BioShock 2: review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), PS3, 360
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Developer: 2K (single player), Digital Extremes (multiplayer)
  • Players: 1 (offline), 10 (online)

Parenthood is a bit of a funny business. You have the joyous moment when the little tyke is first placed in your arms, the hoops you jump, duck and weave through to meet their every need, and all that time you spend cleaning the blood off of your drill arm that you use to protect them whilst they harvest the dead.

BioShock 2 does what we all wanted from the original and fixes you inside the lumbering, stompy boots of the Big Daddy. You have the tools, the sounds and the responsibilities that made the gentle, yet fearsomely deadly, giants great. It is the aggressive father – like relationship that you share with your assigned Little Sister however, that really gives us an insight in to what drives these massive, hulking beasts in their actions.

The game starts with you, subject Delta (a prototype Big Daddy) waking from a ten year slumber with the only goal in mind that you have ever known. Find your little one, protect her from danger, be her Big Daddy. The simplicity of it as an objective really gives the plot that evolves around it a nice bit of substance. Of course trying to top the twists and turns that the original story had was always going to be difficult.

She may have difficulty winning this fist fight alone

Unfortunately, Bioshock 2 hasn’t quite managed the same trick twice. There are brilliant bits of storytelling, mixed with some of the best voice acting found in gaming which really makes Rapture feel alive. It just lacks that narrative kick in the face the first game shocked us with. Of course the best bits are spoilers, but we will say that the last hour of play this time around is far superior to the original’s, especially in terms of gameplay and story.

The most iconic symbol of a Big Daddy is his drill arm, which we are delighted to say can bludgeon, grind and extract all of the wet, juicy bits from enemies. It’s an incredibly satisfying weapon to use, which makes it a real shame that none of the guns feel anywhere near as fun. They are definitely Big Daddy sized, so no piddly pistol, it’s just that they pack the punch of a granny slap.

It takes too many bullets to ground an enemy, and all of the time they are being shot it doesn’t impact their killing performance. This makes you feel really underpowered in comparison, something that we all know from personal experience, Big Daddies aren’t.

Another problem with playing as subject Delta is that, whilst he acts all stompy and feels like he would stop a train with his forehead, apparently his armour is made from soft cheese. On normal difficulty, especially to begin with, an entire health bar can be depleted with four pistol shots. A Big Daddy is all about being an impenetrable man fortress that can take so many bullets he can rub against enemies and give them lead poisoning. It’s an experience that 2K have, tragically, just missed the mark with.

Big pain only seemed fitting for this Big Daddy

The thing they got right with the Big Daddy is how you interact with Little Sisters, giving the option to adopt them rather than the straight harvest or save routine. This lets you put one of the little darlings on your shoulder, and stroll around searching for corpses rich with Adam (a genetic goo currency) for her to harvest. Once she begins the extraction however, it alerts baddies to your location, leaving you to protect her with little prejudice and no concern for economic drill usage.

Another gameplay improvement is the ability to dual wield plasmids and guns at the same time, which is a real blessing allowing for even more creative combos for filling the morgue.

Speaking of plasmids (other goo that lets you spray fire, electricity and bees from your hand), there’s a return of all the classics that we love but curiously, hardly any new arrivals. This is disappointing as plasmids were key to combat in the original, but they seem to have been overlooked this time around.

It’s a shame, as the extra firepower would have been handy against the new super enemies, the Big Sisters who all have armoured diving suits, a massive syringe arm, fire conjuring facilities and the nimbleness of an elastic band.

They are not so helpfully summoned when you have dealt with all of the Little Sisters in an area. Fighting them feels very reminiscent to the first Big Daddy fights in the original, where you flop about hopelessly trying to accomplish the near impossible, before you finally manage to win. These fights give a great climax to the end of each level and add a real thrill to the combat.

Big Sister is watching, so give her a face full of drill with plenty of electricity

Multiplayer starts off really promising, setting the scene for the downfall of Rapture. You begin by wandering around your own room in the underwater dystopia where you can customise your character and loadout which is a really good way of doing it, instead of funnelling us through drab menus. Unfortunately this is where the innovation stops.

After taking your own personal bathysphere into a game lobby and picking the mode you want, the multiplayer seems to be a fairly bland set of deathmatch scenarios with weapons that are even more lacklustre than those in the single player. Plasmids also feature, but feel nowhere near as powerful as they do against NPCs.

There are some sparks to the formula, such as Bioshock themed capture the flag style games using Little Sisters, and occasionally making one player a Big Daddy, but nothing that can redeem the dumbed down gameplay.

BioShock was never really about the game mechanics, which aren’t exactly bad; we’ve just been a bit spoiled by other FPSs lately. The real star of BioShock 2 is the world of Rapture, with its brilliant décor, characters and background which sets the dark undertone of the series brilliantly. Unfortunately the original set the bar very high, and the sequel didn’t quite clear it, despite coming awfully close.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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