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Monday, December 27, 2010

BioShock 2 (9.3/10)


(Secrets exposed from the original BioShock, play that first then read this! You've been warned...)

If you’ve read my review of BioShock you can probably guess how excited I was for BioShock 2. If you haven’t read my review of BioShock, here's the link. I’ll wait…

Well? Wasn’t that both enlightening and well written? Did you already email the link to all of your friends? Just kidding...

Anyhoo, it's time to go back under the sea! Back to the horror! Back to... Rapture...

Your return to Rapture begins as you wake up… in the shoes of a Big Daddy! Oh ho, the irony! But you aren’t just any Big Daddy, you are the Big Daddy: known only as Delta, you are one of the original trials and the first that was successfully bonded to a Little Sister. And not just any Little Sister, but the Little Sister: Eleanor Lamb, daughter of Sophia Lamb, the de facto leader of Rapture since Andrew Ryan’s untimely demise. Eleanor appears before you, a slightly out of focus vision of an adolescent girl, asking for your help in setting her free. Ha! As if you had a choice; after all you are a Big Daddy! So you venture forth in search of your ward...

Rapture is just as you remember it… an unadulterated mess. Ahhhhh, memories:^). Ten years have passed, and that’s another decade’s worth of neglect and corrosion by sea water. This time around you get to visit some new locales in the crumbling undersea metropolis like an amusement park dedicated to Andrew Ryan himeslf or the slums of Pauper’s Drop. As with the original (boy, I can tell I’m going to be using that phrase a lot!) the graphics and sound are instrumental in creating that foreboding atmosphere that gives Rapture such personality. Rapture is still Rapture and it hasn't lost any of its luster (that’s figurative luster, not literal luster… Rapture ran out of literal luster ages ago…).

Along the same theme, the gameplay is almost identical to BioShock with a couple of noticeable changes. You still have all the basic plasmids and weapons (along with a new drill attachment, just like a Bouncer Big Daddy!) and they all work pretty much the same way. But since you play as a Big Daddy, well, there are certain responsibilities you need to take on... like protecting the Little Sisters of Rapture, for example.

In BioShock, the relationship between the Big Daddies and Little Sisters was well explored (especially if you took the time to find all the audio diaries) and the trials at the end where you had to escort the Little Sister was harrowing to say the least. In BioShock 2 they took that basic premise and made it the basis of the sequel.

As Delta, you can adopt Little Sisters after offing their previous guardians. Those are the familiar Bouncers and Rosies along with a new Big Daddy called the Rumbler who sports a rocket pack. He’s an annoying bastard, just so you know. It’s quite poignant to hear a Little Sister moaning the loss her Mr. Bubbles until you waddle up. Her eyes actually light up as she asks, "Are you gonna take care of me now?" Seeing as these infected little princesses actually have glowing eyes, it’s not much of a stretch, but it does evoke some emotion. You really do feel a protective responsibility (at least I did).

After adopting a Little Sister you can find corpses for them to harvest. Of course, this serves as ringing the dinner bell as it were for the splicers. So before you have your happy helper get out her needle, you'll need to be prepared. You still have trap bolts for use with your crossbow, but now you have even more options for mining the hell out of the surrounding area. Trap rivets can be laid across any flat surface. Put them at alternating heights down a corridor or a flight of stairs and the splicers will get nailed as they charge in. The cyclone trap plasmid is back, but now you can upgrade it so it is capable of being charged by an elemental plasmid. The English version is you can create mini stationary tornadoes that are on fire. Fun! Once you’ve set your traps and mines, prompt your Little Sister to start harvesting, and keep and eye out for any that get through!

For the most part I really enjoyed this aspect of BioShock 2. It was a clever idea in the first game, and they fleshed it out well. That said, it can get a little tedious after you’ve done it for the tenth time. For a while it's fun, effectively mining a whole area with multiple access points. But that's time consuming, and afterwards you have to go around and collect all your unused ordinance. Not a major gripe, but it does wear a bit towards the end.

Once you have saved (or harvested) a couple of Little Sisters you will find you have something of a problem… namely that some of the Little Sisters from the first game have grown up, and it turns out they are just as protective of the younger generation as the Big Daddies, if not more so! "Big Sister doesn’t want you to play with me!" is not a good thing to hear. You know you’re in for a tough fight. While the Big Daddies are hulking brutes, Big Sisters are fast, agile, and capable of using your same arsenal of plasmids against you. They also have an oversized syringe attached to their arm that they will try and stab you with. Unpleasant, to say the least. You’ll hear them screaming as they approach, giving you scant time to set up a defensive perimeter… then they are there! To be honest I can’t really describe any of the battles because they happen so quickly, but they are certainly challanging and chaotic!

As you quest to aid Eleanor, battling your way through Big Daddies and Big Sisters alike, you’ll end up following the instructions of one Augustus Sinclair. He helps you along much as Atlas did in the original, speaking in your ear suggesting where to go and what to do. But after the Atlas debacle how can you possibly trust Sinclair? As the story progresses you learn about Sinclair and his motivations for helping you. Are they pure? Is he genuine? Well, I’m not going to tell you, so there. There are some startling revelations that come to light as it progresses and it draws you in, making you want to know more. While it doesn’t pack the punch of the original BioShock, it’s narrative is a fitting continuation to the saga of Rapture. But the reason I bring it up is that BioShock 2 introduces several unique situations where you get to choose the fate of a character central to the plot. These naturally effect the outcome (and the ending you’ll see) so it’s not just down to whether or not you choose to harvest or save the Little Sisters this time around.

Personally, I felt that these moments were a bit hollow. I won’t spoil too much, but a couple of the main NPC’s are so incorrigible it’s not really possible to let them live unless you are playing as a complete bastard. That said, if you’re murdering a bunch of little girls for drugs, you might well feel right at home with them.

Ultimately, BioShock 2 feels like an old pair of slippers, comfortable and reliable… but old slippers none the less. The same core gameplay is back. It’s fun to play and cleverly designed. Rapture once again becomes a character in of its self, taking center stage. It’s the definition of decay, both literally and figuratively. This undersea dysfunctional utopia hosts another clever story, one filled with moral pitfalls and relentless action. Ultimately though, BioShock 2 falls short as many sequels do, simply because you can’t get the brilliance of the original out of your head. As a result, it was pretty much preordained to disappoint (at least disappoint me). Don’t let this dissuade you from playing it though. BioShock 2 is great game in it’s own right, and a worthy sequel. I mean, hello?!? It’s freakin' Rapture for God’s sake! It’s awesome!


Score = 9.3 / 10

P.S. Want some new slippers? Go watch the teaser trailer and ten minute gameplay segment from BioShock Infinite, set to come out in 2012… oh… my…God, I’m not sure I can wait that long!

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