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Game: Bioshock 2
Developer: 2K
Publisher: 2K
Year: 2010
Reviewed: 2010
Platform: PC
Genre: FPS
Game Version: 1.0
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

Bioshock 2 Exhibit
Journey to the Surface is an incredible attraction in Rapture’s theme park. Just look at those amazingly lifelike exhibits.

Bioshock is, of course, an acknowledged classic of the FPS genre. In addition to the overall quality of the game, there are two major reasons for this. Firstly, there was the initial thrill of first walking into Rapture, seeing the unique world in front of you ready for exploring. Secondly, there was that moment. A moment that’s unlikely to ever be forgotten by anyone who has played the game, and one of the standout moments in gaming history. It’s a hard legacy to live up to. Bioshock 2 can’t recapture the magic of that initial exploration and there’s no single moment as memorable or impressive as the meeting with Andrew Ryan. Fortunately, it matches or exceeds the original in all other respects, having an equally strong plot and improving just about every element of the gameplay, more than making up for those deficiencies. Even if it does sometimes seem like it’s following the structure of the original game a little too closely.

Where Bioshock was mostly about Rapture and the philosophies behind it, Bioshock 2 is a far more personal story. You play as a prototype Big Daddy trying to find the Little Sister (or not-so-little sister as she may be now) that he was bonded with. At its heart, it’s the story of a father and daughter relationship, which is very unusual territory for a game. Even if the father in question is a hulking genetically engineered beast in an old fashioned diving suit and the daughter spent much of her childhood as a blood drinking Adam harvesting tool. To say too much about the plot would be to spoil the experience of the game, but it’s very much based around the various characters and has many subplots.

Bioshock 2 Underwater
The underwater areas offer a brief respite from the action, and are often beautiful to look at.

The combat has been improved from the first game and is now much more fun. Where the original Bioshock has you awkwardly switching between plasmids (Bioshock’s genetic equivalent of magic spells, for the uninitiated) and weapons, the sequel allows you to dual-wield them, firing a gun with one hand while setting splicers on fire with the other. It leads to far more intuitive combat, which in turn makes it easier to experiment with the different plasmids instead of just sticking with the same ones that you already know work. In the first game, it seems many people found it easier to primarily use the wrench for combat throughout the whole game, so this time we’ve been given a far more interesting melee weapon in the form of the Big Daddy drill. It can be used to simply hit people with, but if you have fuel for it then it can be used for its intended purpose of drilling holes. Through people. Later in the game you can even do the drill charge move that sends enemies flying. The same move that was so annoying when it was used against you in the first game is much more tolerable when you’re using it back at them.

Most of the other weapons in the game are the same as before, although you do get a great harpoon gun some way into the game. It causes huge amounts of damage, impales splicers and sticks them to walls, and you can even then retrieve your ammunition. The plasmids are also mostly the same as before too, meaning you spend much of the game gathering Adam in order to be able to use powers that we’ve already seen. They have changed things a bit now though, in that when more powerful versions of a plasmid are gained, they have additional abilities rather than just causing more damage. For example, the normal version of Electro Bolt sends a bolt of electricity at an enemy to stun them, while improved versions can be charged up to stun multiple enemies. The first level Cyclone Trap works the same way as in the first game, laying a trap on the ground which springs enemies into the air, but at higher levels they can also be loaded with the effects of other plasmids, leading to a variety of possibilities such as traps which freeze a splicer and then send him flying into the ceiling, smashing into pieces. Because of these improvements along with the dual-wielding combat system, I found myself using plasmids a lot more often, and using a greater variety of them.

Bioshock 2 Big Sister
The Big Sisters will offer you a warm welcome to Rapture. (In the form of fireballs.)

As you explore the new areas of Rapture, you’ll still be spending time killing Big Daddies to get at their Little Sisters, and again you’ll have the choice to harvest or save them. The difference here is that if you save them, you can also use them to harvest two corpses before you send them back into their vents, gaining you extra Adam. The catch is that as soon as the harvesting process begins, every splicer in the area instantly knows and comes after the Little Sister, leaving you to defend them until they’ve finished their ghoulish task. These are some of the hardest battles in the game and unless you’re on the lowest difficulty will require some level of planning if you hope to survive through the onslaught. The other hard fights are with the much publicised Big Sisters. Unsurprisingly given the name, they’re the Little Sisters who have grown older, can use plasmids and have fitted themselves up like slimmer, faster versions of the Big Daddies. Whenever you rescue or harvest a Little Sister there’s a chance of one of these turning up, and they’re genuinely tough enemies. They make the Big Daddies look rather feeble in comparison. Originally, in the previews, they made it sound like there was just going to be one Big Sister that would run off before you ever managed to kill it and would hound you through the game. In many ways I wish they’d stuck to that concept, since now there are loads of them, although the fights are very exciting and tough, they still feel like they’re just the sequels version of Big Daddies. However much it might improve aspects of the first game, it still feels like it’s being held down to the same structure.

Bioshock 2 Hacking
The new hacking interface: less tedious than before, no more convincing.

Hacking the various security cameras, turrets, robots and vending machines is still a part of the game, although now that awful Pipemania game from Bioshock has been replaced by a simple system of stopping a moving needle at the right place. It means hacking is much quicker and doesn’t become annoyingly repetitive after the first couple of attempts. On the other hand, unlike the first game, hacking doesn’t pause the rest of the game, so it’s not as easy to do in the middle of combat. Another advantage of this system is the new darts which allow you to hack from a distance, providing some additional stealthy options.

So, Bioshock 2 has an involving storyline, and even allows some additional moral decisions along the way rather than just the choice between harvesting and saving the Little Sisters. The gameplay is improved in almost all respects, the hacking is better, the combat and the plasmids are better and it’s generally hard to fault the game. Except that it’s all a bit too familiar. They’ve stuck too closely to the format of the original game and despite all the good points it still sometimes feels like they’re holding back, scared to stray too far from the original game. It’s nothing that ruins the game, which is thoroughly enjoyable throughout the entire length, and as mentioned, is actually better than the original in most ways. It just can’t capture that magic of the first Bioshock, of first entering Rapture, and while they’ve got away with it this time, I’ll be very disappointed if the next sequel is the same again. Thankfully, the ending does leave me optimistic that any sequels will be going in a different direction. In the meantime, this is still one of the very best shooters around, and is highly recommended to any gamer.

Save System Review: Save anywhere, quicksave.
Graphics: The graphics are basically the same as they were in the first game. They look great in design, not quite top of the range in technical quality but they look fine.
Sound: Sound effects are of a high standard with first rate voice acting throughout. They’re on a level with the first game.
Bugs: The only bug I encountered was the game getting stuck looping the Big Sister battle music until the end of a level after fighting her. Google shows that this always seems to happen on the same level. Slightly annoying. Hopefully it will be fixed by a patch but it doesn’t appear to have been yet. Other than that the game was stable and I didn’t have any other problems. Though it should be noted, although it didn’t affect me personally, the game did have the same widescreen bug that the first game had, which is a very silly mistake to have made. It’s been fixed by the latest patch though.
Gameplay: Basically the same FPS gameplay that the original had, but now with the ability to fire guns and plasmids at the same time and some other general improvements.
Storyline: Not quite as outstanding as the first game, and it lacks the big game-changing moment the original had, but it’s still a very strong story that’s miles ahead of anything on offer by the rest of the FPS genre.

Arbitrary Final Score: 4.5 stars

If you like this, you might also like: Bioshock, System Shock games, Half-Life 2

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