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BioShock’s Best Forgotten Feature Lets You Explore Rapture In Peace

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BioShock’s Best Forgotten Feature Lets You Explore Rapture In Peace

Words by Ciaran McGhee

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BioShock, gaming's most beautiful ghost story, has a secret. In Irrational Games' 2007 classic, the player controls Jack, a blank slate except for the fact that he smokes and is seemingly convinced he's destined for greatness. Instead he finds himself in the decaying remains of Rapture, an underwater city torn apart by unregulated access to superpower-granting drugs called plasmids.

He starts the game fighting for his life, but as in all RPGs, there comes a point where the scales tip and Jack becomes the most dangerous being in Rapture. At the end of the game, however, Jack is transformed into a fearsome 'Big Daddy,' one of the iconic diving suit-clad chaperones of the zombie-like Little Sisters of Rapture. You're only supposed to need the suit for one mission, but backtracking through the rest of the game in this state reveals a completely new BioShock experience.

On the trail of ruthless plasmid magnate Frank Fontaine, Jack's path is blocked by a special door. Only a Little Sister can pass through and unlock the door from the other side, and there's only one way to get them to help you. "This will be no problem," says your tenuous new partner Brigid Tenenbaum, with her characteristically cavalier attitude to mad science. It's time for Jack to become a Big Daddy. This involves donning special boots that permanently change the sound of Jack's feet, a diving helmet that covers half of the screen with a pseudo fishbowl effect, and, most disturbingly of all, throat surgery that replaces Jack's grunts with guttural growls. These changes follow Jack all the way through a stressful mission that sees him protect a Little Sister from Splicers until he reaches Fontaine's hideout.

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I cursed myself when I realised that I had overwritten the file from before my transformation that I was going to use to go carousing through Rapture, with my fully upgraded weapons and plasmids, in order to steamroll those last few trophies. What I had instead was a file from right before the final confrontation - the last possible point at which you can save. I was certain that there would be no way I could traverse back through the passage designed for this one bespoke escort mission, let alone pass back through the loading screen that stands in for the bulkhead between it and the rest of the city. Even if I could, would it be feasible for me to go trophy hunting with these setbacks that would gall Harrison Bergeron? Could I spot audio diaries with my helmet in the way? Could I avoid Splicers with these loud footsteps? To my surprise, none of these things turned out to be an issue. Not only could I traverse Rapture at leisure, but Splicers no longer attacked me.

BioShock / Credit: Jason via YouTube
BioShock / Credit: Jason via YouTube

I returned to the squalid surgery that serves as an introduction to the dangers of the city. I could now collect audio diaries and errant gene tonics in peace. I soon took more interest in examining the Splicers' character models up close, and listening to their tragic, pathetic, and sometimes quite funny dialogue. "I push when I should pull," says one of the doctors patrolling the corridors, to nobody, "a man's entitled to a few mistakes". Conspicuously not something you want to hear from a doctor. Until this point, I had mainly appreciated the Splicers' quirky dialogue and designs after the fact, looking up quote compilations on YouTube. This was my first opportunity to get to know these characters as they lived and breathed in the world of the game, watching as they tinkered idly with the environment.

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The pathos that comes from hearing one of the flapper-esque Splicers in Fort Frolic say "Came here to be a star! Came here to be a star! Not too late! Not too late!" or "I used to be beautiful, what happened to me?" usually gets cut short by their unprovoked attacks followed by a swift plasmid kill. When they're allowed to languish in their loneliness, there's no threat to distract the player from their torment.

BioShock / Credit: 2K
BioShock / Credit: 2K

There were exceptions - the teleporting, fireball tossing 'Houdini Splicers' in the Arcadia botanical gardens still attacked me, for example. Presumably they believed their incredible abilities gave them an advantage over endgame Jack. They were wrong.

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I killed other Splicers besides, mostly when they stood absent-mindedly in the doorway to some unexplored office. Even so, I was conservative, because they elicit sympathy in that irrational way fairy tale monsters often do. To my horror, Rapture's hackable security turrets made no such distinction. These were literal killing machines I had hacked to do my bidding and kill Splicers on my warpath to the heart of Rapture, still carrying out their grim purpose on the way back. I even felt compelled to destroy more than one turret to protect the harmless wretches.

In the mission the Big Daddy transformation is designed for, Splicers approach you constantly because you are with a Little Sister, a carrier of the 'ADAM' substance Splicers are addicted to. As part of BioShock's then groundbreaking dynamic environment, you'll often see Splicers impotently attack Big Daddies that accompany Little Sisters, and leave solo Big Daddies alone. Your relationship with Splicers in these two contexts accurately represents the relationship between Big Daddies and Splicers in the rest of the game, and in the context of the story.

BioShock / Credit: 2K
BioShock / Credit: 2K
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Exploring the city. Reliving the growing regret of its citizens in audio diaries. Drinking in the empty bars. BioShock makes you feel like a Rapturian anyway, but the cloak of safety provided by the Big Daddy armour is the closest the game comes to letting you experience Rapture in its heyday - until BioShock Infinite's Burial at Sea expansion.

Settings shape characters, and vice versa. Jack starts the game as a stranger in a strange land, on the way to visit family when happenstance and serendipity lead him to the city. One of the many reveals at the end of the game is that Jack isn't new to Rapture, but is in fact one of its most shocking scientific experiments. Jack's father, Rapture founder Andrew Ryan, describes him as "my greatest disappointment". When Jack becomes an unstoppable plasmid tank by the end of the game, however, it's hard to shake the idea that the city really is his birthright. Jack doesn't just belong to Rapture - Rapture belongs to Jack. Stripping away the threat of the Splicers and letting you explore the city in peace makes you feel like the mayor of a ghost town, or even the king of a fallen empire. The trusty wrench is your sceptre, and the diving helmet is your crown.

Featured Image Credit: 2K

Topics: BioShock

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