Video Games, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, nintendo, wii, ds, sony, microsoft, PSN, XBLA, Onlive, Playstation Vita, Wii U,
Posted by moonhead on Mar 6, 2010
Bioshock 2 / Xbox 360 / 2K Games

Bioshock 2 / Xbox 360 / 2K Games

A Joyous Return To Rapture After All

Any of our regular readers will know that we feared that this game would be inferior to the original and sully its hard-earned good name. Well fear not 2K Games return to Rapture is not the complete fiasco it could have been.

With its eery 1950’s Art Deco visuals and interesting game mechanics coupled to a deep and enthralling story it really was a breath of fresh air upon its release in 2007.  The original Bioshock is way up my list of personal favourite games for this current generation of consoles and in fact, of all time. And it is for this reason I was really looking forward to this game regardless of how sceptical I had become about its quality.  Whilst the sequel’s story does not get anywhere near the dizzying heights of the original and the visuals now don’t pack the same kind of impact, there are certain aspects where Bioshock 2 actually makes improvements over the original. It’s  hardly surprising that the story is inferior to the first game, given that the orignal’s excellently scripted and self-contained story ended so succinctly. It left no real room for a direct sequel and the fact Ken Levine, the original games script writer and designer, had no input to this game at all.

The sequel is set 10 years after the events of the original and  in that time Rapture has really gone from bad to worse. In place of the originals  head honcho Andrew Ryan you now have Sophia Lamb. Lamb is ideologically the complete opposite to Ryan. Whereas Ryan was an idealist fighting for talented individuals to rise above the rest of mankind’s mediocrity Lamb is all about self sacrifice and all acting as one, in many ways she has a semblance of control that Ryan never had over the fallen Rapture. You are Alpha, one of the first series of Big Daddy’s, the large lumbering diving suited protectors of the little sisters from the first game. Being one of the first Big Daddy’s you are a little different from the models seen in the original Bioshock, for starters you move quicker and are more agile. You can also use both plasmids (more on these later) and the enormous drill attached to your hand. You have woken from a 10 year slumber and the only thing on your mind is being reunited with your little sister who just happens to be Lamb’s daughter. The rest of the back story is filled in via the audio tapes that you pick up on your trip through Rapture, much like the first game.

Where Bioshock 2 improves on the original is how it plays. The pacing and balancing have all been finely honed. Also the game mechanics have been cleverly updated. Gone is the slightly incongruous pipe mania machine hacking game and is replaced by a much  quicker and simpler button press to stop the needle timing game.

As I mentioned earlier you can now fire both your genetically enhanced attacks ‘Plasmids’ with your left trigger.  And on the right trigger is either the drill or the various firearms you collect. Using these in tandem is immensely satisfying, say for instance you freeze a splicer with one of your many varied plasmid powers and ram home the kill with your Drill charge. A real tactical depth has been added to the shooting action and is really needed with both the old and the new foes.

As before you will be facing off against the various different splicers, the genetically altered and crazed people of Rapture and the Big Daddy’s. In the intervening 10 years these foes have become bigger and stronger. Also new to the mix are the Brute Splicers and the terrifying Big Sisters.

The original game allowed you to make a moral choice whether to save the Little Sisters or harvest them for their Adam (The substance needed to make your genetic changes and get your Plasmids) and the sequel deals with them in a similar way. Now however, before harvesting or saving her you can also adopt her and get her to collect even more Adam from the already dead victims of Raptures horrific civil war. Once again harvesting the Little Sister means more Adam but also her death but if you choose to save her you will earn less Adam but she will be returned to a normal little girl. Whilst your little sister is collecting Adam she is at risk and will be attacked at will by the various Splicers. It is at these junctions as well as your battles with both the Big Daddy’s and Sisters that you really need to think tactically by setting your traps and hacking the local machines, like gun turrets. The Big Sisters in particular are a really tough take down. These new monsters are the creation of Lamb and only appear in an area once all the Little Sisters have been either harvested or rescued. You really need to think about how you are going to tackle them before you make your moral decision about the last little sister of any given area.

There are other moans and groans about the game other than the weak story. One such gripe is that none of the games set pieces are a match for the first game. Nothing in this sequel comes close to the impact of the opening plane crash scene and subsequent  Bathysphere ride down in to Rapture or the first time you witness a Big Daddy. Also, although the level design is more than competent there is nothing that even comes close to rivalling the first games Fort Frolic level.

Speaking of the Fort Frolic level brings me to the new games various characters. There is nobody in the game that is as enigmatic as Sander Cohen, Fort Frolics main man, they all just feel a tad bland compared to what had gone before.  The Little Sisters also feel like they should have been given a larger story role but the games script writers just could not figure out what, so they just ended up as an after thought.

Our main man Drew briefly mentioned Bioshock 2 in a previous article about online games (you can read that by clicking here). In the article  he quite rightly had a moan about tacked on throw away online multiplayer being added and being detrimental to nearly all single player games. Whilst this is not the disaster it could have been it again does not  really offer anything new or particularly innovative either. The multiplayer was outsourced to Digital Extremes and developed seperately to the main single player campaign.

The whole thing is staged as a kind of prequel, set 10 years before the events of the original game. You are a test subject for Sinclair Solutions they who created the Plasmid and as Rapture is primed for civil war you are doing your civic duty. You pick your character class and a load out with a choice of 2 plasmids and 2 weapons. The whole things is set up similarly to Modern Warfare’s system levelling up system. It plays well and there are some decent gameplay variants and even some nice story touches running through it. But in the end though, if you have played one online multi player FPS then really there is nothing new here.

So what we have here is a completely competent sequel that although is an improvement in terms of gameplay mechanics and pacing, when compared to the original as a complete experience is inferior because of a weak story and less compelling characters. If you played the original and want to return to Rapture I would recommend it. If you have not played the original do not get the sequel. Instead pull your finger out of your arse and buy the original as you are missing out on one of the greatest games of this generation.

Rating 7 / 10

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