I do include minor spoilers for Bioshock Infinite in this article, if you have yet to play the game I suggest playing it first before reading.
"No Sin Evades his Gaze"
There is so much in Bioshock Infinite that merits discussion, so many moments that are truly worth noting and provide such engaging thought. From the games humble and very direct beginnings, to the themes that litter the story, all the way to the games really intelligent ending, there is just so much in this game that should be discussed in greater detail. There are many beautiful things in the game and there are many sad things, but one of the things that really gripped me with the game was the solid gameplay and how it so swiftly changes but in the best way possible.
In many ways Bioshock Infinite could be considered a generic shooter if you are discussing the gameplay, but it goes a whole lot deeper with a rich story that pulls everything together. This story provides many emotionally driven moments that urge you forward and make certain moments all the more meaningful, and it is in a later section of the game where we see one of the most interesting pieces of the game takes place.
Sometimes it is the short lived moments that standout as the most memorable, we encounter a random character that forces us to change our playstyle or makes us think. It is one of the games enemies that only appears for a brief moment in a later section of the game that proved to be quite interesting both as an extension of the lore of Columbia and Bioshock Infinite, and also as a thing that changes the game.
Bioshock Infinite wraps itself in many mysteries as the game progresses, a late section of the game brings in a whole new one which forces us to have to think and wonder what is going on. As the story goes Booker and Elizabeth were on their way to Comstock House to end Comstock when Elizabeth is captured, this causes a bit of distress for Booker as he must make his way to save her. As Booker makes his way across the bridge leading to the house the scene suddenly changes and it is cold and snow now covers the ground. The game leaves you wondering “what is going on” as you question everything as the entire game shifts focus and becomes something different, this section is a far cry from what we had previously dealt with and introduces one of the most interesting and creepy ideas that is seen across the entire game.
I remember wondering towards the doors ready to run in and save my friend and ally only to realize that this was definitely not the same world I had come from, things were different, and they were more sinister. The Elizabeth we had grown to know during the story refused Comstocks embrace and vision and yet I was treated to something darker, Elizabeth being like her father and discussing things in religious context and thinking what we had come to expect as darker thoughts. Moments before we had heard her panicked voice and now we were hearing something dark. Things were already confusing and the ambience of the situation set by the story and the environment made things creepier, but things can get worse as was quickly proven.
Soon you come face to face with a new enemy that is honestly hard to forget the Boys of Silence, just looking at these creatures spreads fear into me. They don’t rely on normal sight, instead they use a scanning system with a light and consistently they scan the room in a pattern and if you end in its glow they let out a loud ear-splitting noise. In fact the first one of these creatures we encounter we are unable to avoid (trust me I tried), try all you like but he will see you and this is your first taste of what this creature can do.
They don’t fight themselves but rather act as a security system making it more challenging for you to progress deeper into Comstock House, and when caught they awaken creatures which are quite deadly. The only way I can describe these creatures are as literal tin men, they are locked in a state of dimensional distress trapped between two dimensions until the Boys of Silence call them into your one. They are honestly frightening and can prove quite difficult to take out especially when I normally walked into this section with little ammunition in my handgun and they don’t exactly offer much in the way of bullets here. These tin men make the Boys of Silence even more threatening and really made me want to avoid ever ending up in a situation where I would be forced to fight them.
Luckily these enemies are not a one off but rather have regular appearances throughout the house, unlike previous enemies in the game who you could run in and have a proper firefight with these enemies force you to come up with a new strategy in order to progress. The Boys of Silenced change this from a fast paced shooter to a slow and thoughtful creep through a house as you try to avoid being caught in their eerie glow. All of this ties in wonderfully with the creepy atmosphere of Comstock House which adds to the threatening and even depressing feeling that these creatures provide.
The only way I can put it is that these creatures share a deep connection to a quote made by Andrew Ryan in the original Bioshock:
“A man chooses, a slave obeys”
Andrew Ryan, Bioshock, 2007
They bear a strong resemblance to actual humans who have had a special helmet placed on their head that essentially made them a slave, these creatures don’t choose to stand guard but instead have been forced to become slaves and simply obey. This thought does not make them any less creepy, but does make them seem sadder, especially when it shows the air of darkness in this world and actually shows Slade’s (a character from earlier in the game) biggest fear of people becoming tin men. The Boys of Silence and the creatures that they bring to life are essentially just tin men being used or you can consider them puppets.
During the course of the game we only encounter at least five of these creatures, and while they are admittedly brilliant as enemies that really provide a nice change, but it is the final one which gets to me the most. During the time in Comstock House you had an objective to get a door open which you get to by avoiding the previous Boys, once you get this door open you turn around and are treated to a very well placed jump scare which really left me with a lasting impression. You never encounter these enemies again and are suddenly thrown back into a battle that is similar to the rest of the game.
I like to consider the final moments and this particular jump scare as the Boys of Silence lasting memory, they essentially thankyou for playing and vanish. From here as fast as you were adjusting to the stealth mechanics of the section they return you to the former glory of the game being fast paced but now just as desperate as you face a distinct lack of ammunition and health packs. That final moment though works in a similar way to the unavoidable first one as they both transition us in and out of the previous style, leaving a mark and a reason to remember this chilling experience.
I appreciate that these enemies only last a short while and don’t outstay their welcome, the Boys of Silence highlight Booker’s weakness towards powerful and unforgiving foes who are just doing what they are told. They even put Elizabeth’s place in the game into perspective, after many hours of gameplay and having her as your companion Booker is weakened and is left to take the stealth approach out of fear of these creatures powers, that are in turn connected to the darker sides of her powers.
I can’t help but feel sad for these creatures, they are simply a design of slavery and have been created to bestow fear into enemies that prove threatening to the house. They are a by-product of the darkness of this dimension one that has fallen prey to the dark designs of a supposed profit who sought to bring fire upon the world below. This darkness created monstrosities who are no more than slaves, Boys of Silence are some of the most underused enemies in the game but are memorable for this as they become truly fearsome, but this is because they only fit into the dimension they exist in.