So its 2 years since the release of the Bioshock 1, one of the most unique, original and engrossing experiences ever. It received many Game of the year awards and was critically acclaimed, and deservedly so. It brought a whole new dimension to first person shootersand more importantly it showed that games are capable of producing imaginative, intense and thought provoking stories. So 2K Marin had a huge mountain to climb if they wanted the sequel to reach such staggering heights. Has it succeeded? Almost.
Bioshock 2 is set almost a decade after the events of the first game. You awaken as a Big Daddy and have no recollection of your past, who you are and why you are here. All you know is that you must find your “Little Sister” Eleanor by scouring thru the ruined underwater city of Rapture where you will encounter many challenges in the form of Splicers, Bots, Brutes, other Big Daddies and Big Sisters. All under the watchful eye of Sofia Lamb, who is replaces Andrew Ryan as the ruler of Rapture. Thats it in a nutshell.
Although this is 2 years ahead of the first game, there is very little, if any, improvement to the graphics of the game, but no doubt this is still a beautiful game. Once you start exploring Rapture you will no doubt notice the almost identical similarities to Bioshock 1, afterall this is the same Rapture. From the scribblings on the walls to the familiar equipment and ammo machines. Its as if you never left Bioshock 1 and for any other game it probably wouldn’t work but it does here and thats all down to the design of Rapture itself. No other game has created such a creepy, melancholic yet beautiful environment. Even though there is a great sense of isolation as you roam Rapture, the city still feels alive, there is loads of creeks and groans and it never feels like your the only one roaming the city. This is all intensified by the chilling soundtrack which only adds to the moody atmosphere.
As beautiful as Rapture is, it lacks some stand out levels that were present in the first game, every level here seems a bit too similar, whereas in Bioshock 1 we had the likes of Fort Frolic or Port Neptune, Bioshock 2 lacks these kind of unique levels.
The story is also an area in Bioshock 2 which failed to improve on the 1st, although it is still very good. Everything seems too straightforward, you know what your goal is from the start and it doesn’t really change as you progress. A lot of the goals were somewhat lacklustre and repetitive. Whereas in Bioshock 1 you really didn’t know what was happening, what was around the corner. It was full of surprises and twists that had us in awe. This time around we lack those aspects, there is fewer stand out moments. Also I wasnt satisfied with the games ending, unlike the first one which seemed rushed, this is the opposite where it drags on and seemed to lack any creativity.
You still find out more about the story from collecting recordings spread out among Rapture. Like the first game, you also learn about other people and their stories. It also talks about events in the 1st game and mainly the events that lead up to the current situation.
Another thing is the lack of any really memorable characters compared to the first. Dr. Lamb is a good antagonist but she lacks the charm and presence of Andrew Ryan whose every line is almost a great quote. It does have its fair share weird characters though, all with their own agendas, but none stand out such as the likes of the great Sander Cohen or Frank Fontaine. But like the first, the voice acting is brilliant, its intense and believable and only adds to the realism.
One improvement over the first though, is the fact that it presents more difficult moral choices this time around, there was times where I just had to pause the game and think a little before I made my decision.
Now although the graphics and story seem to fall short of the first one, the gameplay on the other hand is certainly a huge improvement with countless tweaks and refinements that make the this a smoother and more flexible experience. Instead of having to switch between weapon and plasmid as in the first one, which was a pain and seemed to slow things down, now the two are readily available and can be used all at once which is far better for a smoother gameplay. Another change is the Hacking system. No longer are the pipe puzzles the way to hack a camera or bot, no, instead is new system in where you must stop a moving pin in the correct coloured zone. The more difficult the hack the faster the pin moves or the smaller the coloured zones are. Also, when you are hacking a camera or bot, the game still continues so you have to choose the right time as you wouldn’t want to be caught by a splicer while hacking something.
There is no new weapons as such, rather different ammo and appearance for some. Although there is the addition of the Drill, which can be very powerful, the Rivet gun replaces the Pistol and Remote Hack tool which allows users to hack bots and cameras from a distance. The way you upgrade has also changed. Each weapon has three upgrade levels, the first two improving the power, clip size or accuracy of the weapon, whereas the final upgrade adds a special effect which can be very useful.
Although the variety of weapons is very good, I found myself mostly using the same 2/3 weapons throughout the game and almost forgetting I even had more. This can also be said for the plasmids, although you have a huge variety to choose from, you will find most of the time you will be using the same ones over and over.
The camera has changed too, instead of taking photos, the camera records as you fight your enemy, the more creative you are the more points you will get. Research is important as it unlocks new weaknesses of your enemy and also some tonics and ability’s can only be obtained from research.
The plasmids this time around have also been revamped for the better. There is no sections now for the gene tonics, such as Engineering, Combat etc… Rather all the tonics are put in one single section. There is a wealth of new and creative tonics to be got and how you mix and use them is important regarding each situation you find yourself in, for example if you are a keen hacker then loads of Hacking tonics is the way to go.
The plasmid upgrade system is now similar to how the weapons upgrade, with the final upgrade being the most powerful and with a touch of creativity. For example, with the final Cyclone Plasmid upgrade you can charge the Cyclone with flames, Ice etc… Another neat plasmid is the Hypnotise one which in the final stage gives you the ability to Hypnotise Big Daddys or Brutes to fight alongside you for a limited time. There is loads of these different tonics and Plasmids to choose from and your choices could be vital in a tough battle.
This along with all the different types of weapons and ammos really add a tactical aspect to the gameplay, each enemy has a different weakness which requires a different approach. If you go into battle guns blazing you will be sure to suffer greatly, whereas if you think it out and get the right plasmids and right weapon or ammo ready, then you could come out with barely a scratch.
For example, as a Big Daddy, you have the option of adopting a Little Sister instead of Rescuing/Harvesting her. With the Little Sister you can go around collecting Adam from Corpses, but when the Little Sister is extracting the Adam you must defend her from the riot of Splicers who come every time you collect Adam. If you are unprepared then you will more than likely die, but if you take in your surroundings and place traps in the right place and get the right weapon and plasmid ready, then you will more than likely succeed. This is similar when you battle a Big Daddy or Big Sister, especially a Big Sister. Every time you Rescue/Harvest a Little Sister, there is a chance a Big Sister will come looking for you. If she does then you will here a screech, at this time you are giving a few moments to prepare as a Big Sister is the most challenging enemy in Bioshock 2, this is the best time to set traps, mines etc… and get your weapons ready, because if you dont then the odds of surviving are very slim.
Although the game does present some challenging moments, overall it is quite easy, you will rarely run low on First Aid kits or Ammo as there is plenty to pick up, so I would recommend players to switch to Hard if they find it this way as it results in a more rewarding experience.
Bioshock 2 has also introduced a new multiplayer mode. Its set before the first Bioshock when the civil war was ongoing and even implements some of the story. Although it is hard to comprehend at first, as you play more it becomes lots of fun and is not like any other fps multiplayer out there. There is surprisingly a lot of depth and uses a clever progression system that works very well. Also there is new plasmids and weapons only available in multiplayer. Overall its good fun and adds longevity to the game after you finish the single player campaign.
All this just shows the amount of depth in Bioshock 2 and all the work that has gone into it, nothing seems out of place, every aspect of Bioshock 2 is cleverly intertwined.
It was always going to be hard to replicate the experience of playing Bioshock 1, the sequel lacks the sense of awe and mystery from the first. But although it lacks in story and any graphical improvement, it definitely makes up for it with a much improved and smoother gameplay and a fun & deep multiplayer.
Bioshock 2 had a lot to live up to, in the end it just does enough. Although not to the level of the first game, Bioshock 2 offers a intense and engrossing experience and that is rare in this generation. I highly recommend it.
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