Bioshock was a game that represented how much good word of mouth can send a game in the right direction. The release of the game is not unlike Borderland’s, in that there wasn’t a lot of real mainstream coverage, but the core gamers were there to pick it up, and the mainstream followed. The original game was brilliantly atmospheric, and wildly entertaining, if not a bit lacking in replay value. Bioshock 2, developed by 2K Marin, comprised of some members of Irrational Games, and published by 2K games for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, takes us back to Rapture, regardless of if you feel it’s necessary or not to return.
The story of Bioshock 2 comes from a different point of view than the first. Where Bioshock was an outsider entering the city of rapture Bioshock 2 comes from a point of view from a resident, namely one of the original big daddies. From the start there’s a nice change as a result of this, we get to see Rapture prior to it’s fall, however brief. The story from there focuses on some elements largely different from the original game. Ryan and Fontaine are still dead, but there is still conflict. Rapture’s only psychiatrist is running the underwater city now, with her community oriented ideals shaping rapture in a rather unique manner.
The story itself is entertaining, perhaps not as robust as Bioshock’s more Ayn Rand influenced story, but is somewhat more refreshing by making it feel more connected to the world that Rapture used to be. The characters in the game are hit and miss as they’re portrayed. Characters that return from the original, largely by means of recorders, are expanded more on, giving you a broader understanding of what drove them in the first game. The main characters and villains are interesting, but nowhere near as influential as Fontaine and Ryan were.
Rapture’s design isn’t completely different from what it was in the first game, but with the exploration of new areas comes a collection of some great design. The levels are very well designed, but suffer from being somewhat linear, removing the sense of freedom you had in the first game. It’s not a big problem, just somewhat disappointing.
The weapons in the game aren’t incredibly unique, but they do shine a little bit in some instances. The third level of upgrades bring a huge change to the weapons that can vastly change how you look at each one, like giving the rivet gun a chance to set enemies on fire, or the drill reflecting bullets. Being able to use these weapons and a plasmid at the same time seems so natural I completely forgot you couldn’t do it in the first game.
A majority of the enemies in the game are the same. Many of the enemies from the original game return, with exception of the Nitro splicer. There are only four new enemies to fight, but they are rather intense to fight. The Brute splicer is just a stronger, quicker hulk-like Splicer that likes charging at you. Rumbler Big Daddies are massive Big Daddies with explosives and miniature turrets. The Alpha series Big Daddies are prototypes, much like the main character, who have less armor and most Big Daddies, but wield powerful weapons and love getting up close and personal. All of these enemies pale in comparison to the Big Sister though, who are far more terrifying and difficult to fight than any enemy in the game.
Plasmids only see a rather significant change in the game in that you can use them with guns concurrently, and they get some impressive upgrades that follow into the multiplayer. Classic abilities, like the fire, electric and ice Plasmids can be charged. In the single player this allows you to either effect a bigger area for a longer time or more damage, or can later just be an impressive continuous blast of whatever plasmid you choose. This difference is subtle, but quite impressive and incredibly effective.
Playing as a Big Daddy means that you interact with the Little Sisters more. This brings up the infamous moral choice. As a big daddy with free will you can either adopt or harvest the little sister. Adopting the little sister results in bringing her to a body rich with Adam, and protecting her while she harvests the body. My original idea when hearing about this is that it would be frustrating, like so many escort missions in video games. Thankfully it’s not, but doesn’t really do much add or subtract from the game, it’s just another branch on the Adam trail in the game.
This brings me to the multiplayer, which was originally the game’s most controversial feature due to the lack of polish. There’s not a lack of polish now. Bioshock’s multiplayer is largely Modern Warfare with the Rapture flair. You get eight characters to choose from, all are the same just aesthetically different. Two weapons, two plasmids, three gene tonics. Getting something new in every category comes from leveling up by killing enemies, accomplishing tasks, or completing perk-like trials.
Ultimately it’s an experience that’s very familiar, but something I find far more entertaining due to the creative design. The plasmids and weapons allow for some incredible combinations, but there are other twists beyond that. If you kill an enemy, or are just near their body, you can research them to gain a damage increase against that person. This create a great bonus, but also acts as a psychological element, making you a bigger target the more people you research. The various turrets and supply stations can even be hacked to either be sentries against your enemy, or a trap when they try to get some more eve. These small changes make the game seem so incredibly different from Modern Warfare, and infinitely more addictive.
What’s more impressive is the level design. Regardless of what gametype you’re playing, each level is filled with little nooks and crannies to get around the level. Perhaps you break down a wall to gain extra access to a room, or maybe you just use a air duct to get from one room to another. Whatever it may be, there is plenty of exploration to do in each level to better utilize against enemies, and it’s so incredibly fun. More impressively, is that the multiplayer adds to the game’s somewhat mysterious past as you level up too, making the multiplayer not only fun, but also narratively relevant.
Bioshock 2 is an incredible sequel. For what the game lacks in power as far as characters and narrative goes, it makes up for in gameplay and background. The small changes to the gameplay and the wildly creative design make for a single player experience that, while more linear than the original, is no less fun. What the game does surprisingly well though is create a multiplayer that borrows heavily from Modern Warfare, but makes entirely it’s own supremely addictive experience. Come for the single player, stay for the multiplayer, Bioshock 2 does not disappoint.