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BioShock First Impressions: Ayn Rand Under the Sea

by Lulu Mcgrew

Not one of the reviews I read for Bioshock said anything at all about how the undersea world of Rapture is straight out of an unwritten Ayn Rand novel. Does this mean that gamers don’t read American lit?

What the Great Lighthouse may have looked like before earthquakes destroyed it...

What the Great Lighthouse may have looked like before earthquakes destroyed it...

It’s not like it’s a stretch to see the Rand influence. You notice the literary reference almost immediately, if you know your Rand. Unfortunately, I know Ms. Rand’s rants. As soon as I swam my way to a Great Lighthouse at Alexandria look-a-like after my Pan Am hit crashed into the sea, I came face to face with a large red banner that proclaims “Not Gods or Kings. Only Men.” and a plaque from someone named Ryan going on about how he could not live in a state that won’t allow him to be himself…an unapologetic capitalist.

Ryan…R-Y-A-N = Ayn R. Yeah, subtle.

First things first, BIOSHOCK is amazing to look at. The opening sequence is awe-inspiring. I kept telling my boyfriend to “look-it, look-it” as the bathysphere gave me an unguided tour of Rapture, a city-behind-the-waves (and international law). The city itself is an Art Deco dream. I happen to be a fan of Deco, so BioShock is a total treat for my aesthetic sensitivities. Even as you peer out of the glass windows, the graphics go all watery and change as you move your perspective. The designers and programmers spared no effort to make this game a detail-oriented gamers delight.

And then, as you, er, I mean, Jack enters the city proper, he is lead on missions by a underground resistance leader named Atlas.

atlasshruggedAtlas…Like Atlas Shrugged? To be honest, I couldn’t finish Atlas Shrugged. I read The Fountainhead, and got through the Ellsworth Toohey 30-page speech about altruism, and when I ran across the same diatribe in Atlas Shrugged, courtesy of John Galt; well, I just closed up the book and gave it away. Rand is not hard to read as in she discusses difficult issues and uses hard words; no, Rand is difficult to read because there is a lot of repetition and it gets really, really boring.

Besides, she is such a response to perceived socialist agendas during the 40’s, that it comes across as somewhat silly…until you place BioShock’s politics into the present fears of an American return to a quasi-socialistic Big Government. But that is probably more of a coincidence than the creators’ statement on capitalism and how money makes morals.

But I digress…

And now that I am in the third “level” of BioShock, I can say that the game takes its cues from Rand in more ways than one. BioShock can get a little repetitious, too. I can honestly say that I am sick of hacking security “bots”, vending machines, and safes. At first, it was kind of fun, but now I try to get as many auto-hack tools as I can find or build with rubber hoses and random screws.

bioshock_3All in all, I love the plot. I like killing the “splicers” (though I do wish for a little more diversity in these crazed foes) and random other bots and Big Daddy’s. I even like rescuing the little sisters — I haven’t “harvested” one yet. It’s just hard for me to kill a child, even if she carries a giant syringe that she likes to plunge into her victims’ heads.

I am actually playing BioShock on both easy and medium (whatever they call it in the game). So far, easy just means less bad guys and more first aid kits to find. But as your character never really dies in BioShock (you are immediately revived at a near-by “vita-chamber” and everything remains as it was when you “died” including a lack of first aid kits and angry enemies), I think the medium is a better choice for anyone other than a newbie to FPS games.

Much like Dead Space, you are given objectives and maps as to what you are supposed to be doing in Rapture. You also have an option of a “hint” to help you along the way, as an example telling you where certain slicers are located when you have to get some research photos (which reminds me of Dead Rising). I can say that the game is self-contained enough that I have not even bothered to look up a walkthrough or cheats for BioShock. Not that it is that easy (it kinda is, though), but rather that the game makes sense as to how to play it. Unlike say, Tomb Raider: Legend

And yes, I know that BioShock is a bit old now in terms of release date, but I had to get to it before BioShock 2 comes out later this year.

I love this trailer, because it tells me all evil comes from little girls! He he he.

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