© 2010 Gav Ross
How do you follow up a game that seemed to be a once-in-a-console-generation experience that near-perfectly blended design, narrative and gameplay?
One would assume that the same team that worked on 2007’s Bioshock (Irrational Games, formerly 2K Boston) should be the team embarking on expanding the sequel and innovating on what had already been created.
But with Irrational visionary Ken Levine no longer at the helm and Bioshock 2’s development being shared by various divisions of 2K Games in different countries (with only partial input from Irrational), fans of the original had every reason to be apprehensive.
• Bioshock 2 Release Trailer
Thankfully, Bioshock 2 is a creation that retains much of the grandiose wonder of its predecessor and it stands confidently on its own two, lumbering Big Daddy feet.
There’s a certain comfort in finding yourself in Rapture once more; hearing the distant, rumbling groan of a Big Daddy in a nearby hallway; watching the warm, pink glow of a Gatherer’s Garden station as you turn a corner, listening to its merry song; marveling at the constantly impressive 60’s art décor in each level.
It feels good to be there; it feels good to return.
But things in Rapture aren’t so peachy. It’s been almost a decade since the overthrow of Andrew Ryan and the player awakens as a Big Daddy prototype dubbed ‘Subject Delta’.
• It’s not happy times in Rapture once again
As Subject Delta you also have a personal interest in tracking down your own long-lost Little Sister named Eleanor. A series of flashbacks reveal that Lamb also has a vested interested in Eleanor and the intrigue begins.
So if you’re a Big Daddy yourself, do you just wander about gunning down other Big Daddies and stealing their Little Sisters because you lost your own? Well, Big Daddies are still a major part of the game and they’re there to be taken down, but you start looking at them in a slightly different light now that you’re one yourself.
Big Bad Sisters!
‘Big Sisters’ are the game’s new uber-enemy and they’re basically thinner and faster versions of the Big Daddy that are able to crawl over the walls and run around like raving lunatics.
The difference between them and the original’s Big Daddies appears to be that these new females are more bothersome than threatening.
Once the player collects enough of the valuable ADAM substance in each level by harvesting or saving Little Sisters (which also introduces a new element because you can ‘adopt’ one of the girls for a while so they can gather more ADAM for you), a Big Sister will telegraph their appearance by distant, shrill screams being heard and the intrusive message that pops up on the screen that tells you in plain English that a “Big Sister Is Coming”.
Although they serve their part in the overall story, they remain an annoyance as the player attempts to progress through to the next chapter.
Trawling through each level and discovering more and more about the evil Lamb through scattered audio recordings (still a great device that Bioshock can be proud it initially introduced) leads up to an expected amount of twists and showdowns.
So what’s missing?
What’s missing from this sequel though seems to be those magical moments that were present in the original. Things like the grand entrance of Sander Cohen are seared into the memories of those that played Bioshock.
There’s nothing unforgettable in this continuation. In fact, I would have a pretty hard time even remembering the names of any individual levels in Bioshock 2 – they all seem to just blur into one .
If story and landmark moments aren’t the game’s strong points then it’s lucky that there are various facets that improve greatly on the original.
Enemy AI is much more balanced and unpredictable; the dreaded ‘hacking’ mini-game has been replaced by a much more relaxing method of following a needle along a horizontal bar and pressing “A” when it’s in the correct colour zone; visuals are (understandably) impressive and a great step-up from 2007 and using Plasmids (including the few new ones) feels much more visceral and rewarding.
What happened to the Turrets – Cameras?
That said, there are other parts of the whole that have been ruined, namely the turrets and cameras. In the original, the sight and sound of camera meant the player had to carefully rethink their strategy before running ahead.
Due to the overwhelming amount of hack darts that seem to appear in every rubbish bin and dead Splicer corpse in Bioshock 2, no turret or camera is ever a problem: just shoot it with a hack dart and suddenly it’s on your side.
It was often debated whether the original needed any kind of multiplayer component. Most argued that it is a single-player experience only and it was better that Irrational Games poured all their time and effort into just that. It’s no shock that online modes have been added to the sequel though.
• The multiplayer aspects of Bioshock 2 – do they do the game justice?
Canadian development house Digital Extremes focused on the multiplayer all by themselves and it’s a serviceable effort. Probably the best thing about it is that it allows players to relive levels from the first game as the entire multiplayer world exists back in the past and acts as something of a prologue to Bioshock itself.
The player is able to wander around Andrew Ryan’s spacious apartment to see their progress before entering a lobby with standard variations on Free-For-All, Capture The Flag and Team Deathmatch.
Call Of Duty-like perks have been added throughout the mode for weapons and plasmids and it takes a good 18-20 hours of solid play to reach the highest ranking of level 40.
The multiplayer can grow on you but due to its clunkiness and limited space of the maps it’ll likely wear out its welcome after only a couple of hours for the average player.
Some would say that a sequel should never have been made. Maybe they’re right, but Rapture is a nice place to reside in once more, even if you do forget about it so soon afterwards.
© 2010 Gav Ross