Bioshock 2 Review
It is, perhaps, the irony of Bioshock 2, that its greatest difference from its predecessor comes from just how similar they both seem. Bioshock captured our imagination with Rapture, a ruined dream that took shape in a set of truly singular ideals of Andrew Ryan. What made Rapture such a runaway success with gamers was its mystique and unfamiliarity.
So by returning to Rapture in its second outing, 2K Marin nullified the greatest asset of the franchise with a strong sense of dÃ©jÃ vu. Put both the games side by side, and it would be very difficult to tell them apart. In fact many of the assets, such as the HUD, enemy health bars and designs, and even the animations have been directly lifted from the first game.
To put it simply, Bioshock 2 fails to make a great first impression, and it does so by trying too hard to emulate its predecessor. Fortunately though, itâ€™s not the last you will take away from the game.
You play as subject Delta, a prototype Big Daddy model which was discarded because it was too smart and independent to be allowed to run around with a big drill. Around the time things were beginning to go south in Rapture, Delta was the first big daddy to be successfully pair bonded with a little sister.
As luck would have it, this little sister was Eleanor Lamb, the daughter of Sofia Lamb, a psychologist with a diametrically opposite philosophy than that of Andrew Ryan and a severe case of megalomania, and she wasted no time in reclaiming her daughter. Fast forward ten years from the events of the first game – Rapture still lies in ruins, the old set of crazies has been replaced by a new set of crazies, Sofia Lamb is firmly in control, and you (Delta) wake up with no recollections of the events that took place after you were separated from Eleanor. The 10-12 hours of the single player campaign are spent traversing Rapture in search of Eleanor, and freeing her from the clutches of her mother.
It is an interesting and compelling tale. In part it is due to the very nature of Rapture, and how it has twisted itself to fit ideals that are so far away from its foundations. Rapture was the haven of the individual, unfettered from the bounds of the government, religion or society, and the discovery of ADAM was supposed to be a testimony to the success of these ideals. It is ironic then that ADAM not only became the fall of Rapture, but ten years later, became central to the plans of Sofia Lamb, who puts common good ahead of individual brilliance, to shape the city by her values.
The other part is the actual plotline that the player participates in. Like the previous games, there are choices to be made right through the game, and these include more than just deciding the fate of little sisters that you come across. This time around, however, the consequence to these choices is more than just an ending cut scene. How you choose to play the game has a subtle, yet meaningful, impact on how the last hour or so of the game plays out. And by the time the credit rolls, it would be hard not to think just how important all your choices through the game were.
All this doesnâ€™t come without its share of negatives though, and again, they come mostly from the looming shadow of the first game. Bioshockâ€™s world was filled with quirky and crazy individuals like Sanders Cohen and Dr. Steinman who drove the story forward. Bioshock 2 has its own set of interesting characters, but they never come close to the ones in the predecessor on the creepiness scale. And while Sofia Lambâ€™s impact on Rapture is intriguing, her persona doesnâ€™t hold a candle to Andrew Ryanâ€™s. Also, Lamb is made out to be instrumental in shaping the history of Rapture through many audio diaries where the likes of Ryan and Frank Fontaine are talking about her. So the lack of any references to her in the first game makes it all appear as a very conspicuous attempt to shoehorn her into the world of Rapture. Itâ€™s not a problem as such, but it does seem a bit forced.
However, what Bioshock 2 lacks in delectable insanity, it more than makes up with its meaty gameplay. It features a series of tweaks and improvements which add up to a much more satisfying experience. The most significant change is the ability to dual wield. Such are the perks of being a Big Daddy that youâ€™ll never need two hands to hold a gun no matter how huge it is, leaving one hand free to use offensive plasmids at all times. To balance this advantage, the developers have ramped up the enemy AI. The splicers are noticeably more aggressive, and show up in larger packs. All this makes for some exhilarating and heated fights, especially during the larger battles the game throws at you. These encounters come from the many set pieces, which apart from the story related ones come in a variety of ways.