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Enemies for Enemies Sake: or Why The Splicers Are In Every Level of Bioshock 2

by: Dabe ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

The necessity for an adversarial hallmark has perhaps tainted video game makers inherent trope of using respawning, human enemies as a means of creating faux-challenge in video games. This article explores why enemies for enemies sake may not be such a great thing after all.

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    Are The Splicers In Every Level of Bioshock 2?

    Why are the splicers in every level of Bioshock 2? Why are there respawning enemies in the codified post-apocalyptic Rapture? Why, after 10 years, do these splicers still roam the desolate hallways of this flawed paradise? These questions have answers, lots of answers, sometimes good answers, but often times are hard to effectively combat in a meaningful or insightful way. The simple & incongruous answer may be to say two simple words...video games. This article tries to answer or at least explain some of the theories on why the splicers in every level of Bioshock 2 are either a design flaw or imperative necessity.

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    Enemies for Enemies Sake In Bioshock 2

    Bioshock 001 As anyone familiar with the stylings of both System Shock and Bioshock should be aware, Bioshock 2 contains splicers throughout the entirety of its structure. These drug addict facsimiles propel a modicum of enemy engagement at the player, which would be lacking otherwise. As a standardised “grunt”, the splicer isn’t a particularly bad aesthetic or mechanical concoction. It serves the purpose it was designed for -- create a faux-sense of adversarial conflict in a game world full of atmosphere and diegetic narrative. The question follows however, is it truly necessary for this implicit mechanic or forced combat to be in the game?

    The context behind something is often what propels it into existence. Curiously, video games often forgo this contextual obligation in favour of inconsistent trope constructs. While a modern warfare or world war shooting gallery may pertain to having some enemies for the player to defeat, the rampant usage of grunts or low level fodder seems completely abhorrent for games with a less obligatory requirement for them. Bioshock 2 may very well be one of these cases in point. Ten years have passed since the first game, which picked up a couple of years after Rapture’s demise into tyranny.

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    Are The Splicers A Gaming Trope or Fundamental Necessity?

    Bioshock 002 In that time -- with the exception of Sofia Lamb’s retconned introduction -- the world of Rapture should be further ravaged and lacking in populace. Further still, the abundance of ADAM should have at the very least diminished to a noticeable point. This isn’t the case however -- at least superficially -- as the game presents an almost exact replica of the first game’s setting. Splicers are in every level, roaming corridors and pouncing on the prototype Big Daddy the player takes charge of. The use of these respawning drug addicts throughout all levels of the game begets the problem of contextual necessity.

    Instead of throwing enemies into Rapture for the sake of a faux-challenge or competitive edge to the gameplay, 2K Marin could have emphasised puzzles or the terse atmosphere of this failed cityscape under the sea. With pauses in action reaching fever pitch -- over the course of sustained periods of solitude for the main character -- the introduction of crescendo style events or boss fights with Big Sister’s are heightened ten fold. The lack of action and reliance on atmospheric emptiness would create a tension that fews games have ever attempted to provide players.

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    Why The Splicers Being In Every Level of Bioshock Isn't Required

    In actuality, we have levels replete with splicers for the sake of petty engagement and an almost conditioned necessity to create enemies where they may not be required (both thematically & narratively). Instead of pouring effort into the already stellar diegetic scenery and gameworld, we get poorly interpolated splicers with little particular skill or difficulty to them. The shell of an enemy for enemies sake as it were.

    Bioschock 003 Although the focus of this article may have been Bioshock 2, this pandemic of needless or at least tenuous enemy usage is found in a multitude of games that could attempt to remove them and suffer little in ill effects. Unfortunately, it has become a negative trope of most big-budget and even independent video games, that violence is an integral element in their design, theory and construction. This just doesn’t cut it for a medium supposedly at the forefront of mass-media consciousness. Until games grow up and flirt less with puerile violence or the necessities of said violence, then how can one critically & successfully analyse these machinations as anything other than farcical?