Howdy folks, its been a while and for that I am deeply sorry but at last I return with more criticisms on the hard work of others that I enjoyed at my leisure. Today’s focus being chiefly on the sequel to the 2007 PC game of the year* Bioshock, Bioshock 2 (clever title, no?)
Because I just recently played Bioshock I’ll give you the cliffs notes to provide some context. You play as a fella named Jack who has just survived a plane crash in the middle of the ocean and winds up at the entrance of Rapture, an underwater city founded by a man named Andrew Ryan. As soon as you get there all hell has been thoroughly let loose as you find the city in ruins populated entirely by a bunch of crazies called splicers. You are guided through by a guy named Atlas, who communicates with you via headset through the city with the promise of getting you out. As you progress the plot get a lot more complicated but for the sake of the review that’s all you need to know. Basically its scary, its underwater, and there’s a lot of murky history going on. The core mechanics of the game are shooting and use of special powers called plasmids. The use of plasmids is contingent upon 2 things, the use of Eve (basically your token mana or magic juice) and Adam, which are upgrade points to get new plasmids or upgrade existing ones. The key to getting Adam is by collecting it off little sisters, creepy little denizens of rapture which are young girls who frankly look…off. While relatively harmless themselves they are always guarded by giant certified bad-asses called big daddies. The game is part survival horror and part action shooter, all mixed in with upgrade systems along the lines of RPG’s to make it a really cool genre bending game.
Now on to numero dos, which takes that very sleek and complete package and attempts to add to an already stellar experience.
The story is easily the biggest hurdle to overcome in this one, for any who have played the first this is apparent, since the first wraps up very well with little to absolutely no need for a sequel at all. However here we are and surely they had to figure out some way to drag you back to rapture. so here it is; you roam through rapture this time around as a big daddy (yeah, one of those almighty bad-asses as previously mentioned). However you being a prototype big daddy you are both blessed and cursed with some distinct differences. first, you can’t go waylaying enemies left and right, you are about as strong as the previous game’s character Jack and feature the same health system. conversely, you also have the previous game’s ability of all the same weapons (plus some crazy new ones like the big daddy drill arm) and plasmid systems. The objective of you, the prototype big daddy, is to find the little sister you are separated with in the opening sequence of the game. This time around the focus is very squarely on the relationship between the big daddies and little sisters, with the antagonist being the mother of your respective little sister Dr. Sofia Lamb. Taking place a few short years after the events of the first Bioshock the city of rapture is in ruins with Dr. Lamb looking to rebuild it in her own utopian ideal. As you progress through the game you unravel the history of Sofia Lamb and her opposition of Andrew Ryan back in the glory years of Rapture through audio diaries scattered throughout the game (same as the first one). What is a bit tricky here is that they introduce a pretty large-scale event that occurred in the history of Rapture which isn’t so much as alluded to in the first game, which makes it at times difficult to suspend disbelief. However this quibble aside the story is well told and the characters are engaging, with the return of Dr. Tenenbaum from the first game, and your primary ally being a southern gent named Augustus Sinclair, who rivals the first game’s Atlas in quality.
With the story being good it’s hard to say this game really lives up to the first on that alone, Bioshock was renowned for its incredible storytelling so being good doesn’t quite measure up. However gameplay is one element in which Bioshock 2 really does it’s predecessor proud. with the first game being a bit clunky the shooting mechanic this time around is much more responsive, as well, the dual wielding capabilities of plasmid/weapon combinations makes possible what the first game promised but could not quite deliver. This time around plasmids and firearms can be used seamlessly, which in turn creates a much richer and diversified combat system. Players can be entertained for hours just by tooling around with various weapon and plasmid combinations to discover new ways to dispatch enemies. As well, with the games use of a research video camera, the player is rewarded for creative weapons use by awarding more research points for using different weapons and plasmids, which in turn unlocks new damage modifiers and status affecting tonics. Other innovations have been made throughout to make the experience more streamlined as well, with a new hack tool which replaces the former puzzle based hacking mini-game, this time around hacking is done using a timing based bar and needle in which you stop the needle in the green area (think old school field goal kicking controls). The new hacking is a huge improvement, being that while the puzzles in bioshock were fun for the first 10 or 20, by the end of the game you’re solving virtually the same puzzles 100+ times. also, the new hack tool features a hack dart which can be fired, allowing for remote hacks of security devices which prove both strategic and less frustrating. and lastly one of the biggest changes in the game’s gameplay is in the harvesting of Adam. While in the first it was relatively straightforward (you kill big daddy then choose to either harvest or rescue the little sister) this time the choice is a lot more complex. Being a big daddy you now have the ability to either harvest or adopt a little sister after her big daddy has been dispatched. Adopting the little sister means significantly more adam but at significantly higher risk. To harvest Adam you must take your little sister to a specified corpse and defend her as a barrage of splicers attacks. After these salvo’s are over and the little sister has harvested all the Adam she can you take her to the nearest vent where you can decide to either harvest or rescue her. Like in the first, harvesting means more Adam right away, where rescuing means some rewards down the road. I am not sure which is more beneficial overall but I get the sense that harvesting is the easy route. Apart from the splicer raids, the other reason not to hang on to the little sister is the arrival of a Big Sister which are even more intense and frightening than the big daddys of the first. if you choose to go the route of harvesting you will randomly have to encounter the big sisters which can prove difficult even with your health and inventory in good order. This gameplay element is easily the most interesting and rewarding of the whole game, with the excitement of challenge of fighting big sisters the game keeps you on your toes. Conversely the relationship you form with the little sisters as you protect them while they suck the life force out of corpses is bizarrely endearing.
The games presentation is once again amongst its many long suits with its sharp graphics serving really as the underpinnings for the spectacular art design which makes this game so visually pleasing. With the distinctive art deco meets steampunk design the world of Rapture is easily one of the most interesting settings of a video game to date. The unique case of characters is equally as well acted as the first game, with honourable mention going to the character of Augustus Sinclair who does an excellent job of making you question his motivations throughout the game. The game’s sound is equally impressive, with its standout being the creepy dialogue you can often overhear between the splicers before they’ve detected you. The ambient noise is one of the elements that really gives the game it’s character.
All in all the game is a unquestionably enjoyable experience, and I would say if you enjoyed the first one the second is one you should definitely tackle. I should place an asterisk on this review given that I really didn’t play the multiplayer at all so I can’t rightly say whether or not its worthwhile or not. However, the quality of the single player alone is enough to justify playing this game, and certainly owning it if you’re a hardcore fan.
*Game of the year as according to IGN http://bestof.ign.com/2007/pc/22.html