Game Review: Bioshock 2

BioShock 2

In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.

Bioshock 2 (2010) (Xbox 360)

BioShock 2The consensus view when Bioshock 2 was first announced is why taint the original game with a sequel? Bioshock with its brilliant depiction of the city of Rapture, the memorable pairing of the fearsome Big Daddies and helpless Little Sisters, and that clever storyline should surely have been left as a stand-alone achievement. 2K Games decided it was worth revisiting Rapture and I’m delighted to say they were right.

The story opens just before the original Bioshock in 1958 where Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy to be bonded to a Little Sister, leads a valiant attempt to protect his companion against a psychologist known as Sofia Lamb. Sofia reveals that Delta’s Little Sister is her daughter, Eleanor, before forcing Delta to remove his helmet and commit suicide. Ten years later Delta is revived and wakes to find his bond to Eleanor remains and he must journey through Rapture to Fontaine Futuristics to rescue her. Rapture, once the child of Andrew Ryan, is now controlled by Sofia Lamb whose ideals are in stark contrast to her predecessor. Delta is aided in his search for Eleanor firstly by Dr Tenenbaum and then Augustus Sinclair, while Eleanor sends psychic messages to her protector and has the Little Sisters throughout the city leave gifts to aid you on your mission. Sofia Lamb, however, assumes the role of Andrew Ryan in the first game and will throw everything at Delta to ensure he fails in his task.

The first obvious difference in Bioshock 2 is that there is no Jack – the main protagonist from the first game – and instead you play as a Big Daddy for the duration. You can trace the outline of the visor in your helmet on the screen and this is augmented by such intricate detail as droplets of water or blood spatter on the visor whenever you’ve taken one too many hits from your enemies. Delta, like Jack, quickly gains access to plasmids to use special powers like electro bolts and telekinesis while your Big Daddy arsenal is very impressive with the deadly rivet gun and the gruesomely effective drill available to you early on. Later in the game you can obtain a shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher, speargun and even gain access to a myriad of traps such as mines and wires which become integral to your efforts. Combat has been much improved this time round with both Delta’s hands visible on the screen and the ability to wield plasmids and weapons simultaneously rather than switching between the two as in the first game. You still require first aid kits to keep your health topped up and EVE to ensure your continuous use of plasmids. The many vending machines from Bioshock make a welcome return and will assist you in keeping your supplies plentiful, upgrading your weapons and obtaining a wider variety of tonics giving Delta access to useful abilities such as better protection against fire and electricity, increased health and even greater ease of hacking safes and security systems. Another notable feature is that the Big Daddy’s range of exploration goes beyond the flooded confines of Rapture and out onto the ocean floor. Fantastic to say the least!

The array of enemies in Bioshock have been augmented this time round with the introduction of Brute Splicers, larger variants of their counterparts who are not opposed to ramming an imposing figure such as Delta and are much tougher to take down. Fellow Big Daddies return and you will need to engage them in combat to get to the Little Sisters they protect. Once again you have a decision to make when faced with a Little Sister. In the first instance you can harvest them for ADAM, killing them in the process or you can choose to adopt them, placing the little girl on your back. From this point you can take the sister straight to a vent where you have the option to either harvest or rescue her. Before that why not ask the Little Sister to guide you to corpses rich with ADAM? On locating such a source you can set your companion down with her trusty syringe to yield a large supply of ADAM that will add to your stock. The only problem here is that Little Sisters extracting ADAM alert the unwanted attention of Splicers and you will need to stand guard and protect her throughout these ambushes until her task is complete. These protection tasks become more difficult as you progress and it is essential that you enlist the help of security systems such as cameras and turrets by hacking them or you can set up a series of traps to take out the Splicers on your behalf. Hacking is much improved this time, abandoning the pipe connections of Bioshock in favour of a needle moving left and right across a dial with different coloured patches. Stopping the needle on green or preferably blue for bonuses leads to a successful hack, white delivers a shock to Delta and red sets off a security alarm.

There can be up to three Little Sisters to find in each section and after you have rescued or harvested them your latest foe will make her appearance – the Big Sister. Similar to a Big Daddy but more powerful and agile, the Big Sisters stop at nothing to protect Little Sisters and with the ability to wield plasmids of their own they are more than a match for you. Moments after taking a Little Sister to a vent you may hear the unwelcome scream of a Big Sister and at this point you have only a short time to prepare. Big Sisters can appear at any time dependent on how long it takes you to progress and how many Little Sisters you have acquired.

Bioshock 2 has multiple endings and these are dictated not just by your actions towards the Little Sisters but via your actions against three key characters in the game – Grace Holloway, Stanley Poole and Gil Alexander. The morality of each individual comes under question as you unravel the secrets of Rapture via the radio transmissions of Sofia Lamb and the various recordings of Rapture’s inhabitants. For each of the three characters you will have to choose whether to kill or let them live. This added element offers more scope for you to revisit Bioshock 2 and experience the different conclusions. If that’s not enough there is even a multiplayer option available and set during the civil war that was fought before the events of the original Bioshock.

Bioshock 2 will inevitably be scrutinised for inferiorities compared to its predecessor. Though Delta’s awakening, seeing his reflection in a puddle, is a memorable way to begin the game it doesn’t offer the same impact as Bioshock with that first descent into Rapture but how were 2K Games going to better that? Though playing as a Big Daddy was undoubtedly a treat I found protecting the Little Sisters as they gathered ADAM could be tricky at times even when I had gone to great lengths to secure the area with security and traps. As with its predecessor Bioshock 2 is rated 18 and is more violent than the first game with weapons such as the spear gun impaling Splicers against walls and I don’t need to comment on the mess the drill makes!

Attempting a sequel to Bioshock deserves credit and 2K Games have pulled it off brilliantly. Bioshock 2 has improved on the combat of the original, the story isn’t quite as good this time and though some of the awe and mystery of Rapture has been lost a return to Andrew Ryan’s fallen city is a journey well worth making.

Final Score: 88%

* Originally published on FemaleGamers

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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