With Bioshock 2 just around the corner it's hard not to imagine how well the game will live up to its predecessor. So much focus has gone into the creation of Rapture, the underwater utopia build on the sweat and blood of its citizens, and the state it exists in long after its rulers demise. What has become of the Splicers? What's the full story behind Big Sister? How much more punishment can Rapture take before falling apart? The main impression gamers have been given is that the city itself is the most important character, that the unfolding of its story is the driving point of Bioshock's single player campaign. But as a fan of the first game I remember things differently. So very different in fact, that I'm concerned about Bioshock 2 living up to the high standards that have been set by its predecessor.
This isn't to say that Rapture isn't filled with personality. From its rich but ruined art, to the vast yet stale halls, the story of Rapture is one that unfolds in not only visual mediums but in audio ones as well. Watching the ghosts of its inhabitants live out fleeting moments while listening to the trials and tribulations of its citizens helped set in stone Rapture's place as one of the greatest game environments ever created. But none of it would seem as haunting, as powerful, or as tragic without the constant reminder that like all great things Rapture had a creator. His name was Andrew Ryan, and I find it difficult to imagine Bioshock without him.
From the first steps you take to the underwater paradise, to his inspiring speeches scattered throughout Rapture, Andrew Ryan shaped the entirety of Bioshock's rich world. In a medium rampant with clichÃ© villains with unbelievable motivation and henchmen who fire bullets that almost always seem to miss, Andrew Ryan's vision was always clear and concise. Rapture wasn't just the tragic city that had collapsed upon itself, but rather the very manifestation of Andrew Ryan's dream. It's demeanor (if a city can have such a thing) was filled arrogance and pride, a spit in the face of all those on the surface world.
So for every single piece of artwork, trailer, and bit of viral marketing that's revealed, there is still something missing. With the ability to experience Rapture as a Big Daddy, the threat that the Sisters may pose, multiplayer modes, new powers and areas to explore, it's certainly clear that 2K Games is putting a lot of time and effort into this title. But for all the new features the sequel boasts it was the writing that truly drove the first game, and it will be the writing that makes or breaks the second. Without the driving force of a character at least as strong as the late Andrew Ryan, Bioshock 2 might as well already be sunk.