Note: Review contains spoilers for BioShock (1). We strongly suggest you play through the first game before experiencing this one.
Coming out with a sequel to a popular game is hard enough, coming out with a sequel to one of the best games in history is a real challenge. The established fan-base with sky-high expectations, the need for a new, exciting and compelling plotline, the demand for fresh, exhilarating gameplay, whilst still being accessible for new-comers… the list goes on. Predictably, it was impossible for BioShock 2 to meet all of these impositions, and this sequel doesn’t blow the first BioShock out of the water. However, it never set out to do this, and instead takes what BioShock did best, and refines it.
BioShock 2 Story
After Andrew Ryan’s death and Jack’s return to the surface, Rapture continued to co-exist, run by psychologist Sofia Lamb. This time around you play as a Big Daddy desperately looking for his Little Sister who happens to be Eleanor Lamb, Sofia Lamb’s daughter. Just like the first game, you are able to delve as deep or as little into the story as you like. You can stick to the main plot trail about finding Eleanor, or you can branch out and find all of the audio diaries fleshing about the backstory of Rapture; the conflict between Ryan and Lamb, the creation of the Big Sisters and extra characters and their unfortunate dilemmas.
Unfortunately, despite the sprawling plot, it still doesn’t live up to the first game’s. Being a sequel, the story had to be bolted onto what already existed. Taking this into account, the story does well in staying consistent with the first game whilst still being unpredictable enough to be compelling.
But one of the main reasons the story lacks impact is the fact that you no longer play as a frightened, overwhelmed landlubber who just so happens to stumble upon this extraordinary underwater world. You no longer share the common goal with the protagonist; finding an escape. The lack of an Atlas-like NPC to give you a boost in the right direction means the goal of finding Eleanor or else seems rather superficial and doesn’t quite have the same emotional effect.
BioShock 2 Gameplay
In gameplay, BioShock 2 is a smart adaptation of the previous game rather than a complete redesign. Most of the weapons, plasmids and enemies remain the same, with some added goodies here and there. A portable turret which you can lay on the ground anywhere to fend off enemies is especially helpful, as well as your powerful drill which, when upgraded, can be used in combination with a sprint attack, or even to deflect bullets. Enemies have also seen some new designs. Among the fresh (or not) faces include the Brute Splicer, a huge, muscular beast that is devastating when up close. Big Sisters act as the main boss fights in the game. They are adolescent Little Sisters encased in metal and equipped with powerful plasmid abilities. Splicers have all undergone some aesthetic remodelling, made to look more deformed with extra limbs, faces morphed with colourful masks and lankier in form. Just like last time, you are equipped with a camera (video this time) which enables you to ‘research’ enemies and gain combat advantages.
However, not all of the enhancements are aesthetic. The combat itself feels very streamlined, even more so than before, with seamless interchange between fiery plasmids and hard, lead guns in combat situations. Which is all thanks to the Big Daddy’s duel-wield capabilities; ball of lightning on one hand, spear gun in the other.
The mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rings true here. Despite not boasting a wide array of new features and abilities, it’s great the new developers didn’t feel the need to change, but only refine, what was already a brilliant combat system.
As a Big Daddy, you can adopt Little Sisters and take them to corpses bursting with ADAM. However, as she does the dirty business of jabbing the body, you’ve got to protect her from harm. This neat little mini-game works well, and gives you the opportunity to set traps and ready security equipment for the assault.
The 20s/30s pre-World War 2 soundtrack throughout gives BioShock 2 a spookily vintage vibe. However, I did run into a few problems with the sound effects and character voices resonating and becoming unequal in some areas. It’s hard to tell whether this is an atmospheric sound design choice, or an audio glitch because, ironically, the reverberating shouts and screams from enemies actually adds to their creepiness. But it’s obvious when you get out of those certain rooms and sound returns to normal that it wasn’t something intended to be in the final release.
BioShock 2 comes with the multiplayer pack Fall of Rapture, however, the lack of online players meant I was not able to fully test it. Hopefully online players will increase with time. Until then multiplayer is a no-go.
Whilst nothing can beat the first encounter with Rapture, BioShock 2 still contains the same mix of plasmid-to-gun conflicts and a storyline that continues the Rapture legacy and introduces some good (but mostly ugly) personalities. The spookily, eerie Rapture continues to creep and haunt, whilst still hinting at a romantically antique paradise ruined by human corruption and greed.
Size: 9.6 GB
Description: Paradise Reborn, Rapture Returns
Pros: Rapture returns in body and story, refined combat, great voice acting and cast.
Cons: Plot lacks a little impact, some audio glitches, empty multiplayer, nothing revolutionary added onto the first.