BioShock 2

  • by Will Herring
  • February 08, 2010 10:11 AM PT

A stellar continuation of 2007's objectivist-fueled epic, BioShock 2 offers up plenty of worthwhile improvements and much-needed gameplay tweaks, all the while introducing players to yet another immersive chapter in Rapture's impressive mythology.

When BioShock's inevitable sequel was originally teased on the PS3 version, players found themselves split over the need for a continuation of Irrational's objectivism-fueled epic. Without spoiling too much for the Rapture uninitiated, BioShock didn't exactly leave its dystopian door open for a sequel, with many of the original's characters in no fitting shape to carry on after the credits. While I was initially in the camp that believed BioShock to be a self-contained narrative that didn't need further exploration, it didn't take long for BioShock 2 to unequivocally sell me on the idea of a return-trip to Rapture. After all, there are many stories in the underwater city, and Jack Ryan's was only one of them.

BioShock 2 picks up a good 10 years after the volatile events of the original, with Andrew Ryan's Rand-gone-wrong rule having long-since ended. Psychiatrist, psychic and utilitarian Doctor Sofia Lamb has taken the reigns of Ryan's ruined utopia, uniting the ADAM-addled Splicers via the cult-like Rapture Family. Players fill the bulky shoes of Rapture's very first Big Daddy -- codename Delta -- who, after waking from an unfortunate decade-long nap, discovers his Little Sister has been abducted into Lamb's sinister care and Rapture forced even further into madness.

BioShock 2

BioShock's iconic Bid Daddy battles return in full form, offering up a few new models of Rapture's steel protector.

The original BioShock's story was a twisting and turning affair, with multiple threads -- embodied by the many audio logs and character encounters -- eventually leading the player right to the game's final confrontation. BioShock 2's narrative takes a much more straightforward approach with fewer plot-related twists, but it still offers up an incredibly strong yarn with a worthy adversary in the nefarious Dr. Lamb. The Rapture Civil War takes a back seat to Lamb's crusade against Ryan's objectivist rule, peaking in several Town Hall audio diary debates between their warring philosophies, and casting Rapture's former benefactor in a surprisingly tragic light. On the one hand, here's a man who accepted the challenge of the impossible head-on, pouring his life and soul into building his ideological paradise by way of his unshakable values; on the other is the candid, broken side of this fallen emperor, ousted from power by the prominent threat of change.

But more importantly, 2K Marin also realizes that Rapture itself is undoubtedly BioShock's strongest character, and they've masterfully threaded Delta's quest through this derelict backdrop, recapturing the ever-present feeling of dread from the 2007 original while offering up some detailed new environments to explore. Multi-story locales and novel new areas add to Rapture's already impressive scale, and the occasional underwater stroll, while not revolutionary, offers a unique new perspective and some prime opportunities to show off the city's undersea architecture. Garry Schyman, BioShock's award-winning composer also returns with another skillfully crafted score that expertly captures Rapture's distinctive aesthetic while complementing the game's stellar voice acting and ambient sound design.

BioShock 2

The Brute Splicers are massive walls of ADAM-crazed muscles that'll take more than a simple blast of Incinerate to take down.

One of BioShock 2's biggest strengths is how much more alive Rapture feels this time around, due in no small part to an expanded cast of both friends and foes alike. From shrewd Southern businessman Augustus Sinclair to shady ink-slinger Stanley Poole, these fresh faces offer unique insight on Rapture's eventual downfall, and the ability to actually meet some of these characters face to face for some of the game's weightier moral choices really helps solidify Rapture as more than just a combat arena.

Although the entire Rapture rogues gallery returns looking better than ever, it's the new enemies that really steal the show, from the Tank-like Brute Splicers to the newly introduced Rumbler and Alpha Series Big Daddies. Tweaked enemy A.I. offers up faster, meaner Splicers that actively learn during combat, often assaulting Delta with overwhelming group tactics and re-hacking turrets to even the playing field. Deadly as she is enigmatic, the much-publicized Big Sister is a treat as well, contributing some of the most intense and satisfying boss fights in recent memory with fierce telekinetic attacks, relentless speed, and unmatched acrobatic prowess. As soon as you hear the Sister's distinctive wail, you know it's time to run, prepare, or better yet, pray.

BioShock 2

Rapture's Splicer population sees a nice boost in its A.I., offering up some incredibly tough new battles.

The game's combat sees plenty of worthwhile improvements, as well -- chief among them, the ability to brandish both plasmids and weapons simultaneously. This dual-wielding aspect greatly increases the urgency of BioShock 2's many skirmishes, and met with the addition of eight upgradable plasmids, 30 readily-swappable gene tonic slots, and a reserve of modifiable weapons, Delta makes a noticeable transformation throughout the course of the game. When I first went toe-to-toe with the Big Sister, I found myself narrowly escaping a trip to the dreaded Vita Chamber; but well into the third act I was easily able to defend against two of them concurrently.

Delta is also given the recurring moral choice of either adopting or harvesting Rapture's vastly increased Little Sister population. While harvesting Little Sisters will still yield more ADAM than simply rescuing them, the new adoption mechanic allows Delta to take the Sisters under his wing and ask them to sniff out recently deceased Splicers rich with Rapture's gooey currency. Be warned, though: siccing your Little Sister on an ADAM-fueled corpse sends out an open invitation for Splicers of all shapes and sizes, requiring players to tactically plan to dismantle the masked madmen far in advance, making lesser-used plasmids such as Cyclone Trap or newer abilities like Scout invaluable assets.

BioShock 2

BioShock 2's new hacking mini-game works well on the fly and never takes Delta out of the action.

BioShock 2 as a whole has taken a much bigger focus on tactical thinking, regularly asking players to seek out opportune vantage points for ADAM gathering, create elaborate traps for oncoming enemies, and mix-and-match various gene tonic/plasmid combinations against different foes. Delta's arsenal is also nicely balanced, and thankfully does away with the often-abused "wrench-plus-lighting" combination from the original. The Research Camera also gets a nice bump, trading in static photos in favor of film reels for a much more fluid examination experience and offering up some priceless perks and damage bonuses along the way. The act of hacking has received a massive overhaul as well, featuring a new needle-based mini-game that allows Delta to override security cameras, bots, vending machines, and turrets on the fly, never taking players out of the frenetic Plasmid-slinging action for more than a quick second. Delta can also blast Rapture's more remote devices with a Hack Dart for long-distance decryption, creating excellent opportunities for sneak attacks and a few inventive puzzles.

I was also thoroughly impressed by BioShock 2's expansive multiplayer modes (Capture the Little Sister stands out as an easy favorite) and in-depth character customization opportunities, granting players access to three unique plasmid, weapon, and tonic load-outs, each entirely customizable down to the specific weapon upgrades players will carry into battle. The more matches won, ADAM collected, and Achievement-esque Trials completed, the more Gene Tonics, Plasmids, and weapon upgrades your characters are allowed access to, allowing players to finely tune their avatar to match their play style. Combined with some detailed and nicely varied maps, BioShock 2's multiplayer is undoubtedly something that shouldn't work, but inexplicably does -- and pretty damn well, at that.

BioShock 2

The Big Sister is fast, mean, and deadly. When you hear her signature scream, proceed with care.

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 -- one level even going so far as to ask Delta to rescue or harvest every Little Sister on the stage before continuing with the plot.

2K has also put quite a bit of care into crafting a satisfactory ending following the criticism of the original BioShock's lackluster finale, but BioShock 2's final moments might not fully address the issue; I won't say more at the risk of spoiling anything. The much-criticized Vita Chambers also make a return, but players averse to the idea of plot-convenient resurrections can disable them from the get-go. I also experienced a small bit of texture popping, as well as a slight amount of audio skipping during my initial playthrough -- technical hiccups that I hope will be ironed out for the game's retail release, but hiccups nonetheless.

Still, BioShock 2 not only re-captures the dystopian aesthetic, gripping narrative, and deep gameplay of Irrational's original, but it actually greatly improves on the BioShock experience as a whole, fine-tuning what made Jack's voyage to Rapture such a memorable experience two years ago. 2K Marin has breathed incredible life into nearly every aspect of Ryan's undersea society, not only justifying the need for a sequel, but leaving me incredibly eager to re- explore its dilapidated halls.

PROS: Greatly improved combat; new Plasmids/Tonics offer up some great mix-and-match opportunities; stunning presentation; Multiplayer mode is good fun.
CONS: A few technical hiccups here and there; still a bit of backtracking involved.

Comments [27]

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Jon_Anderson

Here I see the inherent problem with scores on reviews. If you put this and ME2 (4.5 stars) next to each other, is this really the better game? Do you honestly expect it will be in the running for GOTY? On the other hand, if ME2 came out in '09, it would have been my GOTY, and I suspect a lot of mainstream outlets. Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I don't have a problem with Bioshock 2 getting 5 stars, I have a problem with the arbitrary score in the first place. Gotta feed that metacritic machine.

joeyjuviyani

The game Bioshock 2 was released very recently. I have set up all new PC configuration at my place to accommodate Bioshock 2. I went through all its Information and details from:
http://www.techarena.in/guide/29469-bioshock-2-sea-dreams-walkthrough-tips.htm

linkmastermind

I friggin LOVE this game! Just as good as the first, maybe even better! Multiplayer's pretty good, too. And Toneman, the matchmaking system should put you into games that are in progress, I've done it many times already. You might want to check your system and connection to make sure it's not one of those two things.

Toneman

slime wrote:

I'll playing this one for the multiplayer because the single player from the first one to me was awful, I really don't see how they got the score they recieved. Well it wasn't so much the single player but instead it was the weapons like the lack of ammo for them.
My favorite weapon in the first one was the wrench, especially when you get the tonic that gives you a little bit of health every time you hit someone with it, among other tonics like Speed level 3 and Electric Flesh. Bioshock 2 is a better game than the first (improved hacking and researching, you have both hands up at all times for plasmids and weapons.... graphics are still top notch but locations are more exotic art-wise.) The story so far (I'm about half way through) feels a bit been-there-done-that but it's still really good. Saving Little Sisters require a lot more work then before, but it's fun and rewarding. (kill Big Daddy, protect Little Sister while she gathers Adam twice, then drop her off in a vent and deal with Big Sister). Love how Tonic Slots aren't limited to certain types of tonics... anything goes. TWO MAJOR THUMBS UP, and I didn't even get to try the multiplayer yet! The matchmaking system sucks, I tried twice and ended up waiting minutes for people to join until I gave up and went back to story mode. Wish we could join a game in progress... maybe in Bioshock 3.
slime

I'll playing this one for the multiplayer because the single player from the first one to me was awful, I really don't see how they got the score they recieved. Well it wasn't so much the single player but instead it was the weapons like the lack of ammo for them.

TRUPREDATOR

I really wish my tax check could get here sooner. I want this and Mass Effect 2 and need to pre order Conviction. Im sure I will enjoy this and I tend to agree more with Game Informers reviews they said it was good but very repetitive though the last three hours seriously kick ass, but the multiplayer wasnt that good. I was hopin to hear that it was pretty good on the multi player front. Hopefully GI got it wrong about that part and I will enjoy the multiplayer as much as the story mode.

EJStrat

Good review. I'm stoked about this game, loved the first one. I remember I called my friend as soon as I finished the first one and said, "dude, this game just fucked my world up." I do kind of wish it was left as a standalone title, especially if it's got a different developer- but as long as they did it justice I'm happy.

S4NDM4N_v2

Dopefish wrote:

I don't quite understand the mentality behind reviews on this site anymore. Mass Effect 2 got 4.5 stars basically because the reviewer didn't like the final boss. This game, while probably equally good in it's own right, gets 5 stars. I think UFC 2009 got 5 stars and even Left for Dead 2 got 4.5. GamePro really needs to revise their reviewing system - it's been broken for years and really doesn't provide a good representation of the product they're reviewing.

ME2 deserved a 3.5/5

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