BioShock 2 Review

Lee Abrahams

It is fair to say that BioShock was a bit good. It would probably be fair to say that it was insanely good... but come on, let's be honest, I did not want to come across as a crazy fanboy. Guess it is too late for that now, so let us soldier on. Suffice it to say that the unique atmosphere of the original game made for a compelling experience, not to mention the fact it was a first person shooter that focused solely on plot rather than using the gameplay as a mere introduction to the online modes. Here then is the much delayed sequel, developed by a number of 2K teams, and one that has already shocked fans to the core by having the audacity to include multiplayer – how on earth can we hope to overcome such a travesty? Maybe by letting the quality of the game do the talking, and this one has a lot to say.

Sinister little girls that need rescuing... or not.

Yet again you find yourself stranded in the crumbling underwater metropolis of Rapture, only this time you take on the role of a Big Daddy with one or two gaps in your memory. Set ten years after the original, things have taken a turn for the worse in Rapture as someone has started abducting young girls from coastal towns in a bid to create a new wave of ADAM collecting little sisters. For those of you scratching your heads, or with the memory of a goldfish, ADAM is the substance that allows humans to access near magical powers, something that was discovered in Rapture by one of the many genius scientists plying their uninhabited trade down there. Obviously it is hard to control a bunch of powered up - and ADAM addicted - folks which led to the downfall of the city. Up to date? Good, we can move on. In BioShock 2 you play the part of Delta, a prototype Big Daddy, who sets off in search of his bonded Little Sister in the ruins of the once great city.

Of course tracking down your former ward, Eleanor, is never as simple as that and the story weaves throughout the dilapidated city with a number of key revelations along the way. As you gradually uncover more about your own past, you also cross paths with the sinister Dr Lamb and her posse of followers who have their own reasons for keeping Eleanor from you. The beauty of the game is that there is so much more to see and do aside from the main radio messages you get to progress the story. Wander off the beaten path and you can learn a lot more about the fates of former leader Andrew Ryan, Eleanor, Dr Lamb, and a cast of formerly faceless characters who all have their own tales to tell about the fall of Rapture and life since then. There is so much descriptive architecture, random posters and seemingly innocent banter between potential enemies that it makes sense to take your time to soak it all in. If you just wanted to play through the story and nothing else then you would see very little of this stunningly crafted world and that would be a great shame.

As with the original, your journey is broken up into various parts of Rapture. Along the way you will have key objectives to further your progress, but you can also take the time to explore for audio diaries, scrounge loot for new weapons and take on the actual role of a Big Daddy to one of the numerous Little Sisters roaming the place. You can do as much or as little as you please, though it is always fun to take on another Big Daddy, not to mention the added struggle of adopting a Little Sister and defending her while she harvests ADAM. Again you will be confronted with moral choices along the way, namely whether to harvest or save the Little Sisters and how you will deal with some of the misunderstood inhabitants of the deep. Each way has its own rewards and it is down to your own conscience as to how you proceed, although anyone dabbling with Little Sisters had better watch out as a Big Sister can be easily provoked into a fight.

If all else fails, just chuck a table or two.

In order to survive your battles you have a variety of weapons to call upon. First and foremost is your trusty drill arm, but you can also pick up additional firepower in the form of rivet guns, machine guns, spear-throwers and mini-turrets. Most of the weapons also have a variety of secondary ammo to play with. If you get bored of standard firepower then you have a range of plasmids that you can shock, burn, stun or throw your opponents with. Gathering ADAM allows you to buy or upgrade your plasmids to more powerful levels, while the trusty dollar can be used to snag more health and ammo. You can also equip a variety of tonics for more passive abilities, like better hacking skills (for opening safes or controlling turrets) or faster movement speed. Having the ability to make use of a handy-camera to film your foes in combat to learn even more abilities also makes a welcome return. Throughout the game there is a great level of customisation and progression available and you never feel too over or underpowered at any one time.

While the story is never less than intriguing and often thought provoking, it somehow fails to live up to the original. Perhaps because the lead characters this time around just do not have the charm and charisma that their counterparts had in the original. In fact, they often come across as clichés more often than not which is a shame. The voicework though is amazing at times, and the audio diaries add a real layer of depth and intrigue to events. The variety of enemies this time also seems rather too familiar, with only the mighty Brute splicers and Big Sister enemies offering any real challenge even on the higher difficulties. At least the environments are still lush to look at, with every new area offering its own unique charms.

If you tire of the single player experience (shame on you) then you can head online. Here is where most people's concerns came to rest once the game was announced, with a lot of players having the opinion that such an addition would take away from the single player experience. Thankfully that is not the case. Instead the online mode takes place during the civil war period of the first game, with players controlling a splicer with access to a variety of different weapons and powers. You can take part in all-out battles, along with games where the focus is on ADAM collecting or holding onto the Little Sister for a set time. You can even join up for team battles too, with the Little Sister grab being a personal favourite.

Who had the side order of lightning?

In online matches you have access to a range of weapons and plasmids with which to take out your foes, and you can also hack turrets, machines and even step into the shoes of a Big Daddy to help your cause. Pretty much every action in a multiplayer game will also net you ADAM and allow you to rank up – leading to more weapons, tonics and plasmids, which you can use to create custom loadouts at any point between matches. Hit level forty and you will also get a nice reward in the form of a story style cutscene to tie the online action in with events from the first game. In fairness the online mode plays like a dream and can be a barrel laughs once you reach the higher levels and start throwing around the better powers. It may never take the crown from some of the big guns on the market, but it is still a lot of fun and well worth investing some time in.

If the achievement list seems familiar then it should come as no real surprise to discover that half of the list seems to be identical to the first game. The new additions generally revolve around the secret achievements and the multiplayer modes. Still, not too much room for grumbling as things are very nicely balanced between the story, upgrading and collectables – which seem like less of a chore now that you can afford to miss a bunch of them, not to mention the fact they provide great story excerpts. The real misfire are the online achievements which are fairly bland and easy, assuming you are prepared to put in the time required.

The real question here is simple: is this game better than the original? The easy answer would be no, as the story just does not feel as strong this time around and the core characters lack the same level of charisma. However, you are still getting a game that is streets ahead of most other titles in terms of plot and suspense, not to mention the fact you now have a very good multiplayer arena to dabble in. It may not be challenging the likes of Modern Warfare 2 for multiplayer supremacy anytime soon, but it is still plenty of fun and strives to do something a little different. This is a game that further delves into the great world of Rapture and is a more than worthy purchase. Now would you kindly do yourself the service of playing it!

Possibly one of the best things about the game, from the pitch perfect score to the excellent voice work that drives the story onwards. It makes finding the audio diaries a necessity rather than chore.

A vividly realised world and one that feels every bit like the once grand metropolis turned to ruin that it was meant to be. There is the odd glitch now and again, plus some of the textures look dubious up close, but other than that it is superb.

Simple controls, great pacing and a world that you can examine in detail or just plough through. Then you can hop online and gradually power your character up to lay waste to the opposition – good times.

A superb story driven game with a more than solid online component too. Perhaps some of the plot may be lost on those that ignored the original game, but why would you have done that?

A pretty good list aside from the fairly bland online achievements and the fact most of the achievements are culled directly from the original. Still, with a nice mix of collectables, story and random tasks you can certainly have some fun working through them all.

While this game may not be as strong as the original in terms of suspense or plot, it does make up for it with some neat innovations and a multiplayer mode that can be a lot of fun. For anyone in the mood for a good slice of storytelling then this is the game for them... and for those of you yearning for a return to Rapture, then this will be the perfect tonic.

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