Bioshock 2: The Anti-Bioshock

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead. Proceed at your own risk*

Bioshock 2 is necessary, but the game was assaulted with negative comments from fans of the first and journalists who would loudly proclaimed "Bioshock didn’t need a sequel." And I was one of them.

I hold the original Bioshock very dear in my heart. The game came out at a time when I was starting to become bored with gaming, and the industry’s lack of change and disregard for a story. Bioshock did a lot to save me, but following the sequel’s announcement I believed this special game was succumbing to the videogame franchise machine. It was like my favorite indie movie was getting a blockbuster Hollywood sequel.

But Bioshock 2 does something special as you dive deeper into Rapture once again. What starts as a straightforward sequel playing the same tune as its predecessor becomes a game that separates itself and tells a different story; one about free will, history, and what it means to be a father.

Reaching for your daughter

It can be argued that the first game is a commentary on role-playing in videogames. As a player, you’re usually channeled towards a singular goal to complete the game and further the story. In a 2D platformer, you’re trained to always go right, head towards the objective marker, and seek out the next story mission. It’s just how things are, right? You don’t even think about it. Even open world games such as GTA do it. You can go anywhere you want, but in order to progress, you must to head to that next mission marker.

What happened when this was actually pointed out to you? You felt angry, betrayed, and that your freedom and choice was stripped from you. You were a puppet of Atlas, of Bioshock, and even though you’re essentially playing the same part in thousands of other video games, in Rapture your eyes were opened to it. It’s a game about finding your identity, breaking from this control, and gaining the ability to make your own choices. Yes, you can choose to save or harvest Little Sisters, but you’re the agent of Fontaine throughout the game, and you go where he tells you to go.

With this in mind, Bioshock 2 is the antithesis of Bioshock. Whereas Jack is a puppet in Bioshock, Subject Delta in Bioshock 2 has free will. While you still have a goal and must head to certain areas, your mission is to save your Little Sister, who is now a teenager and being held hostage by Sophia Lamb. As the first Big Daddy, your connection with your Little Sister goes beyond a protector role. Throughout the game she calls out to you, her father. No one is telling you where to go, nor is anyone "ordering" you with secret phrases. You are out to save someone, and you’ll tear down Rapture if need be.

 Protecting the Little Sister

Your freedom is also heavily addressed in Bioshock 2. As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter situations where you’re forced to choose certain characters’ fates. You’re not just any Big Daddy. You have the ability to think and make choices. Characters comment on this, and realize you’re human — a man in control of his own mind who just wants to find his daughter.

The last thing that completes the change of philosophy in Bioshock 2 is Sophia Lamb. Andrew Ryan believed in the power of the individual and what a human can achieve if given the freedom to achieve it. If you couldn’t rise to your potential, that was your fault. No one should help you, and you’re a parasite looking for someone else’s help. Sophia Lamb is the opposite. She believes in helping people, and that everyone needs to come together in a communal fashion to further society and achieve the utopian byproduct. But just as Ryan warped his ideals and became a fractured individual, Lamb is using her followers to achieve a higher goal, no matter what the cost. She creates a false religion and cult around  her daughter. Instead of having people coming together to further the benefit of everyone, she warps her altruistic ideals to have everyone sacrifice themselves for the betterment of one person.

Bioshock 2 is a worthy companion piece to Bioshock. The two games work in tandem together to explore the different ideals at work in Rapture. Each game feels like the brain child of their respective antagonist and are complete opposites, but worthy of your time. They tell different stories about the different people in Rapture, somehow making you feel both appalled and sorry for them. If the Bioshock franchise can keep telling meaningful stories that draw on intelligent themes, then I say bring on Bioshock 3. It can’t be here quick enough.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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