Review: BioShock 2

Developer: 2K Marin, Digital Extremes

Publisher: 2K Games

Rapture is perhaps one of the most mysterious and interesting gaming locations out there. With all of the murky locations, dark characters and distorted ideologies, 2K Games have created a world that has many stories to tell. This is where BioShock 2 succeeds, managing to convey the sinister atmosphere, while still staying true to the bizarre nature of Rapture itself. Set eight years after the first game’s events, from the perspective of one of the first Big Daddies, we find out what it is like to be a protector of a Little Sister, whilst still being hunted; something that the first game only managed to touch on.

You play as ‘Subject Delta’, and you are no ordinary Big Daddy. The first game taught us that these creatures were mindless, mumbling tin cans that only lived to protect their Little Sister. The sequel develops on this, showing us that as a Big Daddy we can think, hack, shoot and make various choices throughout the game. The gameplay style is much the same as its predecessor, with you completing certain tasks to reach the next unique area, rescuing or harvesting the Little Sisters along the way.

The opening scene is simply mesmerising, with the mysterious BioShock style, fans will not be disappointed. From there on in the story twists and changes, with many memorable characters being met on the journey to find your Little Sister. There is a cameo from Brigid Tenenbaum at the start, who is soon replaced by Augustus Sinclair as your guide: the inventor of the Vita-Chamber and owner of Sinclair’s Solutions. The audio diaries provide a great deal of information of how Rapture has evolved from the events and conclusion of the first game, and provide many details of Rapture’s downfall, and Sophia Lamb’s uprising to become the leader of this city.

I stated in What We’ve Been Playing that the story was as gripping as the first. Although this is true, and it kept me hooked to the game for the majority of the week, it can be said that some of the character development and twists that turn the game completely, like those that are found in the first game, are missing. Sophia Lamb is not as mysterious or interesting as Andrew Ryan, and Sinclair does not have the charm of our Irish friend, Atlas.  The more that you put into searching for the audio diaries and looking out for sublime hints to the story progression, the more you will get out of it, and the better the overall experience will be, but it still ultimately feels that the links to the first game needed to be more prominent, and not just a simple, optional backstory.

There are some elements that are improved from the first game, such as the research camera. You do not have to dodge bullets while taking pictures, you can now simply switch to the camera and start the video rolling, with the variation of Plasmids and weapons used in the fight affecting the grade you get. The weapon upgrade system is also better developed, with the first two upgrades being increased damage or other standard modifications, and the third being a special perk, such as electric damage from the shotgun or rebounding bullets from the machine gun. A problem in the first was that the hacking mini-game broke the immersion, pausing the game and making it feel a lot less tense. This is fixed in the sequel, with a new game being put in place that must be done whilst avoiding enemy fire. This may sound tedious, but the hack tool can fire hack darts, so you can hack from round a corner to avoid a turret shooting you or a security camera detecting you.

Collecting ADAM is no longer a simple task of killing a Big Daddy and grabbing their Little Sister, now you have to take the Little Sister to dead bodies and let her extract the ADAM as you defend her from the waves of Splicers and Brutes, only to take her back to the Vent. Once you have done this with all the Little Sisters in the area you find yourself thinking “That wasn’t too hard, was it?”. It’s then that you hear a horrible screech burst through your speakers; the phrase “A Big Sister is approaching, get ready” flashes across the bottom of the screen and fear settles in. You genuinely do not know what to expect, and these are among the greatest and most atmospheric moments of the game.

The ADAM collected can be used to purchase Plasmids or Gene Tonics, Plasmids being the powers and Tonics being the perks that help you do certain tasks such as hacking or finding rare items. Plasmid upgrades do not just increase the damage they do now: Incinerate 3 lets you unleash a flamethrower from your hand, and Telekinesis 3 allows you to pick up small enemies that are still alive, for example.

Exploring Rapture is better than ever, with the Big Daddy suit allowing you to traverse the sea bed, creating interesting set-pieces and showing you the true wonder of Rapture. The new locations show a darker side of the city, with you venturing inside the destroyed Fontaine Futuristics amongst many other new, twisted locations. Many messages are still scrawled over the walls and the game hardly breaks the fourth wall; through all the cutscenes you are watching from behind Subject Delta’s helmet – you are Subject Delta.

The multiplayer offers a unique look at the BioShock universe, with it being set before the events of the first game, during the fall of Rapture. The idea is that your character has been enrolled in the Plasmid testing for Sinclair Solutions, offering more background detail for Rapture enthusiasts. There are standard deathmatch and team deathmatch game modes, alongside some more unique modes like Capture the Sister, where teams of 5 battle to get the Little Sister back to the vent. As you carry her, you are limited to Plasmid attacks and have to deal with her taking up half the screen as she kicks and screams violently. This adds to the game’s already immense replay value from all the different choices to make in the single player.

Overall, BioShock 2 is a fantastic game and although the progression may be similar to the first, the action feels a lot fresher. This is a must have for fans of the first game. Although it may be missing some of the charm in the characters that made its predecessor so brilliant, it still delivers one of the best scripted narratives of recent times. With the multiplayer proving a hit and being a good change from the single player’s slow paced and immersive gameplay, this game will not disappoint fans of BioShock. However, newcomers should probably play the first game beforehand to be able to put the pieces of the big puzzle that is Rapture together.