Going back to a place you love can be hard. Looking back on past events through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia can often lead to a skewed perspective on things, making them seem bigger and better than they really were. This is often the case in the world of videogames, where the rapid pace of developing technology and advancements in gameplay can make old favourites seem more stale and flat than that old pair of socks that has been at the bottom of your washing pile for the last six months.
Yet in our minds, they still remain as wonderful as the first time we ever played it. In an ideal world, we should love the sequels of our favourite games. After all, a videogame sequel should take all of the best bits from the last game and make them better whilst cutting out all the bad parts. However, not every sequel manages to get this right, just look at our recent review for Army of Two: The 40th Day for instance. So what of Bioshock 2? The much anticipated sequel to a game that received universal acclaim. Read on to find out…
Before getting to the finer points on Bioshock 2, some back story needs to be established. Both Bioshock and Bioshock 2 are set in the 1960s in the underwater city of Rapture, built by industrialist Andrew Ryan, where things are not going well. Originally designed as a haven for intellectuals, the residents have been driven mad by gene altering drugs called Plasmids which bestow powers such as the ability to shoot lighting from your finger tips or set things on fire with your mind.
The key ingredient for the Plasmids is a substance called Adam, which is harvested by insane mutated little girls called Little Sisters. Protecting the Little Sisters are hulking man monsters named Big Daddies, who look like old fashioned divers on steroids, armed with a massive drill. A key part of the original was making the decision whether you would kill the Little Sisters and steal all of their Adam for yourself, or if you would rescue them and gain less Adam leaving you more vulnerable. The events of the first game lead to the death of Andrew Ryan, and either the salvation or the destruction of the Little Sisters, which sets the scene for Bioshock 2.
Taking place 10 years after the events of the first Bioshock you control Subject Delta, a prototype Big Daddy that has been designed to have a physical dependency on being in close proximity to his Little Sister. Waking up in a pool of water deep in the bowels of Rapture, you set out to find your Little Sister.
The first thing you notice when playing as the Big Daddy is that this prototype is far faster than the original lumbering big daddies. Another key point is that you can duel wield plasmids and guns, something that was lacking in the original. Before long you are introduced to the new addition to Rapture, the Big Sister; grown up versions of the Little Sisters suitably attired in Big-Daddy-like armour, with incredible agility.
During your first battle with the Big Sister she shatters the glass wall causing the ocean to come flooding in. Fortunately, your armour is air tight and allows you to walk underwater unhindered in search of a way back into the city. Underwater exploration is fairly limited and linear, but the visuals are impressive, particularly the sweeping view of the city itself.
During the 10 years between the two games, Rapture has descended further in to hell. The residents have continued to splice themselves and mutated even further. Rapture itself is also more degraded, with leaks springing up all over the place. Following Andrew Ryan’s death, one of Ryan’s political rivals named Sofia Lamb has filled the void as Rapture’s leader. Rather than following Ryan’s belief in the strength of the individual and their own genius, Lamb favours a more left wing approach, expousing the virtues of the collective rather than the individual.
While most residents are completely insane and show hostility towards you, there are still some friendly characters that will help you, such as Dr Tennenbaum and Augustus Sinclaire. As you travel Rapture you come across audio logs left behind by citizens of Rapture, which fill in a lot of the back story. Overall the quality of voice acting in the game is exceptional and does an excellent job of fleshing out the world around you.
There are a number of small changes made in this game that improve the overall experience. In the original you could only perform a melee attack if you had the wrench equipped. Now you can press the B button at any time to bash someone with whatever weapon you have equipped. Your default weapon is the Big Daddy drill, which is satisfying to use on your deranged foes, although it can only be used if you have enough fuel.
Fortunately fuel is abundant and can be purchased from most vending machines, as well as found in crates that litter the surroundings. All weapons can be upgraded by finding hidden Power to the People machines, granting them larger damage, more ammo, and a final bonus, such as an electromagnet on the drill that deflects bullets.
As well as the drill, Big Daddies can use a Rivet Gun, Machine Gun, Granade Launcher, Spear Gun, and the new long distance hack gun. This new gun allows you to fire a dart at hackable machines, such as security cameras and turrets, enabling you to turn them to your cause from a safe distance. The hacking sub-game from the original Bioshock, in which you had to link up a series of tubes, is replaced by a simple reaction game in which you must press the A button whenever the needle on your metre hits a green area.
This will be good news to some people, but I found it a little disappointing, as the hacking game from Bioshock was one of the features I liked the most. Each gun has three types of ammo, ranging from explosive rounds, armour piercing rounds, and proximity mines. The camera that was used to research your enemies has also been upgraded to a movie camera. Once the camera starts to roll you have to attack your enemy in as many different ways as possible in order to gain more experience. Fully researching enemies not only grants you damage bonuses against them, but also improves your abilities.
Since the official ending of the first game had the majority of the Little Sisters being rescued, the Little Sisters that you discover on your quest are children that have been abducted from the surface. Much like the original, when you find a Little Sister you need to dispose of the Big Daddy that is protecting her before you decide what to do with her. You can either harvest the Little Sisters in exchange for a quick pay out of Adam, or you can now adopt the Little Sister and help her harvest more Adam from dead bodies spread out around the city.
The addition of the Little Sister protection is one of the strongest new features in Bioshock 2, adding a new level of strategy. Before setting her to work you can place a number of traps for the army of residents that will try and take out your Little Sister. These include hacked surveillance cameras, turrets, explosive rivets, and security drones. Once you set the Little Sister down, dozens of enemies will descend on you and try to kill the Little Sister. Each Little Sister can harvest two bodies before they need to be returned to their home, a hole in the wall, and at this point you can either choose to cure them of their condition, or harvest them for an even bigger amount of Adam.
The biggest addition is multiplayer, developed by Digital Extremes independently of the main game. To say that Bioshock 2’s multiplayer is influenced by Modern Warfare would be an understatement. Each kill awards you with a set number of experience points. There are 40 experience levels each of which has their own unique unlocks, such as weapons, Plasmids, and Gene Tonics, which are essentially the same as the perks in Modern Warfare.
While there are only a few new Plasmids in the story mode, there are a number of new Plasmids exclusively in the multiplayer, such as the dash plasmid that grants you extreme speed for a short amount of time. Also included are a number of challenges, such as getting X amount of kills with a certain weapon or plasmid, in order to unlock more experience.
Where the game really stands out from Modern Warfare is the utilisation of hacking turrets and cameras, photographing your dead opponents to gain a damage bonus against them, and the Big Daddy suits, which randomly appear and, once collected, turn you in to a Big Daddy for a set amount of time. Between matches you can return to your in game apartment to customise your appearance and listen to audio logs that you have unlocked.
There are several modes, including death match, team death match, protect the little sister (which is Bioshock’s version of capture the flag), and harvest the Adam (essentially king of the hill mode). So far the Multiplayer has been surprisingly impressive, with minimal lag and a decent number of players online, even before the game was officially released and, despite some initial hesitation, is a welcome addition to the game.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 4/5 The graphics are much clearer than the original game. Rapture is now a vibrant and distinctive location, even in a complete state of disarray. The fantastic art deco style of the city, ranging from the architecture and the propaganda posters, remains intact.
Sound: 5/5 The soundtrack, including songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Artie Shaw, makes the game feel authentic for the time period. Most of the voice acting is brilliant, with expressive and clear voice acting.
Gameplay: 4/5 Bioshock’s slightly wonky first person controls are improved in the sequel, with better handling of the weapons. While the first few hours of the game feel very familiar to players of the first game, the addition of the Little Sister protection sections does a lot to make the sequel stand out. The Multiplayer mode, taking influences from Modern Warfare, is surprisingly good and an awful lot of fun.
Longevity: 4/5 The game features a number of moral choices beyond the typical “should I kill the Little Sister, or rescue her” which have an impact on the ending of the game. The Multiplayer mode is a lot of fun and could potentially add a number of hours to the game so long as there are enough players sticking around in the future
Overall: 4 Electroshocks out of 5. While the story is a lot more conventional and straight forward than the original, it is consistent with the Bioshock universe, and truth be told a lot more even. Playing as the Big Daddy adds a new level of strategy to the game, and the Multiplayer should keep people coming back for a good while to come.
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