BioShock (2007) was a fairly groundbreaking first person shooter that combined the guns-blazing horror action the genre is defined by with the power-up and save elements found in a game like Metroid. BioShock also promised an ethical side through the decision of whether to save the Little Sisters, girls who have been farmed for a magical plasmid called ADAM, or to harvest ADAM to gain more strength. However, this ethical play element was largely unsuccessful due to how there is little difference in how the game is played. BioShock is also well-known for its strong environment inspired by 1940s art deco as well as a healthy dosage of Ayn Randian themes. These themes are also expressed to a certain degree within the game’s soundtrack, which was released as both a vinyl album packaged with the special edition, titled I am Rapture, Rapture is Me, and as a free digital release, BioShock Orchestral Score. While the score features a healthy dosage of violins and dystopian melody, it sadly caters mostly to the horror genre, which isn’t something that is generally considered easy listening.
However, BioShock has its moments, one of my favorites being “Cohen’s Masterpiece,” a piano etude in the classical style that seems as much derived from the ballads of Schubert as the dystopian intrigue of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. The piece is passionate, virtuostic, with a wilting melody and a little too much discord that lets us know there is something not quite right with the composer, like The Phantom of the Opera meets Beethoven. This is abundantly clear when we know that Sander Cohen, Rapture’s resident poet, playwright, and composer has indeed gone quite mad, composing sculptures out of the tortured and murdered denizens of the deep.
Perhaps the most defining theme of the game is “BioShock Main Theme (The Ocean on His Shoulders)“, which opens with severely discordant strings before sinking into the calmly rolling depths with a lilting string section that is punctuated by undertones of horror and discord.
I am also a fan of “Welcome to Rapture,” the music from the opening cutscene. Moreso than the “BioShock Main Theme” with its discordant strings, “Welcome to Rapture” features a hauntingly seductive violin solo with tempestuous string support and an underlying piano full of intrigue and a certain childlike bliss. The rising and falling of the melody and its driving force compels the viewer through the stormy waves of the Atlantic to the mysterious portal leading underwater to the ocean floor wherein lies a tremendous utopia that is now in ruins, inhabited by monsters…
The soundtrack was composed by Garry Schyman (Destroy All Humans, BioShock 2), a composer who has worked for both film and television and won several awards (including Music of the Year for BioShock by the Game Audio Network Guild).