The most glorious city at the bottom of the sea. Hell, the only city at the bottom of the sea. How I missed this submerged dystopia since last we met. The place is still as dank, dark, and leaky as I remembered. The only thing that’s changed is that, this time, it’s twice as crazy.
BioShock 2 is probably the first time I’ve anticipated a sequel so ravenously since Super Mario Bros. 3. The original BioShock, as you’ve seen, easily made my Ten Best Video Games of the Decade list, and with good reason.
BioShock was unique in that it was a first-person shooter with an extremely immersive story. One could easily get lost in the plot, sometimes only fighting off the hordes of splicers or beating down a Big Daddy so that you could grab that one tape recorder or see that one crazy piece of graffiti or get to that next radio message. If you’re anything like me, the plot and the atmosphere were the driving forces of the game with the excellent FPS action being a welcome vehicle to make things progress.
In a completely spoiler-free bit of story exposition (I’ve not finished the game, so I don’t know the whole thing), this takes place in 1968, almost 8 years since Jack (the player-character from the first BioShock) rolled through and did what he did. You are on what seems like the other, seedier, darker side of Rapture from the original adventure and many familiar names and faces pop up, sometimes post-mortem via diary entries. It’s nice to see so many familiar characters and hear so many familiar voices. There are some expositions and short blurbs that make the experienced Rapturite chuckle. I know I did.
BioShock 2 brings the same deep story and gloomy art-deco feel, this time with amped-up action. And, when I say amped-up, I mean amped-up. I’m probably about halfway through and I’ve already offed more splicers and Big Daddies than I did in the entirety of the first game.
This time, rather than being a “random” discoverer of the city of Rapture, you’re one of its marquee residents. You play as one of the very first Big Daddies, referred to throughout the game as Subject Delta. The big differences between you and the standard Bouncers and Rosies we all grew to love on our first trip to Rapture is that you have the ability to use multiple weapons, the ability to use plasmids, and the often-taken-for-granted ability of autonomous thought.
The first two weapons you can use are the weapons you wish you could have looted on your first trip down here, namely the Bouncer Drill (replacing the trusty old wrench as your chief melee weapon) and Rosie’s Rivet Gun. The rest of the weapons are equally beefed up and awesome looking. All are equivalents to the original BioShock weaponry, but somehow, a touch nastier. Wait until you see what they used to replace the crossbow. KA-THUNK! Heh heh heh…
Plasmids have changed a bit, but not much. All the old powers are here without much new. You still get your big three of Electro-Bolt, Incinerate, and Telekinesis. The main change to the plasmid system is the manner in which tonics are handled. Instead of using three different types of tonics, you now have one large 18-slot chart of tonic slots available for unlocking. There are some really good additions to the pool and, even when your slots are maxed out, you’ll be scratching your head over which ones you should use and which ones you should shelve.
One very notable change is the way in which gaining Adam, the substance needed to purchase plasmids, via Little Sisters is accomplished.
Previously, it was all about killing Big Daddies, then taking their Little Sisters on a rescue-or-harvest basis. Now, things are a bit more interesting.
Seeing as you are a Big Daddy yourself, the Little Sisters trust you. You can choose to adopt the girls and allow them to ride on your shoulder for their normal Adam retrieval duties. They will guide you to certain corpses (read: “angels, Daddy!”) which are ripe for Adam harvesting. While they’re working their needle-poking magic on the dead, splicers will flood the area trying to get their dirty junkie hands on your little one. Defense of the Little Sisters can be difficult in spots but, with some clever use of traps, plasmids, and security hacks, you’ll get through it. It’s actually kind of fun figuring out a strategy for each gathering point.
The funniest part about this new aspect is that, while the Little Sister is riding around on your shoulders, she periodically adds twisted little girl commentary. Lighting a splicer on fire with Incinerate prompted one to enthusiastically shout: “Yay! Marshmallows!” and electrocuting another prompted a giggly: “Look, Daddy, he’s dancing!”
Hacking has also changed from the play-pausing pipe dream-like mini-game to an action-oriented button timing affair. There are still auto-hacking devices, but the action-based hack system allows you to achieve bonuses for well-timed button pushing. You may find yourself trying to actively hack unless it’s extremely inconvenient. This game also introduces remote hack darts, fired from a small gun, which can allow you to peg a turret, duck around the corner, and worry about hacking it without staying in the line of fire. Yes, there’s still hacking buyouts with some machinery but, trust me, save your money. You’ll need it for First Aid and ammo.
New enemies include the Rumbler, a new design of Big Daddy with some new tricks up its sleeve, and the much touted Big Sister; a female variant which is essentially a Big Daddy crossed with a plasmid-wielding ninja and twice as tough. Like I said, save your money and buy some ammo.
BioShock 2 absolutely delivers. It’s everything I hoped for. If you’re going to pick this game up, I strongly recommend you play the first one before you do. If you’ve already played the first one, it might be worth it to make another run through Rapture the first time around to refresh your memory before you pick up the sequel.
I haven’t yet tried out the new multiplayer feature, but I plan on doing so soon. I don’t really think this game needed a multiplayer feature to be good, but, give the people what they want, I assume. It doesn’t take away from the story and can only add to the replay value.
Now, go to the store and pick up both of these games, would you kindly?
Bidula’s Last Word: 9.5/10