I hear Rapture is lovely this time of year…
The original BioShock was a game that stood out from the crowd, thanks to a gripping story and a unique twist on the modern FPS by adding plasmids (or special abilities for n00bs) into combat. A sequel was always going to have its work cut out because it will always be compared to the original and if it can live up to the BioShock name. BioShock 2 manages to do that, but never overcomes the barriers that the first game had.
The game is set 10 years after the original game and instead of being a direct continuation of the story, your story is entirely different from the Ryan/Fontaine saga. Instead you play the role of the original Big Daddy who is bound to one single Little Sister, Eleanor. But her mother Sofia isn’t too happy about this and does just about everything to keep you two apart. It’s a good story overall, although it doesn’t quite have the twists of the first game.
The sequel handles more or less exactly the same as the original. The controls are the same and apart from some new weapons, the plasmids are also familiar. Hacking now has changed to a simpler and less frustrating mechanic, but you’ll spend a great deal of time searching corpses and crates for money and ammo. The game still poses you with the question to either save or harvest the Little Sisters, but you can put them to work to gather ADAM as well…although this will attract a lot of Splicer attention. The decisions you make with the Little Sisters and a few other characters will change the outcome of the end game as did your decisions through the original.
BioShock introduces the Big Sister enemy which will hunt you down at scripted parts of the game, these encounters are tough and perhaps the most memorable of the fights you’ll come across. The rest just feels a little too familiar. The single player campaign is perhaps a little shorter than the original, but on Hard it will take substantially longer to complete.
Besides that, there’s the multiplayer mode…which isn’t as bad a car-crash as some had hoped. It’s actually quite fun and while it doesn’t break the mould of online FPS multiplayer games, it does become addictive thanks to the levelling and perks system ripped straight from Modern Warfare. Achievement hunters will have to earn a ton of ADAM to reach the Level 40 required and by then, things tend to run a bit thin. There’s only so many times that you can play versions of modes like CTF and Team Deathmatch before it becomes a bit stale.
Visually, BioShock 2 doesn’t look that different from the original…but that’s a compliment because the first game looked great. The effects from your plasmids are powerful to look at and the results of them on splicers are decent thanks to a great physics engine. The framerate is solid for the most part with a few slips in places, but nothing that hinders the enjoyment of roaming around Rapture again. Voice-acting is superb and there are a ton of audio diaries to hunt down for extra back-story. The music is a mixture of old-style 50s/60s songs and some dramatic scores during the important parts of the game, which ends up working extremely well.
BioShock 2 had a lot of hurdles to jump over to please fans of the original and while it doesn’t disappoint, it doesn’t progress the experience any further. Multiplayer is amusing for a while but becomes repetitive after a while, but the single player campaign is where the biggest portion of your enjoyment will come from. It’s a worthy sequel that manages to do a lot of things right, but never manages to shock or amaze as the original did.