The first thing that comes to mind when playing Bioshock 2 is just how ‘right’ everything feels. Like the first game in the series, BioShock 2 is a first person shooter set an undersea city known as Rapture, but various refinements have resulted in much more depth. Real time hacking (you can be attacked while hacking), hacking rewards (want some free ammo?) and true dual-wielding, all build on the already great gameplay of the original.
Another welcome addition is the new protagonist. This time you are playing a prototype Big Daddy with free will and an agenda; find your Little Sister. During the course of the game you are able to adopt other Little Sisters. But, in order to adopt them you have to separate them from their own Big Daddy, and I have to tell you, a Big Daddy versus Big Daddy battle is a sight to behold. You can then protect them as they happily gather Adam, the energy source of Plasmid powers, from special ‘Angel’ corpses, and then either harvest or rescue them. However, this is a distraction from your true goal, finding your own Little Sister. Why did they take her away from you? And, what is a Big Daddy without a Little Sister to protect?
The story of BioShock 2 is truly awesome. Touching on themes of Andrew Ryan’s collectivism, Sophia Lamb’s objectivism, the link between Big Daddys and Little Sisters, the nature of freedom, love, obsession and revenge and more, the plot is gripping and an emotional roller coaster until the end credits.
One of my favourite moments was the confrontation with one of the major NPCs. For an entire level she calls you a ‘monster’ and tries to have you killed. But, when you finally find and confront her she gives up and almost dares you to kill her. Your first moral choice has come. This cold, hard woman has been hunting you down, forcing you to kill or be killed. Are you justified in killing her? I admit I thought hard before making my decision. I’d love to know what you decided.
Of course any player of BioShock, or any other modern FPS, will feel comfortable with the controls, and will quickly appreciate the improved dual-wield. A variety of death dealing weapons are at your disposal, with weapons ranging from the rivet gun, to the machine gun and the drill, most with secondary fire modes. Of course you also have your plasmids. They have been tweaked (although Insect Swarm is still pointless) and offer some great combo kills. Winter Blast plus drill to the face equals fun!
Anyone who has visited Rapture before will immediately feel at home and anyone visiting for the first time will be amazed. Despite its decay, Rapture is as gorgeous as ever and strangely inviting. New environments are introduced, including an exciting walk along a dilapidated ride, which features broken down animatronic Andrew Ryans that occasionally activate and creep you out.
Yet despite the outstanding effort made by the visual design team, the quality of the graphics is inconsistent. For example, during the sequences your character is forced to walk along the sea floor, not a speck of sand is dislodged or any of the many seaweeds disturbed. Even the water effects themselves aren’t that impressive. It all just seems a little flat and lifeless. These shortcuts, no doubt influenced by time and budget constraints, resulted in pulling me out of the experience and were very disappointing.
The sound is also a mixed bag. While the score is quite good and contains real music from the era, it has the habit of repeating the same section for extended periods of time, at a louder volume than normal – even after the combat had long finished and no danger was present.
The dialogue however is very good. As you progress through Rapture you are constantly surrounded by conversation. Whether it’s the splicers, in the distance, rambling, Dr Sophia Lamb spouting her philosophical views and her bizarre need to both convince and condemn you, or the handful of significant NPC’s and their own tales. You also receive periodic psychic visions from Eleanor Lamb, warning you of danger and leading you to loot. It is never a dull moment in Rapture and you are never alone.
All this talk of the sound of the game brings me to one of the new additions to the BioShock universe, the Big Sisters. Your first glimpse of a Big Sister is quite soon into the game and is non-combative, as she flits along ahead of you. She eventually appears out of nowhere to slice open one of Rapture’s many windows and floods the room you are in. Thankfully you soon get a chance to fight one. The screeching sound they make to herald their arrival is incredibly freaky (freaky as in chilling, not ‘I wanna get freaky with you’!) and an awesome way to unnerve you before the fight. Oh, and what a fight. Big Sisters don’t charge you like Big Daddys. They jump around like an insane cyborg Spiderman and rip you to shreds, in-between bouts of hurling fireballs at you. Big Sisters are awesome.
BioShock 2 is more than a worthy successor to the original BioShock. By tweaking the game mechanics and expanding the BioShock universe, I believe BioShock 2 has surpassed the original.