Dealspwn Rating: 8/10
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
I’m going to have to admit right away that I came to Bioshock 2 with a certain sense of trepidation. Since learning that 2K were planning on giving us another glimpse of Rapture I have worn my fingernails down to the bone so that now my hands themselves look like fingerless gloves for the undead. It’s not that I thought they’d manage to screw up a sequel, but rather that the original game didn’t need one, that what came next bearing the same name couldn’t possibly hope to be quite as special as the original.
A little recap for those yet to check out the underwater city, Rapture was built by a man named Andrew Ryan, and designed to be an objectivist Utopia. Unfortunately, the discovery of mutated sea slugs that excreted a substance named ADAM ruined proceedings, as it was learned that ADAM could initiate instantaneous genetic modification, or awesome superhuman Plasmid upgrades to you and me. So the citizens of Rapture began to fight over them and a whole bunch of lost and abandoned children were turned into ADAM harvesters, or Little Sisters, using their own bodies to refine the material. They, in turn, were protected from the ADAM addicted lowlifes of the city, or Splicers, by Big Daddies, read oversized armoured psychopaths with the Mole from Thunderbirds for an arm.
If Rapture sounds like a bit of a twisted place then you’d be right, it’s both beautiful and diseased in equal measure and, just like the first game, you hold its fate in your hands. Bioshock 2 takes place a decade on from its predecessor: Ryan is gone, but the city is still as warped as ever, under the direction of one Sophia Lamb who has eschewed Ryan’s individualistic philosophy for one of community collectivism, and set herself up as a quasi-religious leader. Big Daddies still stomp the streets, Splicers can be seen slinking about the shadows, giggling maniacally and muttering curses and Lamb’s voice bounces off of walls throughout Rapture’s halls and corridors.
Now, however, you’re a part of the city too rather than a simple tourist. You awaken in this familiar-yet-changed locale as Subject Delta, the big daddy of the Big Daddies, if you will. Yep, you fill the hefty boots of one of the original drill-wielding icons this time around. True, you got a peek at life inside the oversized diving suit at the end of the last game, but this is a whole new sustained experience. Every step creates tremors, your vision is curtailed when you turn by the limits of your helmet, and when you peek into the water a monstrous vision will be staring back at you. You can dual wield now, with Plasmids on the left and your weapon, which defaults of course to a massive drill, on the right.
It’s worth saying this right now, all of the weapons in Bioshock 2 kick ass, much more so than in the previous game, and everything starts with that drill. You’ll never look at a Screwfix catalogue in quite the same way ever again. Forget the first game’s wrench, or Gordon Freeman’s crowbar, forget Tom Clancy’s predilection for pocket-sized knifes, or the flaming Shishkebab of the Capital Wasteland; this is probably one of the best melee weapons ever created. Even if there’s a Splicer chuckling to himself on the far side of the room, seemingly safe from your spiralling arm of metal doom, just fire up a drill dash and within nanoseconds you’ll be over there and the room will have suddenly become a lot messier.
2K have done fantastic job of making every combative encounter excitingly dangerous. No more Doom-style guns blazing action, now you need to think a bit more and outmanoeuvre your opponents. Splicers will frequently attack you in numbers, the hacking mini-game now happens in real-time, so you’ll need to clear the area if you don’t want to be interrupted, and you find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder. New enemies provide new challenges too: Lamb’s brutal peacekeeping force – the vicious, orphan-stealing Big Sisters – are fearsome to behold and even more fearsome to fight, ambushing you as you stand guard over a Little Sister you’ve found to harvest ADAM for you.
Mechanically, this game surpasses its parent, but mechanics weren’t what set Bioshock above all of the other FPS games out there. Much of the original’s power came from a first glimpse at Rapture, the first time we met a Little Sister and her psychotic protector, the visceral realisation of Ryan’s warped dream, not to mention a gripping story that had more shocks than a lightning conductor. Bioshock 2 is a much more straight-forward game and the narrative is nowhere near as compelling as before. Rather than a new experience, this is really just ‘same tale, different perspective’, and even the moral dilemmas of ‘harvest or save’ eventually just stack up as black and white, rather than the murkier shades of grey exhibited in the original. True, it’s a unique perspective, but there are several moments where familiarity crosses over into imitation.
That said, it’s the gameplay that saves this from simply cashing in on Rapture’s fame. The combat has benefited from refinement, the enemy designs are better than ever and slightly more varied this time around, firefights are larger in scale and the multiplayer mode is excellent, taking several pages out of Modern Warfare’s book with a progression system that awards you new weapons, Plasmids and customisation options the more you play. Bioshock 2 might not tell as good a story, and some of Rapture’s charm may have dulled, but the way it goes about its business is certainly more exciting.
- It's good to be back in Rapture
- FPS action much better than the original
- You're a Big Daddy
- Not as striking as the original
- Average plot
- It might ruin your soul a little
The Short Version: Rapture is still one of the most fascinatingly volatile game worlds and its seething, vivid character should be enough to tempt back anyone who played the first game, but it’s the improved shooter mechanics that stand out this time around, along with a surprisingly good multiplayer. Bioshock 2 might not be a truly stellar sequel, and it might fall short of its impressive predecessor, but it’s still a cracking game and a vastly superior straightforward FPS.