BioShock 2 Review

Many people had mixed feelings when 2K Games announced that they would be making a sequel to BioShock. I was among them. I worried just how a game with such an original concept, a surprisingly beautiful, yet creepy atmosphere, and no intentions for a continued story could be followed up. And while BioShock 2 just can’t quite match the level of awe that came with playing the original, it’s still a very enjoyable experience that by no means should be called a disappointment.

The game starts off with a cutscene taking place on New Year’s Eve 1958 in Rapture — the eve of the civil war that will plunge the undersea utopia into the depths. You are subject Delta, the original Big Daddy who has an extreme bond to his Little Sister. However while defending your Little Sister from splicers, she is taken from you by Sophia Lamb as she hypnotizes you into committing suicide. You wake up ten years later on the cold floors of Rapture, revived via a nearby Vita-Chamber, and begin your search for your long lost Little Sister.

Find and save your old Little Sister.

The decaying city you venture out into this time around is much more civilian and human than in the first game. Instead of facing off against mad doctors in hospital wards and visiting a very twisted art gallery, you will be gathering ADAM and bashing splicers in environments that normal citizens of Rapture would find themselves surrounded by every day. You will explore an area filled with diners, shops, and an apartment complex, a sort of shopping and gambling district, and even Andrew Ryan’s own twisted version of Disneyland.

The main antagonist in your journey is Sophia Lamb, who fits in with Rapture’s history very well. She was a therapist brought in by Andrew Ryan to keep his citizens sane in his self-first city. She instead started manipulating people into a more communal belief of utopia; she was Ryan’s antithesis. Lamb was eventually incarcerated by Ryan, but the civil war and Ryan’s death freed her once again. Throughout the game, she becomes a great villain and gives the world of Rapture a new twist, where now the antagonist is trying to turn Rapture into the exact polar opposite of what Andrew Ryan had envisioned it to be.

More of Lamb’s backstory and the story of Rapture can be found throughout the game via audio logs, which make a return in BioShock 2. Though always optional and mostly hidden, the audio logs are a great source of information about characters, Rapture’s demise, and Lamb’s rise.

When it finally comes time to beat down Lamb’s splicers and Big Sisters, you get a feel for just how much gameplay in BioShock 2 has been improved over the first game. Dual-wielding allows you to fire your weapons and plasmids at the same time without switching between the two. It makes combat much less of a hassle, and more of an enjoyable and immersive experience. The variety of weapons, ammo, and plasmids also open up a whole new level of strategy to the BioShock series.

You will encounter several different types of enemies on this venture. Some will respond differently to different types of ammo. Regular splicers can be dealt with by normal ammunition or plasmids, Big Daddies and Big Sisters will require anti-armor ammo or explosives to effectively eliminate, and special enemies like the brutes and alpha series will require anti-personnel armor or explosives. Plasmids allow you to freeze, shock, hypnotize, and set enemies ablaze. Knowing what works well against which enemies will really make you thoroughly think through most encounters and will aid you in your survival. But that’s not where combat strategy stops. There are also the various gathering sequences in the game.

The gatherings in BioShock 2 require you to set up defenses such as trap rivets, trap spears, proximity mines, and mini-turrets to defend your Little Sisters from waves of splicers as they collect ADAM. The sequences are great for strategizing and bring a different element of gameplay to the action. However, at times it tends to take away from some of the game’s immersive quality, and the easier ones eliminate the feeling of fear and dread that was always in the back of your mind in the original, replacing it with slight tedium. Playing as one of the original Big Daddies essentially removes the sense of fear at every turn completely. The other Big Daddies are strategically stalked and ambushed instead of nervously avoided. It’s easy to predict when you’ll run into a Big Sister almost every time. Rapture seems to capture more a sense of eerie despair and creepiness than terrifying caution.

The soundtrack does a good a job setting that new atmosphere. The lovely, yet slightly disturbing tunes from the 1950s that play on record players and during loading screens, accompanied by black-and-white, grainy screenshots, definitely add to BioShock 2‘s creep factor. The rest of the soundtrack, heavy on frantic and slow strings, helps set the sense of chaos that can ensue in the game’s larger gunfights, as well as the feeling of loneliness that exploring Rapture on your own can bring about.

As for Rapture’s look, while BioShock 2 may not be the prettiest game out there, the city still looks beautiful in its deteriorating state. The lighting and tone is darker than in BioShock, which makes sense given the city has decayed for years since the last romp through it. The outside of Rapture in the underwater sequences looks just as good, with many buildings scaling high, but dim from the decay, while some are half toppled. There are a few texture pop-ins that occur throughout the game, but nothing that will seriously deter from the experience.

Big Sisters are tough opponents, but their encounters are predictable.

An interesting addition to the series is obviously the multiplayer, which is surprisingly good. Set on New Year’s Eve 1958, the game is meant to show the chaos of just what a bunch of Rapture’s crazed, ADAM-addicted citizens could do when the civil war erupted. This part of the game features a group of characters whose looks deteriorate as they level up, showing their further decent into ADAM addiction. Characters also have their own audio logs that detail their stories and descent into madness as the civil war begins, most of which must be unlocked through leveling in the game’s multiplayer matches. All of it combines into a nice way of adding series lore into a normally cut-and-dry game mode in a way that most games don’t think of.

Leveling in BioShock 2’s multiplayer is achieved by gathering ADAM, which you get for kills, assists, research, hacking, and other feats during matches. Leveling will get you more weapons, plasmids, and tonics that you can use to create up to three custom classes. It’s a basic but interesting system that will make you want to keep playing. During matches, you don’t have to rely on just your weapons and plasmids to help you accrue kills. Players can hack turrets, research dead opponents for added damage towards that opponent later, or even find a Big Daddy suit and wreak havoc upon enemies. It all adds up to a much more chaotic and enjoyable mix of ways to take down your competition.

The match types available all take after basic multiplayer game types. These are deathmatch, team deathmatch, territories, capture the flag, and ADAM Grab. ADAM Grab is an interesting game mode, where players must work alone or in teams to capture a Little Sister and maintain control of her to obtain the highest amount of ADAM to win. The game’s version of capture the flag, Capture the Sister, puts one side on offense and one on defense, with a Big Daddy always spawning as one of the defenders. And again keeping things authentic, whenever the Little Sister is captured by the offensive team, she screams wildly to help alert nearby defenders — especially the big Mr. Bubbles.

The unfortunate downfall of BioShock 2‘s multiplayer, at least up to the time of press, is that the game has a tendency to freeze mid-match. It can be frustrating and definitely takes away from all the fun and positive aspects of the gameplay itself. Hopefully 2K will be able to patch or fix the problem soon, otherwise the progress made with the game’s unique multiplayer mode will be for naught.

When it comes down to it, BioShock 2 really can’t compare to the excellence that was the original BioShock. But that isn’t so much a detriment to BioShock 2 as it is a compliment to BioShock. The game tells its own new story in Rapture that adds to the lore and history of the game universe, and is very entertaining. Rapture has lost its scare factor, but still keeps its creepiness. A good multiplayer is hurt due to technical faults, but good graphics, another quality soundtrack, and upgraded gameplay all make this a solid entry in what will hopefully be a continued BioShock series. Fans of the original would be wise to pick the game up. Anyone else looking for a quality title to enjoy should definitely consider taking a plunge into Rapture.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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