GOONL!NE Review: BioShock 2

Developer: 2K Marin, Digital Extremes
Publisher: 2K Games
Also on: Xbox 360, PC
Console Played On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: Tuesday February 9th 2010
Age Rating: BBFC 18, ESRB M

Following up BioShock was never going to be an easy task for 2K. Never mind it being probably the best game of 2007, it ranks as one of the best games of the last decade too with a story that rivals the best games out there for strong narrative and ‘that twist’ which was probably the best since Knights of the Old Republic. BioShock 2 takes on the mantle of its predecessor with aplomb, giving a more rounded experience with improved gameplay mechanics and a more cohesive story that doesn’t peter out towards the end.

In Rapture 2K created a world that was not only only disturbing but eerily beautiful at the same time. Coming back to Rapture 8 years after the last game has the same power to stir as going back to Shadow Moses did in Metal Gear Solid 4. It is so wonderfully crafted that it is an absolute joy to traverse. Not only is Rapture itself available for exploration but the sea bed around it is given game time, reminiscent of the space sections from Dead Space. They’re eerily quiet and wonderfully designed, with ADAM having seemed out of Rapture to create flora that is shall we say, unique to Rapture. Sadly however these sections were under used and had a lot of potential to give, yet were not used as fully as they should’ve and could’ve been.

It’s now the year 1968 and on the surface, time has moved swiftly on but not in Rapture. Down in the depths of the ocean Andrew Ryan’s utopian city is still rotting around itself. Ryan’s political rival, Sofia Lamb, is now calling the shots beneath the waves. She is every bit as driven however her agenda is quite the opposite of what Ryan envisaged. Where he favoured the capitalistic approach view of a man being entitled to the sweat of his brow, Lamb follows more Marxist principles, with the needs of the many, in this case The Family, outweighing the needs of the few, namely you, Subject Delta.

Playing as a Big Daddy you might think your character would be pretty hard to take down to your enemies, but you’d be wrong. Initially Splicers can inflict a lot of damage to you if you underestimate them, and the Big Sisters who we’ll come to later will pummel you into the ground if you’re not careful.

The game mechanics of BioShock 2 feel more cohesive and much tighter than the first title. You can now dual wield plasmids and guns which improve the combat. Moreover, you can opt to be more tactical in your approach to felling enemies too. Rather than run and gun, you can now set traps to lure splicers to their doom with the Rivet Gun, with which you can set traps. You can also lay down turrets to give you additional fire, or use the Cyclone Plasmid to set traps too.

However, at later stages, the game can feel almost too easy. Using a machine gun with armour piercing rounds and using the Incinerate plasmid, taking down a Big Daddy in medium difficulty setting is pretty straight forward, and it is unlikely you’ll die in the process once you’ve had a few goes attacking them. Playing through in hard isn’t as hard as you’d imagine either, and a lack of Survivor difficulty mode (introduced in the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock) means once you get into the flow of things in BioShock 2, it isn’t terribly difficult.

Just like the first game BioShock 2 really gets into its stride when it comes to providing a strong narrative. Although long dead, Ryan’s presence resonates through the corridors and his voice continues to haunt Rapture through the audio diaries. With each diary you collect, be it from Ryan, Lamb or any of the other characters, the subterfuge that has been created is slowly taken down as they pull you deeper and deeper in Rapture’s lore.

Sofia Lamb is ever present throughout the story, her ice cool temperament and chilling voice make her a memorable adversary. As before there are audio diaries scattered throughout Rapture, all brilliantly voiced and add continual depth to the story, although there isn’t anyone who beats Karl Hanover’s Atlas from the first game, his acting is still unsurpassed.

Your own morality will again effect the outcome of the game, your interactions with other characters as well as the choice between saving or harvesting the little Sisters will ultimately effect how the game pans out for you. The game still follows a mainly linear path that most shooters stick to, complete the objectives in one area, fight a boss and move on. Where BioShock 2 does it right however is that it doesn’t feel like you are being forced through a one way path, it’s so wonderfully designed that you do feel that you have free reign of the area. One tiny negative however is that you cannot backtrack in the game. Once you leave an area, you leave it for good so any exploration you want to do make sure you do so before taking the train to the next section of Rapture.

Hacking has been revamped in BioShock 2 for the better. Gone is the myriad of pipes in the previous mini-games that could prove endlessly frustrating and in its place comes a much more simplified process, basically stopping the cursor in a highlighted area. However, to add to the challenge of the hacking now it takes place in real time, best keep your wits about you as Splicers enjoy taking advantage of you when you’re not looking.

BioShock 2 sees the addition of new weaponry and plasmids to your arsenal. The Drill is your most obvious addition and with the enrichment of some tonics and upgrades can be a totally devastating weapon, with ability when fully upgraded to even deflect bullets. The best gun by far however is the Spear Gun. It can be quite cumbersome to wield at times but boy does it pack a punch when used right.

They were mentioned earlier and they’re by far the most deadly creature you’ll encounter, the Big Sisters. Physically they look similar to the Big Daddies, clad in armour and have some pretty potent weaponry. They are however a different kettle of fish all together. They’re highly agile, charging and jumping around. Their relentless attacks (especially when there is more than one) can make them tricky to defeat. When you hear their screams, be ready, you’re in for a tense and hectic fight.

Foes from the first BioShock appear again (or disappear in the case of the Houdini Splicers) that’ll you be already familiar with like the Leadhead Splicer return along with Brute Splicers who can prove to be a massive annoyance, especially if they wander in when you’re trying to take down a Big Daddy or a Big Sister.

The biggest departure from the first game is the addition of multiplayer which we’re pleased to say is actually rather good and doesn’t feel tacked on as feared by some. The action is constant and there is only a small amount of lag in some games on the rarest occasion on PSN. There are the usual types of game mode, deathmatches, team deathmatches and capture the flag Sister. However the most important thing to note about the multiplayer is that it is a story in its own right.

Set before the events of the first BioShock, it tells the story of the civil war between Fontaine and Ryan that helped to seal the fate of Rapture. You fight for one of the sides but are ultimately testing Sinclair Solutions Plasmids. The weapons are well balanced and plasmids aren’t as über powerful as they are in single player. Additionally, you’ve only got a limited amount of EVE too so they’re to be used sparingly.

Final Thoughts: 2K have done the impossible and created a sequel that is on par with its predecessor. The story is every bit as gripping, the gameplay is improved and multiplayer adds to the longevity of the title. BioShock 2 does however lack a certain sparkle that the original game had, parts like the Sander Cohen splicer fight springs to mind as a moment of sheer genius from the first game that isn’t replicated in the sequel.

There are however many bits of the game that are obviously quite wonderful that cannot be mentioned in this review as they’d firstly spoil the story and secondly, spoil the some of the magic that these sections have. We possibly might do a spoileriffic article in the coming future dissecting every aspect of BioShock 2, but for now you’ll have to trust us there are some moments of gaming gold to be had in BioShock 2.

BioShock 2 overall is a far cry from your general run-of-the-mill shooter. It’s not just shoot this, blow up that. It’ll get your mind working and you will connect with the characters in ways you will think unfathomable at the start, you will care what happens, and that makes BioShock 2 every bit as meaningful as the first game.

Gameplay: 9 – Refinements to hacking and plasmids make the game a joy to play from start to finish, however it is a little bit too easy.

Graphics: 9 – Stylish and classy though not as striking as the first game. The Unreal engine exhibited some mild texture pop-in on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, so we’d recommend picking it up on either 360 or PC if you’ve the choice where Unreal fares better.

Sound: 9 – Rapture sounds as fantastic as it did in the first game. Voice acting is spot on, the score is subtle yet powerful and the sound effects really add to the immersion. There was almost one game ruining bug encountered, the piece of music that accompanies the arrival of a Big Sister got looped into a repeating cycle that remained after beating the Sister and even after restating the console. It did eventually go away but it was one bug that wasn’t easily forgotten.

Story: 10 – Tighter and more cohesive that the first game, the story doesn’t fade out towards the end unlike in the previous title, and depending on which ending you get, it can be especially powerful.

Overall: 9/10 We hedged our bets on BioShock 2 being one of the top games of 2010 and are glad to say it duly delivered. BioShock 2 is a must buy.

One Response to “GOONL!NE Review: BioShock 2”

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