Bioshock 2

It’s impossible to consider Bioshock 2 in a vacuum, to pretend that Bioshock never existed and to pretend that this sequel is not inheriting its greatest assets from a previous entry. Bioshock was a thinking (wo)man’s shooter, ignoring Halo and Call of Duty by hearkening back to games like Deus Ex and System Shock. It was a psychological mind-bender, a deft satire of gaming and a breath of fresh air.

So a cash-in sequel – without the original director and with a mulitplayer mode no less – pretty much red-lines my corporate cynicism meter.

Bioshock 2 undoubtedly borrows more than it brings, with mechanics, visuals and structures being extremely familiar to anyone who played the original. Failed underwater utopia, vainglorious scientific pursuits, harvest vs rescue, audio diaries, research cameras – the list goes on and on.

And with it, that alluring veneer of the original game has almost entirely vanished – the giggling, childish Little Sister and her looming, moaning patriarch are no longer so exciting, terrifying or mystifying. They are relegated to merely lumbering gameplay-objectives and frolicking genetic-currency. Plus, that repetitive violin-chord and those puppy-dog eyes when you choose to rescue them grates right from the start.

What Bioshock 2 does bring, though, is a brand new tale for Rapture-fans. This time around the core storyline offers a more emotional punch, hiding the original game’s psychological and philosophical themes in the shadows for you to explore and discover at your leisure.

That lore, if you choose to even dig into it at all, is as deep and engaging as ever. In one corner is Andrew “The Objectivist” Ryan, the other is Sophia “The Collectivist” Lamb, with their fiery moral debate playing out entirely through scattered audio tapes and tatty remnants of the past. It’s utterly engrossing.

The main event, too, is more than enough motivation to keep you playing. Putting you in the clonking size 25 boots of a Big Daddy, you fight your way through Rapture to save your original Little Sister – Eleanor Lamb. It puts a twist on the original game; you aren’t fighting, scavenging and killing to save yourself, you’re doing it to save her. She watches your every move, which gives a whole new meaning to the moral choices throughout the story. Would you kill out of vengeance if your daughter was peeking?

I say “you fight your way through Rapture” because Bioshock 2 has an unwelcome emphasis on combat. Your battling controls and mechanics have been greatly improved, with plasmids and weapons wielded in unison, but that doesn’t justify throwing bullet-sponge baddies and roomfuls of splicers at your every turn. Bioshock works best when the fights are thoughtful and considered; when you’re given time to manipulate the environment with traps and security bots and proximity mines before the shit hits the proverbial fan.

Like the Big Daddies and, to a lesser extent, the Big Sisters. When she starts a-wailin’ you know its time to hang up electrified wire and glowing trap darts like tinsel and baubles on an underwater Christmas tree. You’re ready, you’re prepared, you succeed.

But then the game throws a Brute Splicer or an Alpha Daddy at you – an incongruously designed nasty and a rogue Big Daddy with your blood on his mind. Suddenly the game turns into a carnival of flying rivets, electrified water and beeping security bots – oh, and your frequent death, no doubt. It feels more like Serious Sam or Doom – a reckless disregard for tactics or thought, and not really the reason I’d play a game with Bioshock in the name.







2 responses to “Bioshock 2”

  1. Simon avatar

    Nice review. I would rather like to play through it at some point, just to re-experience Rapture and a new story within but limited funds mean there are a handful of games above it on my list.

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