Review: Bioshock 2
The hardest job of a sequel is filling its predecessors shoes and the sequel to BioShock was always going to have a tough time doing that. So how well does this return to Rapture fair?
- Worth The Time?It's a welcome return to Rapture.
- Things LovedPlaying as a little sister, no seriously don't judge. Frantic gameplay and varied combat keeps the game fun. The eery and palpable atmosphere make the game engrossing.
- Things HatedDespite Rapture still being captivating, retreading a lot of old ground from the first game makes it tedious at times. The story fails to entertain while loading times are overly long.
- RecommendationIt may not be as outstanding as the first game but BioShock 2 is an atmospheric and deeply engrossing experience with solid gameplay and a lacking narrative. It's worth a buy for newcomers and fans alike.
- Name: BioShock 2
- Genre: FPS
- Players: 1-9
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: 2K Marin
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Price: R350 (PC), R700 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
It was back in 2007 that Bioshock first came out and astounded the gaming community with its innovation, immersion and shear storytelling genius. It is now just over 2 years later and the memory of the game has still stuck with anyone who played it. Now, we have Bioshock 2 but can the sequel fill the shoes of its Big Daddy?
Bioshock 2 is one of this year’s most anticipated titles and straight off the bat it is off to a good start by NOT being delayed for PS3 as the original was. There are however a few things that you will notice about the game though, firstly there is a 10 – 15 min installing period and secondly that despite this lengthy install it still takes approximately 2 minutes to load each new level. This is not as bad as it may seem though since you get almost no technical glitches as a result of this, in fact I only experienced 2 minor glitches throughout the entire game. Another oddity of the game is that PC users with widescreen monitors will experience the same cropping issue that was seen in Bioshock 1 where the full widescreen is not used but not to worry because a patch for this is imminent.
Bioshock 2 puts you in the shoes of a Delta Series Big Daddy, the first fully-functioning Big Daddy model. With this comes a host of new weapons that suit the size and power of a Big Daddy. These include the infamous drill, a rivet gun and even a grenade launcher as well as a Gatling-style machine gun. Each weapon, save for the drill, comes with 3 different types of ammo for different situations. Weapons are also upgradable at various stages in the game. The various weapons are varied and balanced enough to make each one worth using and the game is structured so that you invariably use all of them, which is rather rare for a shooter.
Plasmids and Tonics are largely the same as in Bioshock 1 but with some new additions such as the Scout Plasmid which allows you to create a ‘ghost’ which can scout out the situation ahead and hack machines safely. Plasmids are also upgradable this time around, with each Plasmid able to be upgraded to Level-2 and finally to Level-3. Plasmids are rather a letdown as many of them are unnecessary and you can in fact get through the game using only 3 or four of the 10 available. Things get worse with regard to Tonics as I used hardly any of them, in fact sticking to the ones which you receive in the game and only purchasing about 2. I suppose this vast number of choices is just there to suit the tastes and preferences of different gamers.
Hacking security cameras and other devices makes a return in Bioshock 2 but is far more intuitive this time around. There is simply a bar which appears on the bottom of the screen with a scrolling dial as opposed to the Hacking mini-game we saw in Bioshock 1. The Research Camera has also been upgraded allowing you to record your fights with enemies and gain information from them. You will be graded on how effectively you dispose of the enemy and much like Bioshock 1, each time you do this it will become easier to defeat that specific enemy.
Ammo, first-aid kits and EVE hypos can once again be purchased from vending machines which can be hacked in order to reduce their prices. Plasmids and Tonics can be purchased at Gatherer’s Garden vending machines for ADAM.
There are some new faces with regard to the enemies that you’ll face in Bioshock 2. There are now Brute Splicers, which pose a greater challenge than was seen before by Splicers as well as a range of new Big Daddy models which you encounter including the Alpha Series which was the predecessor to your own character, the Delta. The big highlight of Bioshock 2’s enemy line-up is the inclusion of Big Sisters which are Little Sisters who have grown up. They also protect Little Sisters, much like the Big Daddies but will also come after you if they sense that you have harvested one. They are perhaps the most challenging enemies in the game as they are fast, strong and possess the ability to use Plasmids.
Visually, the game makes use of same Unreal Engine that we saw in Batman Arkham Asylum but just puts it to much better use. There is just an astonishing amount of detail and although there are only about 2 cinematics in the whole game, when they do come, the quality and realness of them is rather amazing. The physics used to generate various elements such as fire and electricity makes them look realistic.
The story is far more personal than Bioshock 1 and the opening sequence actually sees the character forced to shoot himself while his ‘daughter’ (the Little Sister paired with him), Eleanor, is taken by Sofia Lamb, her real mother and main villain of Bioshock 2. The game takes place 10 years after this incident when Delta wakes up by some unexplained means and discovers that Lamb is now in control of Rapture. He quickly discovers that Lamb has big plans for Eleanor and the story then revolves around Delta trying to get back to his Little Sister. It holds none of the moral ambiguity of the first game and certainly not the legendary plot twist of the original but is certainly an interesting tale nonetheless due to the mere notion of a Big Daddy having emotions towards something.
Throughout the game you are guided by Augustus Sinclair who helps you out, gives you information and in fact fills in you in with regard to the story as well as your own personal history. You meet some other major characters along the way who control certain parts of Rapture. The morality of the game is limited to whether you kill these characters or not, which has very little impact on the progression of the story, and whether you harvest or rescue the Little Sisters you encounter but this is far more of a strategic decision than a moral one. The only truly moral decision comes right at the end and is in fact a rather profound decision to make.
Gameplay comprises of standard FPS action, RPG elements and strategy with a bit of horror thrown in. The action is done well and you really get the feeling that you are in the heat of battle but this is let down by the horror sections which are typically dark, generic and a little boring in contrast to the rest of the game. To clarify, there is just not much scope to the horror sections; we’ve all seen the spooky fog and things popping out of the dark enough times for the fright to have worn off. The RPG elements are well-managed and it never becomes tedious despite the constant scavenging for supplies and cash. The strategy sections are action-packed and done exceptionally well as it requires you to cleverly manage your weapons and Plasmids. The common situation is when you set a Little Sister down to gather ADAM, Splicers will come running from every direction and you therefore need to set up traps and determine the best form of attack before putting the Sister down.
Combat is actually quite enjoyable as it is very intuitive. The shoulder buttons control radial menus, left for Plasmids and right for weapons, with the respective trigger buttons doing the firing. There are also a large variety of enemies for you to battle, so things never get redundant as there is always a new enemy for you to encounter. Bioshock 2 is also one of the first games that I’ve played in a long time that is actually challenging. Despite this, it is not easy to die as you will almost always have a supply of first-aid kits, this prevents the game from becoming frustrating and tiresome. There are times though when the difficulty curve seems to be stationery but it soon takes a leap and suddenly things are challenging again. The Research Camera does however get in the way at times and breaks the flow of combat, it also feels rather like an unnecessary appendage as opposed to a useful tool.
One thing that stands out about Bioshock 2 is the atmosphere, 2K know how to make you feel a particular way or to set a scene in a certain way. Everything in rapture is drenched in 50’s grandeur and Art Deco styling, right down to the Splicer’s themselves. Even the weapons were made to look as if they came from the era rather than being futuristic and the menus and HUD are made to look authentic. There are messages all over the walls which hint at Eleanor’s purpose and before you engage them, you can actually here the Splicer’s having sentient conversations rather than them just being mindless mutants. This is perhaps the only truly horror in the game, when you realise that for the most part you are killing human beings who are just slightly deformed. When the developers want you to feel isolated and alone, they cut the background music and focus on sounds like your footsteps instead. Even the horror, while generic in its gameplay makes you feel like something bad is about to happen with eerie sounds and disembodied shadows. Even the soundtrack lends itself to enhancing the atmosphere with high crescendo music for the action and low dark tones for the horror. The screen even blurs when a Big Sister lets out a shriek.
The most disturbing thing for me though was the way in which the Splicer’s worshiped Eleanor, they had shrines to her all over various parts Rapture and there is actually a part of the game where you’re in a church but instead of a cross, or Jesus upfront, there is a shrine devoted to Eleanor. This is just part of the symbolism that comprises the dark history of Rapture and its dystopian society. The Audio Diaries are ever present in Bioshock 2 but do not paint the picture of Rapture’s fall so much as paint the picture of major character’s lives during the fall. There are only a few diaries which actually hint at what life was like during and before the fall of Rapture. Also look out for the cats and butterflies which add to the enigmatic nature of this crumbling city.
- Great atmosphere
- Varied combat and weaponry
- Interesting story
- Attention to detail
- On-the-fly hacking
- Big Sister battles
- Loading times
- Research camera gets in the way
- Poorly done horror gameplay
- Spoilt for choice with Plasmids & Tonics
Bioshock 2 is a must have game for its atmosphere, inventive gameplay , combat and overall experience. It does not feel like your run-of-the-mill shooter and in fact does not even feel like a shooter, strange as it may sound, because there is no other game in its genre which gives you this kind of experience and setting. There are a few ticks and faults but they are minor and often enough drowned out by all the other elements which make this a great game. Its biggest let-down is that it can never match-up to the majesty and calibre of Bioshock 1 but then again not many other games can so it is not really a detraction from the final package, just don’t expect Bioshock 1 when going into the game and you’ll have a great time. Certainly an early contender for Game Of The Year.