BioShock Infinite 23: Going In Circles

In which we encounter a disturbingly correct depiction, visit a well-known place of literature and see some sense in the opening section.

During this part of the game, both the player character and an underage nonplayer character are subjected against their will to an invasive psychosurgical procedure. If such things disturb you, stop reading.

2015-01-09_00143Atlas is furious. He’s losing the war against Ryan on all fronts. He needs something to turn the tides. He needs an ace up his sleeve, or it will just… end. The rebellion beaten back, the rebels broken. Atlas really needs an ace up his sleeve, and he needs it NOW.
Luckily for him, he knows about one. Suchong created something called the Ace in the Hole, and it can tip the scales towards Atlas’ victory. Sad thing is, he has NO idea where the ace is. Or what. He just knows that it exists and that he needs it. This is where Elisabeth comes in. As you might remember, she told him she’s Suchong’s lab assistant, so we know where to find the ace. Don’t we?
Actually, we have no idea. We keep telling Atlas, but for obvious reasons he isn’t to keen on listening. He is however more than happy to tell us about his personal interest in medicine. Neurology, to be clear. Reading all those interesting journals with all those articles about the inner workings of the brain. One of the most interesting places of this sticky grey lump inside our skulls for him is the pre-frontal lobe, an area associated with things like free will and personality. And as we seem to be quite a bit too far on the stubborn side for him, he shows us something quite nice:2015-01-09_00158What he is holding is a so-called orbitoclast. A man named Steinman (most likely a reference to a certain Walter Freeman) introduced this fine instrument and its use to Atlas.
We’re held down by Atlas’ men while he goes to work. I’m really impressed how well they did this. This is – at least as far as my surely limited knowledge goes – a disturbingly accurate depiction of the procedure. And he comments on every single step.
Atlas starts by inserting the tip of the instrument in Elisabeth’s eye socket, distorting her vision in the process.
2015-01-09_00161The tip is placed on the top of the eyesocket.
2015-01-09_00164That’s where a mallet comes in: the instrument is driven into the patient’s skull, into the brain. A probably rather painful experience, which is why our field of view suffers from white-out with every stroke of the hammer.2015-01-09_00165While he drives the orbitoclast into our skull, Atlas keeps on detailing the functions and tasks of the frontal lobe. And of course he keeps asking about the Ace in the Hole, teasing us that we won’t be as uncooperative once he is finished – we don’t want to lose ourself? Just start talking. One further stroke and he’s inside our brain. Last chance.
This is where Elisabeth looses it. Last chance, or what? What is Atlas going to do? Take away her memories, make her forget all this? Make her stop caring? He’d be doing her a favor.
But ending up with a lobotomized player character wouldn’t make for such a good ending, would it? I’m actually not sure about this – given a decision at this point would make for some interesting fail states, but I digress. Of course Atlas has another lever on us. A lever he lovingly calls “the monster”. You do remember Sally? Welcome to Room 101.2015-01-09_00181While Atlas starts the operation, Elisabeth starts hallucinating of Booker, desperate to save Sally – but we can’t tell what we don’t know, do we? But we do know… before her return, Elisabeth knew all the doors. Knew what’s behind them. We just have to remember.
Elisabeth comes close to a breakdown here. Why did she do all this? Atlas will never let Sally leave, he’ll just keep her and rip out her Adam one day. He wont let Elisabeth go either, even if she gets him the Ace. She just led herself to the slaughter by coming here, but why? DeWitt has no answer. He can’t have one, as she herself doesn’t remember. But she remembers…
2015-01-09_00199The Ace is at Suchong’s clinic. Which is very convenient for Elisabeth, at least according to Atlas: Ryan has his whole security system tuned to his genetic code and that of his men, so how would they ever got to the place? [I have no idea how this genetic fingerprint-targeting is supposed to work. I didn’t have one when I played Bioshock, I don’t have one now. I’ll just go for “plot magic”. And I need footnotes.]
How can Atlas and his men get the Ace? They don’t have to. We will get it for them, provided they give us Sally. Atlas agrees, and suddenly the smell of inevitable betrayal lingers once more…

This section is what the opening has shown us. The world in which Elisabeth is a respected citizen left behind when chasing a little girl. The flying cards, especially the ace. The lobotomy.
I’m usually the last person to notice stuff like this, so for some of you it might have been painfully blunt. I loved it. It is yet another example of how much care this DLC was given, and I cannot stop wondering why they didn’t approach the main game likewise. So many big and small things could have been so much better in Columbia, but we had to wait for a DLC to do all this. This is just so sad. Just imagine what Infinite could have been.
But there was probably a tight deadline, combined with executive meddling (“THIS is what the customer wants”). Or maybe something else equally disruptive. I have no idea, but I’d really like to know.

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