By Lies 18 Comments
When you first enter Rapture, one of the first things you come across is a woman hovering over a baby carriage, comforting something inside it. This moment is designed to make you pause and consider the situation- just long enough so that the woman- a crazy Splicer- can jump you. It turns out a revolver was inside the baby carriage. At this point, the game has conveyed to you that the city is insane, and you don't need to worry about shooting innocents. After this point, the only people you will encounter in Rapture are Splicers and Big Daddies.
The game's fiction presents the idea of Rapture as a city, falling apart but still functional. It seems like a place where people might still live, at least according to comments you'll hear from Atlas and Ryan. However, you literally encounter four people in the entire game who are not crazy Splicers- Atlas, Tenenbaum, Ryan, and Cohen. These people are the only ones in all of Rapture who are willing to talk to you before thy attempt to blow your brains out. Moments like the fight with the doctor are supposed to be surprising, but because no one in all of Rapture is willing to talk, it's not a surprise when he attacks you. In all honesty, it just seems unlikely that people are still going to him for surgery when you can't cross a hallway without getting attacked by a Splicer.
The environment and gameplay contradict themselves a bit. From what you hear from Atlas, Ryan, and the audio logs, you are to infer that the city is still inhabited and working to a degree, although just barely. Sane people still exist in Rapture according to what the game tells you. But you never see them. Ever. So instead of being a tense exploration of an overrun city, it's just a series of killrooms. Extremely entertaining killrooms of course, but every time you see something moving, you know you need to shoot it. It takes away from Rapture to inhabit it with only psychopaths.
Of course there is one exception to this rule- Sander Cohen. The crazed artist in Fort Frolic who is, ironically, one of the most insane people in Rapture, won't attack you. After you complete his "Masterpiece" and survive the splicer onslaught he sets against you, he'll come out and reward you for your help, then actually let you go. But by that point, you're already so indoctrinated by the game, you have a natural distrust. The first thing I did when Cohen appeared on the steps was take a shotgun to the back of his head. Only later did I learn he would let me live.
Of course, this can be viewed as a success, that the game got into my head so much that I though there was no way this guy wouldn't turn on me- but it's also a failure, in that despite what the story and characters were telling me, I thought there was no one left in Rapture who wouldn't attack me; because that was all the game had thrown at me. I never saw any proof to believe that Rapture was home to anything besides crazy Splicers and Big Daddies.
It was one of the few failings of the original game, and sadly, it seems like it will carry over to the sequel. From what the Game Informer cover got across, it sounds like Bioshock 2 will have the same conceit- that the city is somehow still functioning, ten years later, despite it's leaders being dead and almost everyone being a Splicer.
Rapture is a great place. I love it. But I would love it even more if I got to see the parts that aren't so goddamn insane.