“Ol’ Andy rambles on about the Great Chain… I got people shellin’ out to pull it for me!”
Annotated Walkthrough, 3:
The concept of a crumbling apartment building is hardly a new one, Max Payne, Condemned 2: Bloodshot and BioShock have all included representations of such locations. They are familiar places, safe places, made explicitly unsafe and unfamiliar either through the actions of man, time, or nature. In the case of the Sinclair Deluxe all three have likely had some role to play in the state it now finds itself. Never built with an eye towards the sophistication seen in some parts of Rapture and never to be mistaken for a luxury residence, it is yet clear that before the many disasters that befell it the Sinclair Deluxe was one of the more impressive parts of the The Drop.
One curious fact about the Sinclair Deluxe, which might never have been noticed by the less pedantic, is that on each floor there is no apartment number lower than 6. The lowest apartment number I can locate in the entire building is number 106, on the right hand side of the first floor. It would seem one way to avoid having innumerable locked doors in a level is to simply remove as many doors as possible.
Something about the current state of the Sinclair Deluxe, and the nature of BioShock 2 in general, implies it would be pointless to even attempt to use the lift. So instead you will need to make your way up the stairs to the first floor.
Approaching the first floor foyer, the way ahead appears dark, but Eleanor has apparently managed to convince one of the little ones to leave something waiting for you by the dead Splicer…
The supposedly dead Splicer that leaps to attack you as you approach is a new trick, one than the residents of the Sinclair Deluxe seem particularly fond of, and one you’ll see infrequently through the later levels.
Counter intuitively the first floor of the Sinclair has seen more obvious damage than the floors above. The power is off in most of the apartments, the walls have crumbled and the floor and ceiling are giving way in a number of places. This enforced darkness means that you will automatically begin using your suit mounted light to illuminate your surroundings. The restricted field of vision provided by the single light source combines with the large contrast in height between the entrance court and the first floor hallway to provoke a distinct sense of claustrophobia and the mild panic that brings with it.
This sense of tension is augmented by the behaviour of the Splicers who will use the sparse lighting and crumbling walls to lie in wait for you, luring you into traps or simply pouncing on you from a doorway. The combat in this first section of the Sinclair is close ranged and brutal. Though there are some Leadhead Splicers it appears the majority would rather simply beat you to death with lead pipes, wrenches or whatever comes to hand.
Whatever caused the destruction on the first floor was either something the residents saw coming, or something that meant they never felt comfortable returning. Though showing some signs of occupancy few of the first floor apartments show the degree of individualised habitation that can be seen on the upper floors.
It’s a curious design decision as exploration of these first floor apartments is required due to the roof collapse that has blocked the central hallway whereas it’s possible to completely ignore the second floor apartments. Maybe the very individuality of these residences was seen as enough of a motivation for exploration and an explicit barrier to direct forward progression was not considered necessary.
The lights are still working throughout the second floor of the Sinclair Deluxe, this combined with rooms that are generally larger and more open removes the previous floor’s sense of claustrophobia and provides you a moment of respite to explore the various traces of human habitation that fill these rooms.
There are two consistent themes throughout the second floor, that of pinning something to the wall, and of keeping money hidden in cookers. The former makes a degree of sense, other that some obvious and a little overly regular holes in the interior walls, the majority of the second floor is in a good state of repair. The latter I’m really not so sure about. Several dollars can be found in every cooker on this floor, which is a surprisingly large number, there are in fact more cookers than toilets I believe.
The manner in which the different rooms are decorated in an obsessive fashion by the inhabitants recalls the similar individualisation of the cells within Shalebridge Cradle, the penultimate level of Thief: Deadly Shadows.
With working lights sources, a more open layout and fewer enemy encounters this floor can feel like a different location to the first. The decision to personalise each apartment is an appealing one, however few of these personal touches speak to the broader narrative of Rapture as a city, or to any characters we have already heard of. They can therefore feel disjointed and one dimensional. We should care about these people because they had something that made them unique, however when all we know about one resident is that he was a butterfly collector and all we know about another is a fondness for photographs it can feel a little like we are being asked to care about a concept more than a person. These rooms, though aesthetically appealing, feel like an attempt at an emotional conclusion to which there has been no buildup; a pay off that hasn’t been earned.
The personalisation of the cells in the Shalebridge Cradle works on an emotional level because these are characters we have already developed some investment in. They exist beyond the confines of their cell and it is up to the player to piece together the various pieces of out of context information provided and built up a piture of who these people were. That level is a mystery that the player must unravel and the inhabitants are a key part of it. The residents of the Sinclair Deluxe are nobodies, heard of once and then forgotten.
What if the tale of Gideon Wyborn, the butterfly collector, had been laced throughout the earlier parts of The Drop? The butterfly is used as a symbol throughout BioShock 2 so his obsession with them seems like a fitting side story. A audio log in the diner of two residents discussing “that creepy guy with the butterfly net” or a recording of a therapy session with Dr Lamb. How she had taken to using the butterfly motif after talking with him. Imagine then the entirety of the Sinclair Deluxe being without power, having to pick your way through the crumbling, decaying apartments by the light of your suit. Never sure if around the next corner would be a Splicer or an empty room. You duck into a side room as a respite from the tension of exploring this dark ruin of a hotel, your light catches off the hundreds of butterflies pinned to the walls. You know who’s room this is, who’s home this was, without having to be told. One little mystery is solved and you’ve taken a step closer to an understanding of what it means to be a citizen of Rapture…
Instead there’s a fairly blunt reveal of the room of the butterfly collector along with a rambling audio log. We get it, he was creepy and obsessed. As a singular narrative beat to signify that there were once people living here, it works but it feels obvious, almost a heavy handed. The allusions to the butterfly as a metaphor for the people of Rapture is an intriguing one, and as such deserves a defter touch; it is at odds with the subtle touches throughout the rest of The Drop.
After a close range encounter with a Brute Splicer it’s time to move up to the third floor and prepare for a confrontation with Grace Holloway.
Grace lives in the penthouse, apartment number 307, at the very front of the building. The touches of humanity are given deeper significant by the steady revealing of her character throughout the level; she can in fact be heard first in an audio log at the end of Ryan Amusements. Grace means something to us, and so everything inside her apartment means something too.
It has taken an entire level to get here and now the choice of how to obtain the override key and what to do about Grace is left to you. Even Sinclair himself seems reluctant to offer advice either way, advising you beforehand that her hatred of you is based on a “misunderstanding” yet also willing to accept the logic of your decision if you do choose to kill her.
No matter your choice, whether you confirm her belief that you are a monster or prove that you have your own motivations, you will still have to fight your way out of The Drop. If you do allow her to live she won’t be able to call off the Family but she will provide you with a little support in the way of two upgraded Security Bots.
Upon leaving Grace’s penthouse the door to apartment number 306 is opened and through it you can drop through into apartment 106, completing a loop that allows you to avoid returning through the collapsed sections of the Sinclair Deluxe.
Even with this help the way back to the platform is a challenging one, while you’ve been exploring the Sinclair Deluxe the Splicers of The Drop have been preparing for your return. The Fishbowl Diner becomes a focal point for the combat in this final part of the level and once you are through it’s time to use the override key and unlock the Atlantis Express Line once more. Don’t take too long, Eleanor is waiting…
“This is the kind of case that makes you want to believe in true evil, to believe that only someone who’s honest to God evil could do something like that. But that’s not how it is, is it? He’s not evil, being evil would make him special but there’s nothing special about him, he’s just pathetic. Pathetic and all too human. And you know that’s the worst part. He’s not so different from anybody else really, just one more fucked up soul in a world going to shit. I guess that’s what scares me most, he’s just like any of us, so maybe any of us could be just like him.”
– Excerpt from the diary of Special Agent Ethan Thomas, 2 weeks prior to the Serial Killer X incident.