Published on February 12th, 2010 | by prime1
BioShock 2 – Review
Summary: BioShock 2’s morality is hazier than the original – nothing is black and white
After reaching BioShock 2’s dizzying climax, it seems mad that this sequel had its vocal share of detractors. The shift in development team – more in name than personnel – coupled with the inclusion of multiplayer spelled out doom to many who loved the measured pace and searing intelligence of the original. How wrong they were.
BioShock 2 is a better game than its predecessor. Unquestionably. While the foundations laid by Irrational’s first foray into the underwater metropolis of Rapture still underpin everything achieved here, the way 2K Marin and its creative director Jordan Thomas have realized the true potential of the BioShock idea is just staggering.
Name anything, and BioShock 2 is a marked improvement. Story? Yes. Atmosphere? Amazingly, yes. And combat? There’s no competition. Even before the multiplayer which sadly was not available at the time of review, BioShock 2, stands tall above its revolutionary forefather, like the Big Daddy towering over its human creator.
Where BioShock dealt with ideas of objectivism and authorship in videogames, and shocked the world with its incredible attention to detail and brave narrative themes. The sequel expands upon these, but from a different perspective. The antagonist, Dr. Sofia Lamb, is more of a Marxist figure than Andrew Ryan, but one who has developed a zealous following among the denizens of Rapture, whom she refers to as ‘The Family’. You, of course, play as a Big Daddy, the only one capable of free will, casting the player as the individual against a commu-fundamentalist regime. And the driving force behind the story is the search for Eleanor, your own daughter and Little Sister, who Lamb is keeping in captivity.
The rest of the cast all have legitimate motivations, and it’s up to you who you trust. BioShock made us wary of that voice in our ear, and the sequel plays on that, toying with our own sense of belief and tempting us with a twisted morality. Just as before, you can slaughter other Big Daddies to steal their Little Sisters, but now the Harvesting option is more lucrative, making it more tempting but ultimately more sickening. You can also choose to adopt the little ones and go hunting for Adam together, opening up attacks from Splicers as the Sister jams her sizable needle into an ‘angel’ – a rotting corpse.
Multiplayer promises a frantic but tactical mixture of deathmatch and objectives
BioShock 2’s morality is hazier than the original. Reactions to characters you meet along the way you meet determine how the story plays out, and ultimately your own pans out, but nothing is as black and white as the simple ‘kill or save’ of the first game.
So, the story, thematic sensibility and creaking, doomed atmosphere is all there, but what about the combat? The original suffered somewhat by not capitalizing on its bold ideas. BioShock 2, through, is one of the most compelling shooters ever created. Being a Big Daddy, you’re noticeable tougher than Jack, mainly due to your ability to dual-wield Plasmids and weaponry, and of course the giant drill sitting on your right arm. You can combine elemental attacks with artillery sire smoothly, but real success only comes from analyzing the environment and working out how you can turn it to your advantage.
Whether it’s setting traps to trick a Big Daddy or offer a Splicer assault, or hacking a room full of turrets and cameras (with the brilliant, game-changing hack dart tool), BioShock 2 teaches you to use your surroundings to your advantage to feel as powerful as possible. And it works – the game is rarely frustrating, perfectly pitched on its normal difficulty and hugely rewarding for players patient enough to not just rush into every skirmish.
Also, the volume of customization available means you can create your Big Daddy in your own image, as it were, focusing on specific combinations of weaponry and Plasmids, instead of just plodding through as the jack of all trades – pun quite pleasingly intended.
Every community, even in the depths of the Atlantic, need a place to relax – a place where adults can enjoy themselves with a few drinks, shopping, or try their luck in a casino games. In this place was Fort Frolic, Rapture, with everything from arts such as music and theater, most salacious entertainment, like strip clubs and money. And as he was also a shopping destination, it featured many stores selling goods from most of luxurious clothes to the finest tobacco and online casino bonus. A once glorious haven of entertainment is now a scene of decimated place in BioShock 2.
A grand scale
It allows the fights to take place on a grander scale, too. BioShock 2 has a ‘stalker’ character (the utterly terrifying Big Sisters) who announce their own arrival with a hideous scream, then hurl everything in their power at you until you stop them dead, like premenstrual art-deco pitbulls. Plan appropriately, and you can take one in style. Don’t and it’ll be a quick visit to the nearest Vita-Chamber for you.
Ultimately though, BioShock 2 is about much more than slick combat and screaming psychopaths. It’s a complex, cerebral trawl through a magnificently depraved world and a fiercely original narrative, one that’s perfectly paced and flawlessly delivered. Whether it’s the echoed stomp that sounds out as you tread the sea bed, the screen-tearing power of drill-dashing a Splicer in the heart, or the haunting disquiet of just walking through this once-proud but never-pure city, BioShock 2 just bleeds class from every digital pore.
Few thought that 2K Marin could ever match the brilliance of BioShock. Surely no one thought they would blow it clean out of the water.