BioShock 2 (PC) Review

Summary [8 out of 10]

True-to-form I ran through BioShock 1 for the first time in preparation for BioShock 2, and last night I finally wrapped up BioShock 2 (fighting through the keybinding bugs on the PC) and found it to be an excellent continuation of the BioShock story, feeling very much like the first one in all the right ways with a few enhancements that were very welcomed.

Gameplay

The shooting aspects of the game are tighter in BioShock 2 than in 1 — your firearm and plasmids are both accessible at all times (Left/Right mouse button) and the story does get laid out for you in a bit more detail with more radio-voice-overs and explanation of what is going on. There is maybe a few less audio recordings scattered around the world than in BioShock 1, but the ones that are there in #2, especially later in the game are very tastey — with a nice bit of detail about the early Big Daddy/Little Sister programs.

Hacking was changed in BioShock 2 to be a pattern-based mini game where you have to hit “Use” as a moving needle passes over “Green” sections of a slider-bar. If you hit red or empty sections of the bar the hack fails. If you hit “Blue” sections, there is a nice little touch of getting a bonus of some kind out of the device. This was a big improvement over the pipe-puzzles from #1.

The camera/research aspect of the game was also changed to be a “video camera” approach so you start the film rolling when you encounter a baddie, and then attack the hell out of it. When it dies, you get a score indicated for that “research” done. Additionally, you can get bonuses during the battle like more damage against that particular enemy.

I much preferred this approach to research although there were full stretches of the game where I forgot to use it.

And I think the last thing that was changed was how you handle Little Sisters. After killing their pair-bonded Big Daddy, you can kill them on the spot and harvest their ADAM, or you can adopt them and escort them around to collect ADAM from 2 glowing bodies around the level.

When they are “harvesting” ADAM, it becomes a game of “protect the Little Sister” for you as you get attacked by an onslaught of splicers.

This wore thin for me RIGHT around the 2nd to last or last little sister, so it wasn’t a horrible grind you had to do a 100x, only like 8 or so.

After they are done harvesting you can find the nearest wall hole for them to crawl into OR at any point you can decide you hate them and harvest them, even up until the point you are ready to stick them into the wall hole.

It really does give you a lot of freedom with how to handle them. I chose to save every one of them AND save all the folks you are given the choice to kill — this is the only way to get the Savior Achievement — which seems very odd late in the game because one of your choices very clearly seems like you are suppose to kill the person.

Graphics

Not much to say here, it looks almost identical to BioShock 1 which is to say “Pretty nice”. There aren’t visuals that make you do a double take or gawk, but there was also no visuals that were so lacking I found myself frustrated.

I chose to get this on the PC this time instead of the Xbox 360 because I found the first game hard/boring to play on the Xbox 360. Something about the POV setting making me feel “too close” to the environment and have a slightly restricted field of view made this game difficult to play with a controller. I enjoyed it more on the PC.

BioShock was never a tech demo like Crysis was, it just needed good enough visuals to tell a story and that is exactly what it delivers. Its a nice looking game and that’s all it really needed to be.

Even though the graphics themselves (texture clarity, bump mapping and surface effects, etc.) did look a lot like BioShock 1, I found the level design themselves to be much more dynamic and creative. While we are still trudging around Rapture, you get to trudge around all new areas that you haven’t been before and they were realized in wonderful levels of detail. Everything from the prison to the amusement park.

There were no places as unique as the forest in #1, but I never found myself bored with the environments. They were exactly the right ones to sell the story being told.

Story

I love the BioShock backstory/lore. For folks that loved it as well, you can check out the “There’s Something in the Seas” fake sites that 2K setup to setup some lore going into BioShock 2 and introduce us to some characters that get touched on in BioShock 2.

The idea of a secret city built in the deepest depths of the ocean in the 1950s titillates me like conspiracy-theory-wonderment. The most exciting part of BioShock 2 for me was when you make your way through the Theme Park that was built as a tribute to Ryan and Rapture and get to go through 5 of 6 displays at the beginning that explain a bit about how the city was built.

There is so much potential to talk about with the Rapture lore when you consider everything that has happened there — the building of the city, the work force required to do it. The funds required. The scientific advancements made down in Rapture both publicly (plasmids/ADAM) as well as privately (The Protector Program) and then the fact that all of it has to be kept a secret from the surface.

Unfortunately BioShock 2 doesn’t dive into this lore and history in any more detail really than #1 did — but it does do a good job of telling a compelling story taking place at that moment between you (first successful Big Daddy, “Subject Delta”) and Sofia Lamb. Lamb is the antithesis of Andrew Ryan and has captured control of a good portion of Rapture as their spiritual leader. The game does a brilliant job of showing how the pendulum has swung from one way (Ryan = all about the self) to the other way (Lamb = all about the collective family) and how there are problems created with both ways of thinking.

There is a story element in the game that I found very compelling to drag me forward through the story. I think it’s actually covered in the trailers, so it’s not a big secret, but you are trying to reconnect with your pair-bonded Little Sister. I’ll leave it at that, but that story element really worked great for me and made the last 3 or 4 hours of the game a race for me to find her.

The ending of the game was great, leaving the door open to everything from ending the series to continuing the story in a bunch of different ways.

Given how much I enjoy the concept of Rapture, I could imagine a world where BioShock 3 were a prequel, taking place during the construction of Rapture or it’s formative years and then BioShock 4 picking back up after #2 and actually finishing the story in some conclusive manner.

I could also very easily see a BioShock 3 that just took the story to new heights if that is what they decided.

I don’t really talk much about the new antagonist, the Big Sister, because they are sufficiently awesome and a great addition to the story, so there isn’t much else to talk about without starting to chip into the “spoiler” category. So just enjoy them.

Conclusion [8 out of 10]

The only think that kept me from giving this game a higher score were either next-gen graphics/effects really making the game an eye-popping experience OR a more engrossing walk through the Rapture story.

I also didn’t think Lamb was as solid a character as Andrew Ryan, who’s single-minded and enigmatic personality made him the ultimate leader of Rapture in my mind.

To be clear, if you liked BioShock 1, BioShock 2 is a must-get. There is no reason not to pick it up and enjoy it like you did #1.

If you did NOT like BioShock 1, there isn’t enough different things here to convert you or change your mind. Or if you were obsessed with the story and couldn’t give a hoot about the gameplay, there isn’t enough exposition in #2 to satisfy. You have to have already enjoyed what was there to like #2.

You could pick up and play BioShock #2 cold, although I think you’d miss a lot of the “Why the hell am I doing all this?” foundation that is laid for you in #1.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About Riyad Kalla

Software development, video games, writing, reading and anything shiny. I ultimately just want to provide a resource that helps people and if I can't do that, then at least make them laugh.

, , , , , ,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BioShock 2 Keybindings that Cannot Be Rebound | Break it Down Blog - March 4, 2010

    [...] written about the broken keybindings in BioShock 2 on the PC since the day it was released. 2k’s response thus-far has been to issue 2 patches for the [...]

Leave a Reply


7 − = three