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[Review] Bioshock 2

Overall Feeling: 

A solid action title with a fun feeling to it, though the storying is no where near as compelling as the original. Aided in no small part by the addition of multiplayer to the game.

The Pros: 

It is a beautiful looking game. The multiplayer is surprisingly fun and innovative. It is a lot of fun to play through, and the mechanics weren't ruined.

The Cons: 

Disappointing follow up to the story from the original. Random difficulty changes through the game. No new plasmids.

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
8

 

The original Bioshock was a masterpiece of gaming work; it was one of those titles that helped to blur the lines between video games and art. It was a prime example of how something could be fun to play, and yet provide an engrossing story. When a game like that comes along and does well for itself, it enables itself the opportunity of a sequel. Unfortunately with that opportunity comes a high bench-mark to meet or, even more rarely, exceed.

Bioshock 2 is a weird beast to try and wrangle. Judging it against its predecessor it both fails and succeeds. While the narrative of Bioshock 2 is nowhere near as compelling or interesting, additions like the multiplayer bring something new and note-worthy to the franchise.

Bioshock 2 picks up in the city of Rapture several years after the events of the first Bioshock, with the majority of the little sisters having grown up. With Ryan and Fontaine out of the picture a new leader emerges in the form of Sofia Lamb; a psychologist whose vision of Rapture is in complete contrast of the original founder Andrew Ryan. Instead of being a city based around the idea of a man being himself and entitled to the “sweat of his own brow”, Lamb believes the basis of Rapture is community.

You’re role in the game is as the Big Daddy associated with Lamb’s daughter who, through a series of events told throughout the main progression of the game, became a little sister. All of this Lamb will hold you personally responsible for.

It turns out that a Big Daddy has a fail-safe within it that if they are apart from their Little Sister they will suffer from a system-shutdown that sends them into a deep coma. So when you awake at the top of the game, your entire goal will be to push your way through the old and forgotten dregs of Rapture on your way to find Eleanor. Along the way you’ll once more be propositioned with the option of either saving or harvesting little sisters that will influence the end of the game, but they have expanded the morality concept. The majority of the “bosses” that you’ll work your way towards through the game have a moment where you can kill them (either seeking revenge or just putting them out of their misery) or let them live.

Gameplay hasn’t changed much, if at all. It is still based around a series of: steam-punk looking weapons, plasmid-based attacks/traps, and hacking security to fight for you rather than against you. Which is absolutely fine, in my opinion the original game got the formula right and there isn’t much that needed to be tweaked. I’m wholly of the opinion that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

You will notice however that this game is a lot more linear than the first. Instead of using the bathyspheres to get around Rapture and go wherever you like, you’re limited by a one-way train system. Should you progress from one level to the next there is no hope of returning, so you need to make sure you have thoroughly pillaged each section before moving on. There were a couple of things that I was disappointed about, one being that there were no new plasmids offered up in the physical-attack realm. I understand how that makes sense in terms of the story, but I like having new toys to play with and a few new undiscovered plasmids in the back-end of Rapture would have been a good way to spice things up.

Secondly the game seems to have random difficulty fluctuations, which don’t seem to have any base in the story or within the level progression. Within a single level I would find sections of taking on multiple Big Daddys too easy, and would wipe out several alongside a series of splicers without taking a single hit. Then randomly would be taken out in the blink of an eye by two splicers attacking at once and doing ridiculous amounts of damage. It started to feel like someone was in the background of the game somewhere just wrenching the difficulty from “baby-ish” to “hell-ish” at complete random all within the course of the a single level.

Visually the game is sharper than the original and key here: the water looks amazing. That was always a big part of the charm in Bioshock 1, the water and the effects of it were gorgeous. Water effects were only stepped up in this game, and some of the best moments visually for me were the scenes where you push through an airlock and head out to walk along the bottom of the ocean. Not only is it impressive to watch the water levels rise and recede, but when you’re walking along the bottom of the ocean alongside all kinds of interesting aquatic life and imagery it’s hard not to be impressed.

The visuals are helped in no small part by the haunting and beautiful score that comes along side of the game. It’s unfortunate that I lack the audio know-how to talk professionally about what the sound does for the game, but in layman’s terms it enhances everything.

Walking along the bottom of the ocean might not have been so awe-inspiring if not for the orchestral work that accompanied it. There also would have been no reason to feel tense at any point tromping around as a Big Daddy if the music didn’t build those tension moments for you through its creepy and dark score. Score aside, the scenes between levels where you flip through notes about the game and get tips on how to play better are made “homey” by the 50s music that helps evoke a feeling of sitting in your den smoking your favourite pipe and reading up on the latest news of Rapture before the fall. It’s classy and feels like a palette cleansing that helps get you ready for the next chapter.

The single biggest change to the game though is the inclusion of multiplayer. For a long time now I’ve said that game companies shouldn’t feel the need to include a multiplayer portion just because everyone else does it. Games that are based around a strong single-player component shouldn’t feel the need to tack-on a multiplayer. However, when Bioshock 2’s story isn’t nearly as strong as its predecessor multiplayer quickly becomes the game’s saving grace. When I booted up Bioshock 2 for the first time I assumed the multiplayer would get real boring, real quick and decided to boot it up first. That first day I played a good 5 hours solid of the multiplayer.

It is extremely addictive. The changes they make to basic game play types make multiplayer in a first person shooter interesting and new. Being able to wield plasmids against opposing players nails down a new formula of fun in the way that Halo brought about the grenade-gun-melee combat in the face of so many other games focusing exclusively on the gun. When playing in Bioshock online you have a few choices in terms of play-type: Survival of the Fittest (deathmatch), Civil War (team deathmatch), Last Splicer Standing, Capture the Sister, ADAM Grab (one sister everyone tries to keep her to themselves), Team ADAM Grab, Turf War (three points for the team to capture and hold for points).

Focus is shifted to being able to build your character around a set of abilities and weapon mods to create combo-attacks. Soften your opponents up with elemental based plasmid attacks and finish them off with a shotgun blast, or set traps and lay in wait to pick people of with machine guns.

As a total package Bioshock 2 is a solid follow up to the previous title. It is a great title worthy of purchase (or at least a rental if you make sure to devote some time to multiplayer). While the story lacks the punch of the original game they have strived to pick up that slack in other areas like multiplayer. The key factor though is the core of the game is always a lot of fun while being visually impressive.