Rapture all day long.
There has never been before, nor do I imagine there will ever be again, a moment like the initial descent into Rapture.
The preceding plane crash. The lighthouse. The bathysphere. And that moment when you first see the city and the breath goes out of you involuntarily. The city far below the ocean’s surface. This moral playground where it seems anything could be possible. Or more accurately, perhaps where anything was possible. Before it was all perverted.
But allow me to backtrack a bit.
I was incredibly late to the 360/PS3 era. I was an avid reader of Game Informer for many years, however I had none of the then current gen systems so I couldn’t actually play any of the games I was reading about (until I got my PS3 in January of 2009). The absurdity never ceased to amuse me.
Then came the April 2009 BioShock 2 cover story. Believe it or not, before that cover, I’d only ever heard the name BioShock, but knew nothing about it.
Let me tell you, I devoured that cover story. Looking at those concept images set my mind into a spin. I immediately bought the first BioShock. I didn’t quite know what I was expecting, but it exceeded everything I could have imagined. The story, the characters, the music, the experience.
And what an experience it was.
In BioShock, one might argue that the city of Rapture is a character unto itself. A location filled with good intentions, fallen dangerously into disrepair.
Now I admit, I have a fascination with urban atrophy, and Rapture gave me the freedom to explore that setting. Even aside from the incredible story, that would have been a pleasure. But when all the elements smushed themselves together, out came this experience I can’t praise enough. The original BioShock is absolutely my favorite game of all time. It has been since I first played it.
The attention to detail was astounding. The painstakingly recreated Art Deco movement was on vivid display, seen through living curtains of water leaks and neglect. The juxtaposition of elements created a haunting environment that captivated me. You could only imagine what this city looked like in its infancy.
To find rooms partially submerged and constantly leaking created a living, breathing, yet completely stunted environment. You knew things were happening, but they were ecological. Nature was reclaiming the landscape. Splicers were strung out and wreaking havoc. The happenings were unintended and completely destructive.
The sound design also sold this package. The sounds of moisture. The general sogginess. Floors fully submerged, other floors spotted with puddles. You got the impression nothing was ever quite secure.
Of course, this could have manifested itself in some pretty hilarious comic “slipping on a banana peel” ways. If your character occasionally slid and fell down in a big WHOOSH of a puddle, or if you slid across tile with a loud SQUEEEAAAKKK while the camera tottered.
Alas, none of those things ever happened.
It’s probably for the best. Rapture wasn’t terribly slapstick.
And through all this chaos, Rapture still managed to have these quiet moments of respite. You were not always being pursued. You were not always in immediate danger. And in those moments, you had this world to yourself. A deconstructing, both living and dying, art gallery that served as the backdrop to one of the greatest video game stories ever told.
No matter how often I’ve returned to the lighthouse, I’m always in awe of what Irrational created below it.