as was a locked section of one of the shops. I know the combo for it must have been available somehow some way, I just missed it. Probably had to do with the fact that I still cannot understand what the goddamned hell they are saying on those recordings… I usually just play them and half-listen. Should have hacked into the room, just forgot to.) Well, I am kicking myself now. I bet there were some goodies in that little projector room. Maybe I’ll have to backtrack through the levels at some point…. listen to me, trying to figure out a way back into Fort Frolic. Issues much?

I am now nearing Ryan’s office. I have somehow attained a zen-like single-mindedness that has made me an unstoppable force. I am dropping fools right and left, and spanking this level as if it were my bitch. Before I even realize it, I have made my way through a crawlspace reminiscent of Portal in which I ponder some prophetic scrawling of “Would you kindly…” and pictures, and I am standing face to face with Ryan. I am really impressed with the cut scene, and find it fascinating to be made impotent at the moment of the slaughter of what we have been led to believe was the final bad guy.

I had suspected, however, that Atlas would be revealed to be more than he made himself out to be. I cannot say just when that particular suspicion began… maybe it was the idea of a faceless good guy that made me wary. A good guy with no real evidence to back him up, a good guy that happened to know everything to do, every turn to make, and who suddenly appeared on posters mid-way through the game. It didn’t really mesh with the idea that he was “just this guy”. Spoiler alert on a two-year-old game: turns out he’s Fontaine. That clears some stuff up because I was wondering why that character never got closure. He’s made out to be the arch-nemesis of Ryan around the Fontaine’s Fishery part of the story, and then we don’t hear anything about him for like three levels. Figures.

Day Ten:

It’s over. I’ve done it. In one great push, and with my loving video gaming enabler by my side, I made my way through the Mercury Suites with ruthless efficiency, past the Little Sister and Big Daddy’s house of horrors in a blur, barely escorted my Little Sister through The Proving Grounds, and thoroughly whooped that glowing prick Fontaine right in his uncharacteristically pumped-up ass. (He sounded so serene in his broadcasts- not at all like the Mr. Adam-fueled-Universe that I encountered).

Ironically, I spent the whole game full up on ammo like I was a walking armory, but with a full wallet and a head bursting with adrenalin I waltzed right past the conveniently placed vending machines directly after depositing my alive-by-a-millimeter charge into her “hidey hole”, and confronted Fonatine with the least amount of ammo I had had during my entire playing experience since I started out armed with a wrench and pistol alone. I want to believe that I demanded such a challenge from the game at my last stand, that I didn’t want to feel that I had won but from the very sweat of my brow. But I would be lying if I said I believed it. I just failed to re-load at the most crucial point.

Turns out I didn’t even need it, though. I had few clips left, but among them were a full deposit of both electric buck and heat seeking RPGs. Quickest boss put down in the whole frakking game, I shit you not. It was over before it had even begun. I was actually very disappointed when the Little Sisters sought their revenge by swarming the poor bastard. Yeah, so it turns out I was wrong about that part. Saving those little dears was in my best interest after all. In two separate parts of the game, they made things a hell of a lot easier: ushering me into the Frau-Kraut’s safe house when I was probably supposed to run like a sucker through hordes of splicers, and delivering the final blows to our dearly departed Atlas.

Don told me about the alternate ending that would have occurred had I spent the game harvesting the girls. He told me that, had I harvested the girls, I would have been a lot stronger at the point of fighting Fontaine. But I don’t believe it. I honestly never once found myself in want of EVE or Plasmids that I didn’t have. I was on the third upgrade of every Plasmid that I liked. I had fully upgraded every weapon that I found to be most useful, and furthermore, I broke Fontaine like a dry twig. If I had been any stronger, he would have come crying to me before I even approached the last level.

Only one question remains, and maybe someone out there can help me with this (odds are it’s in one of the recordings that I couldn’t decipher). Why did everyone go crazy after the New Years Eve party, other than to populate the game with baddies? Other than that, complete satisfaction achieved.

So yeah…

That’s it.

Now only one question remains, a feeling that I am wholly unprepared for but that I am sure every gamer in the world knows well.

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?!?”

On to the next game!!!

Keep your eyes peeled for the next installation of my N00b Diaries. Chapter Two: Half Life ;p

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15 years ago

i enjoyed bioshock as well, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but i think you fawn a bit too much, especially when it comes to the ending. (readers trying to avoid spoilers may want to stop reading).

an easy end boss is weak sauce enough as it is, but the real crime was completely ignoring the implications of jack’s actions. we are told (when becoming a big daddy) that you don’t come back from that. but jack has no trouble whatsoever coming back from that; no mention is even made of any ill effects (psychological or otherwise) he suffers as a result of his transformation; he basically just undresses. also, whatever it was about adam that apparently ravaged rapture do not tempt or damage jack? (i know about the ending if you kill the girls, but that leaves a whole other raft of questions with unsatisfactory answers.) overall, the game is a capable enough shooter, but fell well short of what it could have been and was touted as being (ie, “art” or perhaps the Citizen Kane of gaming, but that is a discussion for another day).

…not to mention the involved discussion we had on this site a while back about the lack of depth (you actually alluded to this i think in one of your earlier chapters) in interaction you are capable of having with the world of rapture and its inhabitants.

that said, i am a bit embarrassed to admit i have not played half life either (portal is really my only experience with valve; my post-doom fps education in general is severely lacking) so perhaps maybe this will inspire me to remedy that.

15 years ago

I agree about the glossing over of the Adam use and Big Daddy transformation at the end. This should have killed him, hero or no. I was reading the articles that bbn recommended (in the comments of the second installation of this piece). I can’t remember which but one of those mentions that, in making the main character into a Big Daddy, we were supposed to get a taste of their tragic existence. However, the creators of the game admitted that they wholly failed at this. Maybe that’s why the sequel is going to be completely from the point of view of the Big Daddy. I am still kind of confused as to the nature of these creatures- I killed them without remorse, but evidently they are monsters like Frankenstein’s. They used to be human, right? Do they have memories of their previous existence?

15 years ago

i read bbn’s comment and had no idea what it meant.

whatever they were trying to do with the big daddy sequence, they missed. this reminds me of someone at some point saying its impossible to convey the tragedy of war through games (possibly other media as well) because any representation of war is going to glorify it or make it look fun.

15 years ago

Bioshock’s developers admitted to a lot of problems in the game, specifically in the ending (meaning the Big Daddy sequence and the final boss). They attribute much of this to being rushed to release, and I wouldn’t be surprised, but I wonder if some of it was also burnout after working on the game for so long. While not an epic, I feel as if some of stages could have been shortened or cut out. We’ll see what happens with the sequel.

15 years ago

Re: the impossibility of conveying tragedy in war, I want to share an event that Don (of staff) related to me. He was playing Call of Duty 2, and in one cut scene he watched fellow U.S. soldiers advance on a tank on foot and throw grenades into it while restraining surrendering troops from exiting the tank. Don said that he can be entirely realistic about the fact that things like that did happen in war, but that it isn’t good nor is it something he wanted to partake in, even as a non-participant. He put down the controller and never returned to the game. I think he even traded it in without finishing it. Later, on this topic, he said “Holy fuck was that not fun or glorious. I think it is myopic to say that ny media is incapable of conveying anything, that seems like a limitation on the consumer end”. In that case, something of the tragedy was conveyed, and it actually made a player walk away from the game. Unintended, I think, but appropriate.
I added links to the two articles bbn mentioned in the comments section of “N00b Diaries: Bioshock Chapter Two”, for clarification. They’re… interesting. Well worth reading, though some of it isn’t saying much but “Look at me, I have a philosophy degree!”. The subject matter kept me interested, at any rate.

14 years ago

so alexis, should i expect to see a noob diaries on half life soon? i had never played HL before, but finally decided to pick it up a few weeks ago and have made some progress.

just wondering what your thoughts were on that game. it could be interesting to compare our perspectives (as new to the legendary game) to some of the more seasoned valve fans out there (christian, im looking at you).