Skip to Content

‘Bioshock’: Rapture has an atmosphere that remains unmatched

‘Bioshock’: Rapture has an atmosphere that remains unmatched



Bioshock/Bioshock 2

2K Boston, Marin, Australia
2K Games
PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS

As science fiction has popularly shown, the best dystopias always began as utopias. The idea of a fallen utopia is something that humanity seems to take an inherent comfort in. Much like our unflappable interest in seeing our heroes and idols fall from grace, a destroyed wonderland, or one that hides a myriad of horrors beneath its carefully constructed facade, is a reassuring proposition, one that works to assuage any guilt we might have for not trying to be better, or affecting any real change in our own society or circumstances.

The dystopia promises that whatever change your good intentions might bring, however nobly they began, could easily be twisted and crushed by your followers, your society, or even yourself.

This is Rapture in a nutshell. Andrew Ryan, Rapture’s founder, is the ultimate idealist and a dreamer of the highest order. He yearns for a place where he and his ilk can be free of the hands that wish to control and coerce them into complacency. So he looks off beyond the sea, and beneath the waves he sees his Eden come to life.


Rapture is a place for only the highest echelon of humanity, a haven where every resident possesses the ability to seize their destiny and become Nietzsche’s ubermensch, both literally and figuratively. The former is accomplished via the invention of the plasmid, a sort of genetic tonic that allows superhuman mutations such as telekinesis and weaponized electricity. The latter is achieved by abandoning all of the platitudes and systems of the world above.

As if to directly reinforce this sentiment, when the player first enters Rapture they are greeted by a recorded message as they descend to the ocean floor: “Is a man not entitled to the sweat on his brow? ‘No’ says the man in the White House, ‘it belongs to the government!’ ‘No’ says the man in Moscow, ‘it belongs to everyone!’ ‘No’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘it belongs to God!’ So I chose a different route, I chose–Rapture!”

The grandiosity and pomposity of this man is immediately apparent from his self-indulgent and self-righteous tirade of indignation but like the words of any charismatic madman, its hard not to fall for it. Who among us has not yearned to be freed from the shackles of society and live by our own rules? Ryan has seized upon this dream, nestled innocently in the soul of every living creature, and used it to construct his monument of proposed magnificence, and he called it “Rapture”.

Talk about foreshadowing.

Rapture, of course, falls, like all utopias do. It begins with in-fighting, as the higher-ups squabble over the rules and argue over what to do about the unique challenges of their new society. The controlling governance then splits into rival factions and when violence erupts, the whole great machine comes down on the heads of the citizens. Anarchy reigns.


And while anarchy is yet another idea that is often romanticized by the populous, it is rarely the thing that they imagine it to be. In a place like Rapture though, it’s even worse. With superhuman freaks running amok, desperate drug-addicted fiends murdering everything they can see, and the very fabric of the city slowly collapsing, Rapture is quickly becoming a sunken graveyard by the time the player shows up in Bioshock.

By the time Bioshock 2 comes about, the place is really in shambles. Entire sections are sinking, flooding, and being swallowed by the endless and unforgiving waters that house them, and with the crown shattered, and the kingdom in ruins, there’s more than one hand attempting to claim what’s left of the wreckage.

Sofia Lamb is one such voice, and though her goals and ideology differ almost diametrically to Andrew Ryan’s, she falls prey to the same prideful and wide-ranging mistakes of her forebear.

In a world where even the sweetness of children is used and bastardized by the establishment, not even the serene show-tuney music of the 1950’s, the art-deco design of the architecture or the retro, old-timey ads can disguise the crippled cesspool that Rapture has become…but then that’s part of the charm, isn’t it?