A BrutalGamer.com review.
I think its well documented in both articles and on the podcasts that I loved Bioshock. Seriously loved it! The game came at a time I was just fed up to the back teeth with yet another bloody shooter coming out for my shiny new Xbox 360. The game introduced us to the over the top Andrew Ryan, the chilling Little Sisters and the lumbering moans of the Big Daddies. The true star though was the location, an underwater utopia setup in the 1950’s called Rapture by the afore mentioned Andrew Ryan.
This time we return to Rapture around ten years after the events of the first game. You take the role of Delta, a prototype Big Daddy who is deactivated right at the start of the game before the fall of rapture. Upon sudden reactivation ten years later you awake in the aftermath of the first games activities. Upon awaking your thoughts turn to the Little Sister you were paired with and making sure she is safe. This time the main protagonist is the chilling Dr Lamb. A huge opponent of Andrew Ryan she has continued the work that Ryan started with the Little Sister project. Only Dr Lamb has taken her experiments further in the years since the fall.
Taking place in in an older part of the city the first thing that strikes you is the linearity of the game this time out. In the first game you could transfer to and from various areas of the city by using the Bathesphere submarines. This time you take a leaf out of Zelda’s book and make your way around the city using the railway system. You must make your way through the ruins of Rapture to find and face Dr Lamb and locate your Little Sister.
OK, so that sounds fairly weak-sauce right? I’m afraid you are pretty spot on. The main draws in Bioshock were the strong story narrative and the uniquely realised location. Bioshock 2 fails to deliver the same dramatic punch as the first title and the story falls a little flat in more than a few places. This is a real shame as gameplay wise Bioshock 2 beats the first title hands-down.
Graphically things have moved on nicely. Utilising the Unreal 3 engine again the multiple teams that have worked on the game have taken the environments and conventions laid down by the first game and extrapolated. Nothing really new has been added to the environment but the world of Rapture still remains as rich and compelling as ever. The water effects are superb, as ever, and the animation is top notch. The art design of the original game was one of the things that dragged me in and it continues on again. It seems a little too familiar but that’s a symptom of the first games success. Frame rates are solid and things run at a fair old clip improving on the first game in every way.
One thing strikes you right away, the shooting is much better. The weapons provide a much more robust solution than in the first title. Most of the first game could be waded through using the Wrench and some key Plasmids; the ability giving genetic soup you take to give you special abilities like Lightning, Fire etc. This time out the melee weapon is a huge drill attached to your right arm. This allows you to smack people about with said drill or rev it up and “dig in”, if you’ll pardon the pun, to the opposition. As awesome as this sounds the drill is slow and nowhere near as useful as the wrench from the first game. Just as well the weapons are super meaty. From rivet guns to .50 calibre machine guns there is plenty of hardware to choose from.
Add to that the ability to pimp out your guns at one time use weapon upgrade stations and purchase specialist ammo like electric buck shot or armour piercing rounds from the various vending machines around. These elements combine well to breath life in to the shooting and make the game play so much more varied than the initial game.
Other things to return are the Gathers Garden plasmid update vending machines, the hackable gun turrets, security cameras and sentry bots. On the note of hacking many were aggrieved by the Pipe Mania mini game you had to play to hack each machine. Well those days are gone all you have to do now is stop a swinging needle in the green areas of a gauge. Correctly performing this several times in a row will hack the device. If you happen to hit the minute blue portions of the gauge you are rewarded for your accuracy with extra items or a longer activation time on security devices. I can appreciate that many will be relieved that this lengthy mini-game is no more, but I was pretty fond of it myself.
In your pursuit for Dr Lamb you will once again come across Little Sisters flanked by their original Big Daddys. Taking these lumbering giants down this time is nothing like the arduous battle it was in the first game, after all you are a Big Daddy yourself. Once the Little Sister is free of her chaperon you are free to take her as she will trust you implicitly. This time rather than just choosing to free or harvest the small girls you place them on your shoulders and they will show you a number of fallen corpses ripe with the nectar of Rapture, ADAM. Whilst collecting this ADAM you must defend the Little Sister from the oncoming hordes of Splicers. ADAM full and ready to trot you pick up your Little Sister and take her to a vent. Here you have the choice of either harvesting her for extra ADAM or saving her for less ADAM but better karma and a few extra treats later on. Choices like this help to add a little depth to Bioshock 2 but the impact is muted as much has moved on since the first Bioshock used these mechanics.
Once you have harvested or freed all the little sisters on a level you will hear a piercing shriek. The signals the imminent arrival of a Big Sister. These are Little Sisters all grown up and encased in a lightweight suit. This is as close to a boss fight that Bioshock 2 manages and provides the most challenging aspect to the game. You must quickly prepare for the arrival by laying traps, mines and mini gun turrets to help you in your plight. These battles aer a good distraction but are ultimately quickly dealt with by the time you reach the latter third of the game.
Longevity is good at around ten hours plus for a reasonably paced play through and extended if you want to search every nook and cranny or Rapture for audio logs. On the subject of the audio the production values are high once again. The first game benefited from great voice work and some excellent 50’s tunes. The voice work is good once again with the main characters portrayed well. The music is much more prevalent this time and were are Bioshock 1 left me wanting more of the old time tunes Bioshock 2 crams in so many that it feels a little like overkill.
To be honest reading through I have seemed fairly negative and I think the reason for this is that Bioshock 2 had such a high standard to beat. In all fairness it was going to be impossible for Bioshock 2 to have anywhere near the same impact as the first title. As such this feels more like an expansion to the first title. You could very easily roll straight on from Bioshock 1 to Bioshock 2 and still feel immersed in the same world and as such it’s a fans dream.
With it’s tight well managed shooting, great set design, high concept environments and solid multiplayer Bioshock 2 should of pounded it’s ageing predecessor in to the ocean floor. The only elements missing are some of the ones that defined Bioshock 1, ie the atmosphere creating set pieces and high level of story telling.
Bioshock 2 is a good, solid game. Better than it’s predecessor in so many ways and offering a surprisingly robust multiplayer. The fact remains that the story just can’t stack up to the first title and the environment is, with this installment, played out. On it’s own merits Bioshock 2 is a worthy underwater shooter with some RPG elements and is a recommendation to anyone. If you are a Bioshock fan I heartily recommend you grab this asap as you won’t be too disappointed – things will just be a little familiar is all.