Bioshock 2 User Review
Rapture was in its heyday when the discovery of Adam became common knowledge. Because of it, girls were transformed into Adam sucking demons, and after numerous attacks by citizens, were paired with the mechanical monstrosities that are the Big Daddies. One of the Alpha series Big Daddies, Subject Delta was the first to be part of a successful pairing, but it did not last. Soon after it was achieved, he was attacked, and put down. That was in 1958. Ten years later, he is revived by a Vita-Chamber, although how such a long time elapsed is unclear. He immediately sets out to locate his Little Sister.
It is revealed by Brigid Tenenbaum that he cannot live without her, for the two are biologically bonded. Standing in his path are several key members of Rapture’s progression, hordes of Splicers, new types of Big Daddies, and a mysterious, powerful and downright vicious new enemy. Of course, Delta is not without his allies, and these people bring a bit of life to the decaying city. While lacking in comparison to the original, the pacing here is much better, and the reasoning for your actions are also more believable. You feel more as if you are on a direct quest to continue onwards than a series of disjointed sub-missions. It allows for a far better flow, and more desire to continue playing to see where you are led next.
Also, as you progress through the game, you will find out more about the past of Subject Delta, and the Big Daddy program. This is something that I really enjoyed, as the original made me feel that there was more to these behemoths than appeared on the surface. It also goes in depth about the Little Sisters, and again, serves to expand upon the mythology of Rapture. These are both fantastic foci, but stealing the show is the new antagonist, Sophia Lamb. She is the polar opposite of Andrew Ryan, and more than a little bit twisted. She is a large part of the reason for the fall of the undersea utopia, but a very confused, and interesting character in her own right.
However, a game will always require the technical prowess to back up the interest factor presented by the tale that is being told, and I feel that Bioshock 2 lets down slightly in this respect. Rapture is still Rapture. The art-deco styling is as prevalent as ever, while the improved lighting brings it to the fore. Yes, this game is far brighter than the first was, which allows you to see much more clearly and better appreciate the amount of work that has gone into creating the world. Contrary to my original expectations upon seeing this difference, the tension and fear brought about by the dank atmosphere is retained here. This gives me a great deal of hope for the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, because if it can be done here, surely the results can be replicated. Continuing about Rapture, the areas that you visit on your journey feel much larger than they did before, and while this may cause some to shy away from exploring them, it gave me a greater desire to do so, in order to eke out every little secret hidden within the halls.
The UI is less intrusive, which gives you a better view of the action, but it still feels too large. Horror in games should be about minimalism, and to have a large bar in the corner of the screen is slightly distracting. The animations here are upgraded from the original, and no longer do you see the jerking movements. This is backed up by the improved AI, which now allows the Splicers to take cover, in addition to strafing. Also being presented here is a whole new set of enemies, and redesigns of older enemies. The new Big Daddies appear much more powerful than the old, and manage to retain their intimidating presence. Another design upgrade takes the form of the Little Sisters, as they now appear much more human, which makes is easier to sympathise them.
Not all is good news though. While the character designs are good, they still feel very generic. Each of them has their quirks, and these are made more obvious by the attached quotes present in the Rapture Edition of the game, but they are hardly noticeable when playing. Throughout the game, I found only a few examples of screen tearing and frame rate drops, but each of these were minor. One major problem with the designs is the Little Sisters. While the models are far better than they were before, there is only a single model. Before, the only real difference was in their hairstyles, but here, even that is gone, and I was let down by this. The texturing here is also horrendous. This is simply the biggest letdown of the game. It all looks very flat, bland and hazy. One final note, and something capable of taking you out of the experience more than anything else is that the engine is incapable of rendering more than about half a dozen corpses at any given time. As a result, any more than this are simply reconfigured into lockboxes, which are little more than grey cubes. It is an understandable problem, as you will often be forced to kill a lot of enemies, but utterly unforgivable. If these limitations were known by the developers, they should have been played to, rather than ignored.
The sound is, again, the strongest part of the production. The silence of the corridors helps to give you a sense of loneliness and desolation in the underwater city. When you hear the deranged cry of a Splicer, or that particular call of the Big Daddy, you will look about anxiously in search of the source. Background music will kick in in times of high tension, or at certain key points of the story, and because it is used so sparingly, it is very strong. However, it is more commonplace than it was before, somewhat reducing the effect. Also, the fun little comments made by the vending machines are gone, as is much of the music that is played through the gramophones. Neither of these is necessarily a bad thing, but they do take away a little bit of the individual fun of the original title.
On the other hand, the voice acting is quite average, with the lines of Brigid Tenenbaum being the best. That being said, there are a few more characters in this one, and each is brought to life with their own particular mannerisms and accents, which helps to make it better. I found one particular problem that I found to be quite common, and this was that the sound would stutter. Dropping in and out in half-second intervals, it became a bit distracting.
As usual, you control the playable character’s movement through the analogue sticks, with Triangle being used to jump. You can press L3 to crouch, or R3 to zoom in with most weapons. You can tap L1 to switch to the next Plasmid, or hold it in to bring up the radial menu, and the R2 button to use it. The same is mirrored on the other side of the controller for the weapons. Up, left and down on the D-Pad allows you to choose between the three different ammo types, which is almost always useful in different situations. The right button uses a first aid kit to replenish health. I found this to be the most difficult thing to get used to as I was accustomed to it being mapped to Circle. X is used mainly as a context sensitive button in order to buy from vending machines, while Square is used to reload, as well as activating the hacking minigame when it is available. Finally, Circle is used as a melee attack for all weapons, and while this makes sense, I found it to be a worthless addition, except in the case of the drill dash. There is also no manual option to use an Eve Hypo. Well, that isn’t true. It reloads automatically when you run out, but if you want to do it yourself, you have to bring up a radial menu and press Square. This is cumbersome ad counterintuitive, but necessary as a result of new ability to dual wield.
The controls are very responsive with seemingly no lag, which is a definite improvement. There are a few small niggling things that people used to the original will find difficult to acclimatise to, but in general a new user should find everything quite easy.
As before, you will be running through the corridors and chambers of Rapture, trying to fulfil certain tasks. As before, you will kill any number of Splicers, and use the environment to your advantage through Plasmids and hacking. So, the strategy is very much still in place. However, new to this game is the ability to adopt Little Sisters. This became a feature towards the very end of the first game, but it plays a much larger role here. Thankfully, it is easier than before, and as such, feels like a worthwhile addition. Once adopted, you can take them to certain corpses in order to gain more Adam, or drop them straight off at a vent, where you get to choose whether to rescue them, or harvest them. If you choose to let them gather Adam, you had best prepare for a fight, as Splicers will swarm about, seeking desperately for it, and it is your job to keep them off her.
A change has been made to the hacking minigame. No longer is it Pipe Dreams, which I despised, but it exchanges the strategy of it for simple speed. I did not like this change, but it does make sense. You see, you are charged with stopping a needle within a certain zone. This takes place in real-time, which means that you can be hurt while doing it. To make this a bit easier, you are given a weapon that allows you to hack from a distance, and I found this to be quite enjoyable. Returning are also the Gene Tonics, which are passive abilities to power up Subject Delta. This time around, they are not divided into the three different subsections, but rather they are all in one area. This means that you are free to upgrade any particular part of your skillset without the limitations. As I mentioned earlier, the Plasmids return, and there are eleven to choose from. Most of them are the same as what they were in the original, and this really disappointed me. There was something that I failed to take into account however. Each Plasmid has three levels, and as you upgrade them, they gain more abilities. I was pleasantly surprised by this, as it really does result in you taking much more liberty in your attacking choices.
Both dual-wielding and the melee attacks are good additions, although neither is particularly necessary. They do, however, serve to increase the pace of the game, and when combined with the improved responsiveness offer an engrossing play style. This is aided by the increased reload time for all weapons. My final note is that you play as a Big Daddy. They were monsters in the original game, and it took a lot to take them down. As a result, you would expect that same feeling of empowerment to be granted to you here, but it is not so. You are not some unstoppable beast. It makes sense from a gameplay perspective as it would not be challenging if you could destroy every enemy with two hits, and absorb a million hits, but it is disconcerting from the view of the story. This is explained somewhat by the weakness of the Alpha Series Daddies that you fight later in the game, but it was still a disappointment to me.
This is really only a minor complaint though, because the gameplay and story is so engaging that it makes you want to continue to play. I played on Normal, and it lasted me thirteen and a half hours, which indicates that 2K Marin were determined not to skimp on the single player to implement the multiplayer segment, which I cannot comment on. It is a breath of fresh air when games nowadays seem to be getting shorter. I should also mention that there are three different difficulty settings, which of course make it tempting to play over it again. Also, something I forgot to mention in my review for the first game is the morality system, which has been expanded upon here. The ending you get depends on your actions in terms of what you do with the Little Sisters, and the main characters that give you the choice of whether or not to end their lives. So, there is some incentive to play over the game a second time.
I consider Bioshock 2 to be an unnecessary sequel, but considering it exists, it certainly is a delight, and even though there cannot be too much more to Rapture, it makes me want to go back a third time. I know that the next game in the series, Bioshock Infinite takes place in the floating city of Columbia with an entirely new timeframe, but I do hope that Bioshock 3 becomes a reality using the new engine, rather than returning to Unreal 2.5. Still, this is an utterly fantastic game, and a worthy sequel to a game of the year winner. If you enjoyed the first, there is no reason that you will not fall in love with this one.
Thankyou for your time and I hope that you found my words to be both informative and helpful. Until next time PSXE, Peace and Law be with you.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.