01-09-2011 11:18 PM
Game Title: Bioshock 2
Genre: First-Person Shooter
ESRB Rating: M
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: February 9th, 2010
Overall Score: 8/10
Review Author: ResidentZoidberg
Welcome back to Rapture, where a man chooses, and a slave obeys
Imagine an expansive, skyscraper laden underwater dystopia, underscored by a hauntingly art deco flair, called “Rapture”, created by megalomaniac Andrew Ryan, who championed the individual. Then imagine that haunting sense of atmosphere as merely the backdrop of a finely, precisely crafted game that managed to excel in just about every way possible. It’s not a stretch to imagine for those who played Irrational Games’ highly lauded “Game of the Year” Bioshock. What is hard to imagine, however, is how 2K Marin, with some of the first game’s staff, was going to try and get over a bar already set so high. Fortunately for fans, Bioshock 2 was at least match the effort put forth by its predecessor and even surpass it in some ways.
Bioshock 2 puts the player in a new pair of shoes – heavy, metal ones. As opposed to playing as the previous ill-fated protagonist, Jack, the player dons the helmets and boots of a Big Daddy searching for a particular Little Sister, ten years after the events of the first game. A new antagonist has managed to take hold of Rapture in the form of Sofia Lamb, a collectivist striving for a Utopia where all act towards a singular goal, who acts as a foil to Ryan’s belief in the determination of the individual.
Nowhere near as captivating and arresting as Ryan himself, she serves admirably as an antagonist as the game focuses far more on the player’s direct affects on his environment, as opposed to the first game which was much more about unraveling a storied past rife with conflict, philosophical oppositions, and other varying thematic elements. Rapture does lose some of its mystique the second time around, but the world still has plenty left over from the last time, while adding new locales augmented by a meticulous attention to detail to make sure the world feels just as alive, just as hauntingly distraught.
Equally impressive is the use of sound, which follows the trend of the first game by offering the same subtle, chilling sound effects, produced in the innermost bowels of Rapture, echoing throughout the dilapidated halls of the city, making it, once more, feeling hauntingly alive. The voice work is also topnotch, with plenty of audio diaries to collect, further chronicling Ryan and Lamb’s conflicts early on in Rapture, and adding incredibly depth to back-story.
The meat of Bioshock 2, the gameplay, remains similar enough to the first for veterans to feel at home, yet adds in its own subtleties. Most notable is the character’s ability to wield both plasmids – genetically-granted “superpowers” – and traditional weapons at the same time, while the weapons have increased in bulk to match the Big Daddy’s style, with the melee-based wrench being replaced by an enormous drill-arm. As the game progresses, more plasmids become available for purchase, as well as weapon upgrades, new weapons, and tonics, which augment stats such as speed or health.
Gone are the water-pipe hacking mini-games, unfortunately, replaced by a real-time, reaction-based system. The whole game flows a little more smoothly, narrative included, but at the very slight expense of charm or quirkiness, though it mostly remains intact. The first-person shooter controls remain similar to the first, with options for varying control schemes.
Like the first, the game revolves around the character being set to accomplish certain tasks in the different locations of Rapture, all which open up the advancement of the main storyline. The Splicers – genetically defunct and violently insane civilians – return as the primary enemies, with additions such as the Brute Splicers, which can take more damage. Most notable, however, is the Big Sister – essentially a skinny, agile, and even more tenacious version of a Big Daddy – who adds another layer of intensity and variety to combat.
As a Big Daddy, the player is also able to interact with the Little Sisters – small girls who wander around Rapture, protected by Big Daddies, sticking needles into bodies to drain and ingest genetic material called ADAM – in a new way. The player can “adopt” Little Sisters (after dispatching of their protective Bid Daddies, first) and search for bodies to drain ADAM from. This initiates a defense sequence where the player must protect the Little Sister from ravenous, ADAM-craving Splicers while she drains the bodies.
The player is also presented with an option similar of the first game, allowing either the harvesting (essentially killing) or rescuing of the Little Sisters, the latter resulting in less ADAM for the player. It’s among a variety of moral choices presented in Bioshock 2, made more poignant by the direct familial relationship that the player – now, as a Big Daddy – has with the little girls – a theme also furthered by Lamb’s attempt to organize the reprehensibly, crazed denizens of Rapture into a sort of familial structure in line with her collectivist ideals.
Bioshock 2 also features a surprisingly entertaining multiplayer component, with several game modes. Taking place 10 years prior to the events of the game, during the Civil War period of Rapture, the multiplayer also features tidbits of narrative, along with its very Call of Duty-like progression system. It’s ultimately fun and surprisingly original, though it remains to be seen if it will have any staying power. The game also lacks dedicated servers, meaning that lag can be a legitimate issue at times, depending on the other players’ connections.
While undoubtedly now as fresh as it was three years ago, Bioshock 2 is a particularly refined title, improving in various ways over the original. The characters don’t have the fascinating qualities as those from the first game, but they remain fairly complex – certainly more so than most offerings available today. Bioshock 2 still wrestles in the gray areas of the first, from the moral choices of the players to the philosophies and motives of the supporting cast to simply interesting character studies of some of gaming’s more complex characters. Still, some of the magic is definitely lost as Rapture's halls feel less harrowing - whether that can be attributed to the new developer or its sequel status is debatable. Bioshock is so highly regarded because of its more intangible elements, thus all the tight gameplay and technical proficiency in the world in Bioshock 2 don't make up for the lack of that certain quality the first game possessed.
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