Bioshock 2 review

Sometimes, whenever we see a fantastic setting, like Rapture, we want to come back to it and explore it even more. Bioshock caused a huge impact to the video game industry showing that FPS’s can be taken seriously as art. Surprisingly enough, the sequel, Bioshock 2, was not developed by Irrational Games but it was made by 2K Marin so it was skeptical to see the series handed to another developer. This is a game that had different characters and a different story, but all the similar experience that we want to see from what was left from Bioshock. There was so much anticipation for this game because most people felt that there needed to be more for rapture, there was an inclusion of multiplayer, and you’re playing as a genuine Big Daddy. This is my review on the sequel of the most critically acclaimed video game.

Premise

Eight years has passed since the demise of Andrew Ryan, the creator of the underwater utopia called Rapture, and the city still remains the chaos and the new focus on the game is a story of a Big Daddy named Subject Delta and the Little Sister named Eleanor that he protects from this battlefield with the Splicers. We have a new villain named Sofia Lamb and she has taken position as leader of rapture, but ten years ago she develop a mind-controlling plasmid that made Subject Delta to commit suicide in1958. This was done in part because Delta’s Little Sister, Eleanor, is actually Lamb’s daughter. Lamb was originally brought to Rapture to help psychologically-stressed citizens of the underwater city cope with the lack of sunlight and used persuasion to entice her patients into a cult called “The Rapture Family”, and attempted to spread her altruistic ideals throughout Rapture. Andrew Ryan discovered this through his spy, Stanley Poole, and had Lamb thrown in prison leaving Eleanor in the care of Grace Holloway.

Ryan’s men kidnapped Eleanor and left her in a Little Sister’s Orphanage, eventually leading to her conversion into a Little Sister. Lamb later returned to the city, reclaimed her daughter from Delta, and gained control of Rapture after Ryan’s death. Lamb guided the development of the aging Little Sisters into more dangerous Big Sisters and sent them out to the Atlantic coastline to kidnap little girls for conversion into new Little Sisters in Rapture. In 1968, Eleanor, now a teenager, has gained control over many of the Little Sisters and uses them to revive Subject Delta at a Vita Chamber. Delta is drawn towards Eleanor by their past Big Daddy-Little Sister connection. Waking up, Delta’s only desire is to be reunited with Eleanor, so the player takes control of Subject Delta (one of the best Big Daddies) and must rescue the Little Sisters and stop the Big Sisters, Sofia Lamb, Splicers, and every dangerous thing left in the city of rapture…

Gameplay

Everything that was offered in Bioshock remains in Bioshock 2 plus more. Once again this is a first-person shooter survival horror, like in BioShock, the player explores Rapture and fights off splicers, the remaining psychotic human population of the undersea city, using a combination of the environment, weapons, plasmids, and tonics. You can wield weapons such as iconic Big Daddy weapon the Drill (uses fuel as ammo), rivet gun, machine gun, shotgun, launcher, and new to the series is a hack tool. This is a gun that allows the hacking of Security Devices and Vending Machines at a distance through the use of Hack Darts. This is a significant change were players can hack on a far away distance and also the minigame hacking mode is different than the original Bioshock. Instead of going for that Pipe Mania minigame to align the pipes to the goal before the water hits the end of the connecting pipes, here the mini game requires the player to stop a quick-moving needle one or more times in the correctly colored areas of a gauge. Stopping it within a green area progresses the sequence or potentially ends it; stopping in a blue area may grant a bonus to the hacking result, landing in a white area shocks the player (dealing a small amount of damage); and landing in a red area causes a security alert.

New to the series is melee attack, which is very useful when the player is out of ammo. I admit that it doesn’t cause as much damage as I hope, but it’s useful to give your enemy one last hit to cause their death. Another thing returning to the sequel are Plasmids and gene tonics which are these  special genetic-reencoding liquids that grants the user active or passive abilities, otherwords superhuman power, and include many of those introduced in BioShock as well as new ones. As expected shooting bolt of lightning, incarceration, insect swarm, telekinesis, and ice blast made their return, but new plasmids are introduced such as hypnotize (great to brainwash enemies), scout, decoy (to trick enemies that you’re there), cyclone trap, and the best plasmid of summoning Elenor to help you in battle (available in the last act of the game). Plasmids were always important for strategically handle your enemies besides shooting as the only way to kill enemies. I praised the original Bioshock for giving that variety of Plasmid powers to deal with enemies differently, but in Bioshock 2 it’s now easy to dual wield the weapon on the right hand and the plasmid on the left hand all at once. Before it always was one way or the other, but here it was easier to use both of them at the same time in combat making more natural and effective than it ever did before.

Just like the previous Bioshock, you can buy these Plasmid, gene tonic, slots, or health/eve upgrades from the Gatherer’s Garden vending machines which are still around eight years later since Ryan’s demise. You can’t buy these things off with money, but instead you have to collect ADAM from these Little Sisters. Just like the original, they are at least more than one in almost every level/area of the game and they’re protected by the toughest enemies of the game the Big Daddies. Once you defeat them, you have a moral choice to harvesting them (evil) or, for the first time ever, adopt the Little Sister.

Now in the first Bioshock, you’ll get more ADAM for harvesting them and rescuing them gives you half the amount of ADAM, which was disappointing to get less reward for playing as the good guy (except for getting a great ending). However in Bioshock, the game actually gives you a more of an accomplishment in not harvesting them but adopting them. Once choosing adoption, the Little Sister can lead the player to corpses from whom she can extract more ADAM. While she does this, the player must defend her from splicer attacks and other foes. Once the Little Sister has collected enough ADAM, the player can then return her to an escape vent, where the player must choose to either rescue or harvest the Little Sister. Rescuing her gives the player a modest amount of ADAM but also the possibility of beneficial gifts later; harvesting her yields a large ADAM boost. Once the player has either rescued or harvested all of the Little Sisters in each level, the player will be attacked by a Big Sister. The Big Sister’s agility and resourcefulness will task the player with a difficult fight before the player can proceed further in the game. Battling them were much cooler and threatening than facing any kind of Big Daddy.

Since we’re in Rapture, the game encourages the player to explore the city of Rapture by searching for health, money, EVE Hypos, more Plasmids and gene tonics that can’t be bought, ammo, new weapons, and food to restore to health. Unfortunately, just like the original Bioshock there is no inventory system and Bioshock 2 is a game that is in need for it after all the collecting we’ve done in our playthroughs.

One of Bioshock 2’s biggest feature is the multiplayer and it’s a story-driven multiplayer mode in which the player takes on the role of a citizen of Rapture. Set in 1959, just before the events of BioShock, the player chooses to take on the role of a splicer fighting in Rapture’s civil war. The player is being sponsored by the plasmid manufacturer, Sinclair Solutions, to test out their weapons, plasmids, and Tonics in a consumer reward program. As the player progresses through the multiplayer experience, new weapons, tonics, and plasmids will be unlocked (provided by Sinclair) in addition to the story of the Rapture civil war being told. There are several different multiplayer modes such as Survival of the Fittest (free-for-all), Civil War (team battle), Last Splicer Standing (team battle with no respawn), Capture the Sister (capture the flag but the Little Sister being the flag), ADAM Grab, Team ADAM Grab, and Turf War.

As the player progresses through the multiplayer experience, new weapons, tonics, and plasmids will be unlocked (provided by Sinclair) in addition to the story of the Rapture civil war being told. There are muliplayer exclusive plasmid powers & gene tonics, weapons to unlock, and character skins to customize that all can be unlocked the more you win multiplayer battles. You’re also given your own room in multiplayer mode to choose to customize character, choose weapons, and add or change plasmids and gene tonics.  This game was a very rich multiplayer experience, but to be perfectly honest, I was not all that interested in the multiplayer inclusion of this game. I’m only enjoyed playing it if I have a group of friends who are Bioshock fans who are willing to play it with me. Bioshock 2 gameplay didn’t really offer anything new on the table other than level designs from the campaign that made online FPS multiplayer at least refreshing, but the maps all look identical from each other.  I think the focus on multiplayer in Bioshock 2 is the reason why the story isn’t as great as the first game.

Level Designs

Bioshock 2 made the player travel to places in the city of Rapture that has never been explored from the first Bioshock. Mostly, Bioshock 2 is rinse-and-repeat process of the original. We’re able to see that 20th century design everywhere in Rapture; from the buildings, rooms, menu screens, and everything else. The best thing is that you’re not traveling in any of the same areas of Rapture seen already from Bioshock 1 making it a different experience despite the fact that we’re fighting in the same corrupted utopia. One big plus on expanding the experience in Rapture is being able to travel underwater. In here, you’re able to see what underwater feels like and are able to find some alien slugs that carries ADAM and other items to collect. Now the developers could of given the player combat underwater, but sadly it’s just for the player to see outside of Rapture and there aren’t that many.

There are sections of the game that are expanded enough for the adoption mode with Little Sisters to feel stretched out, instead of being crammed in when waves of enemies come charging in. While BioShock 2 has made some stellar improvements over its predecessor, there’s no doubt that some players will still find a few issues with its overall structure — after all, even with its streamlined combat, improved AI, and exceptional presentation, BioShock 2 is still very much BioShock at its core. The game’s mission objectives remain largely unchanged, regularly asking players to backtrack through previously explored areas in hopes of finding a key, pushing a button, or meeting a designated objective.

Presentation

The visuals and characters designs are a big improvement over its predecessor. The Little Sisters actually look like little girls with and without ADAM in them, the lighting and shadow effects looked more polished, and the pacing is just as fast as ever. You can actually adjust the visuals by going in to your options menu and actually speed up the frame rate, but the unfortunate thing is that it doesn’t look natural so I keep the frame rates  at normal speed. Since this game’s main focus is between Big Daddies and Little Sisters, I got much more emotionally invested by saving the Little Sisters because they actually look like a little girl with and without ADAM in them. I really bought into that they really need help and were more innocent than were seen the original Bioshock.

Yet, I never got the sense that this game was ever scary because just like the last game, Bioshock 2 made you so powerful and easy to resurrect that I had no sense of scares that others proclaim it to be. Bioshock 2 was made because nothing was resolved after other-throwing Andrew Ryan after the first Bioshock game only to see more enemy types and Splicers as mad as ever. It’s very nice to see that familiar feeling when playing Bioshock 2 that you wanted to go there, but also it’s downfall at the same time because Bioshock 2 didn’t really offer anything that we didn’t expect like the first one did.

Sometimes the game can get so dark (visually not figuratively) that it lost a little of its charm of that gloomy atmosphere with unique colors of light that was lost from the first game. Sure the dark effects is what creates that dark environment in the series, but can we ask for some more lighting so we can actually see a better view Rapture? Even on the highest brightness setting its still a struggle to see through the darkness we encounter that are few and far between.

Since we’re given the opportunity of seeing parts of Rapture that we didn’t see before, we’re also learning some more parts of the game that were even more corrupted by the lack of leadership from Andrew Ryan and Sofia Lamb. Audio logs make their return in this game where the voice acting is just as solid as ever; giving the player more of the backstory of Rapture. It’s really awesome to see other variations of Big Daddies (like the one we’re playing as) and have a different set of challenge. Playing a Big Daddy, I really got that feeling that I was actually playing as a real Big Daddy, unlike the first game at the last act you’re just wearing a diving suit and controlled as the player normally does. In Bioshock 2, you really can feel the movement, the heaviness, and even the feeling of being a Big Daddy with the sound effects of foot steps sounding like hard iron stomps, seeing the large glove your character is wearing, the power of using the drill that wasn’t available in the original, and the occasional roars your character makes. It totally succeeds in playing the Big Daddy that we Bioshock fans love!

Conclusion

Even though we were all expecting to learn much more of Rapture and have at least a surprising story like the original did, it’s kind of like how everyone expected The Lost World: Jurassic Park to be every bit as good as Jurassic Park, but we got more of the same. Same goes for Bioshock 2 to not be quite as good as Bioshock mainly because of the lack of surprises and good storytelling. Plus, Sofia Lamb as our main villain was nowhere near as memorable as Andrew Ryan. It’s really hard not to compare Bioshock 2 with its original because that’s the whole purpose of Bioshock 2’s existence.

On the plus side, we actually had better visuals, the connection between Big Daddies and Little Sisters were more believable and emotional, and the action with duel wielding weapons and Plasmids at the same time made it more action packed. Though, I never cared for the multiplayer, at least the main campaign of getting back to Rapture was something we’ve all desired to return to. I think after already seeing Rapture and had a better experience with it in the first, it’s understandable why people forgot about this game today. It was indeed a worthy sequel and after Bioshock 2, who knows what other creative ideas is the series going to offer next. Even though that the geniuses of Irrational Games weren’t working on the Bioshock 2 project, at least I’ll give 2K Marin credit for actually capturing that very essence of Bioshock.

Things I like

  • The connection between Little Sisters and Big Daddies have more emotional value
  • It’s more rewarding to save Little Sisters as you get more ADAM
  • The combat is improved thanks to duel wielding weapons and Plasmids at once
  • Hacking is a lot easier and simpler
  • Plasmid of summoning Eleanor is awesome

Things I hate

  • Not a single boss fight what so ever
  • Sofia Lamb is a terrible and unmemorable villain
  • Multiplayer is… meh
  • No surprises and lack of good storytelling as to the original Bioshock

The Top Lister’s video game score… 4 out of 5

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