You know, I really enjoyed Bioshock. Once I’ve stumbled past the need to upgrade my video card, the poor little thing it could barely reach a measly twenty fps, I could play Bioshock in all it’s watery glory. Of course the game is not without it’s faults, the plot has holes you can drift a chieftain tank through and Fontaine was such a caricature of evil he made Blofeld look like Mahatma Gandhi but Andrew Ryan was an intriguing character and the gameplay and ambiance of Rapture quickly sucked you in.
So after a recent second play through I was ready for another helping of ol’ crazy town and Bioshock 2 was there to sate my desire.
Now I’ll state up front, my biggest gripe with the game is the position it all too often puts you in, indeed this post is inspired by one such event. Bioshock 2, as mentioned in the Arstechnia review http://arstechnica.com/gaming/reviews/2010/02/daddys-home-ars-reviews-bioshock-2.ars/1 is really the story of Rapture itself, you take the role of a Big Daddy on a guided path to rescue your daughter from yet another of the nutjob moths that seem to be inevitably drawn to Rapture’s libertarian flame. Being a first person shooter, Bioshock 2 is about shooting things and there are a number of inventive ways of doing this and, reassuringly, they differ in a number of ways to the methods available in Bioshock. This is all fine and dandy until the game puts you in a situation where you are forced to follow a path that you neither expected or wanted, it is made all the more irksome by the fact that the only conflict resolution you have available to you is high powered projectiles or energy beams, in short, to reach the end of the path you must kill everything in your way.
I’m sure you’re wondering what is the point of all this blathering. Well, twice now I have found myself some distance away from a male and female splicer, basically a couple, who are dancing. However, they are on the path I must follow and as I’ve previously mentioned, the only way for me to get by is to kill them both. The game has placed me in a terrible situation, I have to murder a loving couple who are trying to have, what looks like, a quiet romantic moment together for no good reason. This gave me pause for thought, I actively looked for a different route, to see if I could ensure that the couple would be undisturbed but to no avail and it left a bitter taste in my mouth.
However, this is not the most disturbing occurrence of my being reduced to a cold blooded killer. Bioshock encourages you to make a “moral” choice when dealing with the Little Sisters, do you “save” them or kill them. Personally I’m amused by the inference that you are making a moral choice at all since both choices lead to a gain, it is only the amount of reward that differs. True moral choices have no gain, only loss, the choice comes from the degree of loss you are prepared to accept. And so to my point, the real inspiration for this post. Last night I had to kill a Big Daddy, and thus “adopt” the attendant Little Sister. Upon looting his corpse I discover an audio file that when played reveals that the man in the suit was in fact the little girl’s caring father and had been press ganged into Sofia Lamb’s program. I had murdered a father whose only concern was to protect his child, he had literally died to save his daughter.
This is a disgusting position for the game to place me in, perhaps it is because I am a father of two myself that this particular killing (as compared to the splicer couple) has irked me so much. I understand that the game’s designers wanted to have this shock value and for the player to feel this way but to give me no other real choice in how to deal with the father is a little callous. Note: I am fully aware that I could just leave the Little Sisters alone but the game is difficult to play without ADAM and plasmids and Little Sisters are the only source of ADAM apart from the rather pointless sea slugs. The game encourages you to “rescue” the Little Sisters but of course doesn’t make the connection between the two clear until far too late in the game. Given that you are playing the role of a father out to rescue his daughter this seems like a poor story choice. I’ll probably finish the game soon, but it has soured the experience, Rapture is filled with monsters but to force me to become the biggest monster has left me feeling rather hollow.