Review – Bioshock 2
First Person Shooter
Please daddy, make it stop.
Playing Bioshock 2 for the first time feels a lot like coming full circle. Not just for the story of the undersea city of Rapture and its plasmid filled denizens but also for Peoww as it was the first game we ever reviewed way back in November of 2007. So what’s changed in the two years since the first Bioshock?
Well it’s a decade after the events of the first game set in 1958 that had you playing as the lone survivor of a plane crash left stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean only to discover the secret location of Rapture. This huge underwater city was built by an eccentric billionaire eager to escape as he saw it the decadent excess of post-war culture and interfering governments.
Upon entering the city you quickly found it overrun by Splicers, people driven mad by the over use of plasmids a new series of wonder drugs at can imbue its user with outlandish abilities like pyroknensis, hypnosis or even teleportation. By finding and using the different plasmids available you explored Rapture uncovering the events that turned it from a undersea utopia to the crumbling and flooded distopia while unravelling your own connection to the people that founded the city and eventually destroyed it.
Bioshock 2 starts a decade after the events of the first game and has you taking the role of Delta the man used to create the first ever ‘big daddy’, creatures made to protect the ‘little sisters’ young girls who gather and process Adam, the raw genetic material used to create plasmids. However unlike the lumbering behemoths of the original Bioshock, Delta is a far lighter and svelter creation produced to be used as a prototype unit in testing not only the weapons and technology to arm the daddies but also the plasmids that bond a daddy to his sister.
You’ll quickly find this means that playing as Delta is almost identical to playing as Jack from the original Bioshock as Delta’s lack of armour and ordinance means you’ll have to be cautious in early confrontations as his arm mounted drill quickly runs out of fuel and his rivet gun is weaker than the conventional firearms most Splicers carry. That’s not to say Delta is totally helpless as with a bit of forethought and subtlety you can turn the environment of rapture to your advantage. There are security cameras and turrets that can be hacked and turned against the Splicers not to mention explosive gas canisters and flammable oil barrels that can become ad hoc traps or huge pools of water just asking for a well placed electro bolt.
Unfortunately such aids are few and far between so before too long you’ll have to rely on your basic arms – literally in the case of the drill – like the rivet gun (read: pistol), shotgun, spear-gun, 50. Cal machine-gun and grenade launcher. They all have their uses and can once again get upgraded at each areas ‘power to the people’ machine but despite being ‘reskinned’ feel and handle exactly like Jack’s weapons from Bioshock. Later in the game there’s much fun to be had by using the different ammunition types like electric tripwires for the spear gun, mini gun turrets and heat seeking explosives but for ninety nine percent of the time expect to be using the basic rivet gun with it’s inaccurate crosshairs but plentiful ammunition.
The cut and paste feel doesn’t stop at the weapons either as new plasmids and tonics are few and far between and while it’s nice that each of the new locations has the same art deco design as the rest of Rapture almost every sequence in the game will elicit a strong sense of dÃ©jÃ vu for anybody who’s played the first Bioshock. There are new ideas like the Big Sisters but all it boils down to is taking the big daddy template and making them faster and putting them on a crash diet. Major changes are limited to hacking and researching the various â€¦ well nine enemy types in Rapture.
Hacking now has you stopping a moving needle when in the right area rather than the old Pipe Mania style game while research has you filming enemies with a keno camera with extra research awards being granted for different attacks encouraging you to despatch them with everything in your arsenal rather than just camping out by a friendly security camera. Camping by a camera might sound like a cheap tactic but when you realise that the Splicers respawn within minutes of being cleared from an area and on the harder levels require half a clip of ammo to kill you’ll be looking for any edge you can get in a fight especially if you’re on a gather.
With being a big daddy Delta can from time to time adopt a little sister (once her original big daddy has been killed off which is no mean feat early in the game) to go gathering Adam. She’ll direct you to a Splicer corpse that’s rich in Adam that’ll she’ll need to draw out using her needle and then process thus creating fresh Adam that you can use to buy new plasmids, tonics or other bonuses like extra health. While she is gathering the Adam you’ll be besieged by waves of Splicers all hungry for fresh Adam so you’ll need to defend her which depending on the location of the corpse can be as simple as filling both ends of a corridor with trap rivets or placing trip wires, mini turrets, proximity mines and the like for open areas with multiple entry points to cover.
If it sounds like a chore that’s because it is and if it wasn’t for the fact that you get far more Adam gathering with the little sisters rather than simply harvesting them I doubt anyone would willingly chose this option past the first mandatory gather early in the game. Which all goes towards one of the biggest problems I have with the game which is the complete lack of empowerment you feel throughout the game? Now I played the game from start to finish on the hardest difficulty with the vita chambers turned off so I wasn’t expecting an easy ride but with the Splicers constantly respawning moments after being killed off added to this the wholly generic weapons and predictable plasmids that never seem to be as effective as you’d like and crosshairs that make precision aiming impossible difficult you’ll spend more time avoiding fights than anything else and with stealth being almost impossible expect to see the menu screen far more than you’d like too when you die as there’s no retry or reload option it just dumps you straight back to the main menu every time.
Other major problems are more technical in origin with the widescreen mode not having the right aspect ratio and the same old Unreal engine problems of texture pop leaving you looking at smooth, blank textures for half a minute before the right texture magically appears. I’ve no doubt this is down to the five – that’s right FIVE! – development teams simply reusing old code from Bioshock 1 wholesale, bugs included.
In 2007 I would have gladly said that Bioshock the first was one of the greatest shooters to grace this generation. Now however I wouldn’t be able to give the game that acclaim, it was a very linear game of fetch with an occasional black and white moral choice, saint or dickhead. I will still defend the game though due to the fact that it boasted one of the most intriguing and occasionally terrifying stories I have ever witnessed. The atmosphere was breathtaking and turned an average game into a brilliant one.
Bioshock 2 continues in the same mold as its predecessor, only this time the gunplay and plasmids have been tweaked to as perfect as they can be and there are more choices to the game making it somewhat more worthwhile of a second playthrough. The problem is though, the atmosphere has been diminished thanks to the fact that you play as one of the more powerful characters in the Bioshock mythos. Its very hard to feel tense when you are running headfirst into a group of bloody splicers with a giant Drill bit on your arm.
A sequel to Bioshock was bound to end up being more of the same and to some that will be no bad thing but by weakening the suspense of Rapture, 2K have made the game into little more than â€œbeen there, done that.â€
Secondary Score: 7/10
Now you might wonder why I’ve not mentioned the game’s plot yet, well that’s because there isn’t one really. Sure there’s over a hundred audio dairies to listen to and some new characters who interact with you but to be honest it’s all totally inconsequential and just there to give you a reason to flip a switch or go hunting for the key to a door. There’s one new and importantly well written section at the start of the third act but I wonder how many people will make it far enough into the game to see it as everything that precedes it is just pointless fluff used to retcon previous events enough to justify this sequel that takes almost all its assets and queues from the previous game.
So where did the two years development time go? Well it wasn’t on the multiplayer mode I can tell you that and if it did what the fuck?!? Seriously the MP section of Bioshock 2 is without the worst multiplayer mode I’ve had to subject myself to in recent memory and I’ve played Army of Two: The 40th Day and Mortal Kombat vs. DCU. The game engine struggles to show more than two players on screen at any one time with becoming a slideshow, the weapons, plasmids and other abilities are unbalanced or just plain broken and the maps so standardised they play like reskinned maps from Turok or Timesplitters.
As an example of an uninspired sequel Bioshock 2 is perfect. The tacked on multiplayer mode and recycled characters, locations, plot twists and set pieces are all present with the only true creativity on display here how they’ve managed to essentially sell the same game again but minus the heart and soul which was arguably lifted from an old PC game that’s so much better than this mess I’m not even going to mention its name for fear of putting people of playing it. Bioshock pooh more like, no â€¦ Bioshit 2 more like, still not there â€¦ Bioshove broken glass in my cock rather than have to play that multiplayer mode again more like. Yep, there’s your quote line 2K.