Rapture, the result of a failed utopian society lying rotting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, our first encounter with this mysterious metropolis gave but a small glimpse into a world of 'moral freedom' and what man could really achieve when 'petty morality' is pushed to one side. With the success of the original title a sequel was sure to follow but can Bioshock 2 rekindle and even surpass its predecessor?
Bioshock 2 initially takes place in 1958, 2 years before Bioshock with an opening cinema as seen from the perspective of your character, it introduces both the villain and yourself before abruptly ending. Skip 10 years later to 1968, 8 years after Bioshock you find yourself, a big daddy, alone with no little sister to protect. Andrew Ryan has been dead for almost 10 years now and Rapture is ruled by the somewhat vindictive Psychiatrist Sofia Lamb. The introduction of Lamb into the Bioshock universe and the way she fits into the world is up for debate. As with the original Bioshock a lot of the story in the game is found on audio logs found around Rapture, these logs can give intimate details on a person's life or a broad overview of the state of Rapture during its fall from grace. In the audio recordings there are many in which Ryan is debating with Lamb over meaning of Rapture, this shows that Lamb was at that time a well known figure yet she wasn't mentioned in the first Bioshock and not only that the audio logs in Bioshock 2 go out of their way to put provenance on the fact that Lamb was there during the entire course of the first game, make of it what you will.
The story really has a timeless quality to it, where Bioshock chose the route of misdirection to prove a point and shock its players Bioshock 2 goes for the more direct approach where every twist is predictably clichéd and revelations can be guessed easily within the first few hours of the game. That's not to say the game is badly written, far from it. The character dialogue is on par with Bioshock if not even surpasses it in places with Ryan's famous "What is a man?" speech receiving a reworking to fit the mood of the sequel.
For the sequel there have been some pretty hefty changes to the combat with the most noticeable being the ability to dual wield plasmids with weapons at the same time, this gives the player the advantage to unleash a flurry of damage on enemies or continually refreezing a tougher enemy on the spot while you empty clip after clip of ammo into them.
You'd think with this new ability then the game would be a cake walk, far from it Bioshock 2 introduces two new forms of enemies, the first, the Big Sister is a female form Big Daddy who is more agile than yourself and can utilise plasmids much the same way you do, she only appears after you have either harvested or saved the all the little sisters in an area. The other addition is the Brute splicer, the Brute is similar to a Big Daddy in terms of damage caused to you and the amount of damage he can take, the brute is large swollen splicer who can lift and throw heavy objects to inflict damage. The Brute can really change the favour of a fight especially if you have to deal with several regular splicers all at once too.
All original Plasmids are present in all their destructive glory along with a few new additions such as the Scout plasmid which I personally didn't find to be very useful, but then again some of the original plasmids weren't all that useful either so no harm done. What is most impressive though is the level 3 plasmids, with the Electro-Bolt being turned into a handheld thunderstorm or the Fire plasmid becoming a handheld flame thrower, you can guarantee to really feel the power of this new level of plasmid with each and every enemy you take down.
Since you play the game as a Big Daddy you must be wondering "Do you get to use little sisters to collect ADAM like the little sisters from Bioshock did?" Well the simple answer is yes, as with the first game you will be pitted against Big Daddies though this time once you dispense with them you can either Harvest or choose to Adopt their little sister, if you Adopt a little sister then she will ride on your shoulder until you find a glowing corpse which she can draw ADAM from. And this is where the new weapon, the Rivet Gun comes into play. The Rivet gun is a must for Big Daddies as it has an ammo mode called 'Trap Rivets' trap rivets are rivets that when fired don't just disappear but instead stick to any surface they are fired at... including splicers, this means you can protect your little sister when she's harvesting ADAM from the waves of splicers that come your way.
You may think that all of this is a waste of time and yes you don't need to harvest ADAM to complete the game, either saving or harvesting the little sisters would be enough but if you do chose to push that little bit more you'll find you'll be able to afford all the health and EVE upgrades whenever you need them and you won't have to scavenge for ADAM as you'll always have an ample supply to buy new plasmids and stay one step ahead of the enemy.
The moral choice aspect from Bioshock returns in not just the form of whether to save or harvest the little sisters but during the course of the game you will meet characters each in different circumstances and you will be forced to either save them or kill them, these choices along with the little sisters can affect the ending on multiple levels which is a much more complex and personal way to determine the ending as not everyone will kill all the characters or only chose to kill one or two and leave one due to various reasons, all of these choices change the ending for better or worse.
Right from the beginning you'll be greeted with the regular Bioshock style when it comes to music, old 40's/50's tunes echo down corridors and give a sense of age and nostalgia to what can be described as walking around an old photograph. The voice acting as with the original Bioshock is fabulous, no cheesy, lifeless performances here instead you get to hear firsthand the bitterness of Lamb, dismay of Ryan or the loving compassion of Eleanor are all acted with sincerity and flesh the characters more and more with each passing line.
In 2007 I remember being in awe of how realistic the water effects were, the shimmering, the way it trickled down the screen and I'd wondered how they could possibly top it. Early in the game you enter a large dining hall with a wall made from glass, as you approach it a Big Sister cracks all the glass and runs off, the room immediately floods and you find yourself walking around underwater outside the dry interiors of Rapture. The visual effects during these sequences are simply eye candy, just like in Bioshock when Rapture is first revealed Bioshock 2 takes it that one more level by letting you walk around while the skyline of Rapture remains ever present in the background.
Although the underwater sequences are a sheer delight for the eyes there has been only minor fixes to the graphics engine for Bioshock 2. That being said the graphics still hold up extremely well compared to other big budget games being released today and surprisingly even when there is a lot of activity on screen there was rarely any slowdown.
When multiplayer was originally announced there was a flurry or angst from both sides, some called it the end of the franchise and that multiplayer would ruin what made Bioshock such a lonely and singular experience and others just wanted to set things on fire!
Unlike with most multiplayer games Bioshock 2's multiplayer begins with a prologue where you find your human character waking in an apartment after injecting yourself with what looks like ADAM, A TV in the corner flickers to life and a broadcast by Andrew Ryan welcomes you to Rapture, as with most interactive cut scenes in games I chose to explore the apartment rooms rather than listen to Ryan's ideological views on a utopian society. In the apartment there is a gene bank that can be used to change your arsenal of weapons and plasmids for use in multiplayer. When you first start out you have the basic three plasmids, Fire, Freeze and Electro-bolt with locked slots for status bonus plasmids, weapons wise to begin with you'll only be able to wield the Pistol and the Shotgun but you'll quickly gain access to other weapons and plasmids as you rank up.
As with most mainstream FPS's there is a rank system based on the amount of kills you rack up, these kills are translated into experience points, when you get enough points you level up and unlock new content, Bioshock 2 does nothing new here as the ranking system has you starting at level 1 and with each level you unlock a new ability, plasmid or weapon. It's not disappointing for 2K to implement their multiplayer in this way as it's a tried and tested method of ensuring players continue to play the game into the foreseeable future.
Once you've equipped your character it's time to setup or join a game, the game modes on offer are the standard FPS multiplayer fair but with a Bioshock twist such as 'capture the flag' is 'capture the little sister' and 'last man standing' is 'last splicer standing.' With so much potential given the nature of the series I would have expected 2K to have come up with new multiplayer modes that cleverly utilises the weapon/plasmid combo, as it stands the modes on offer do give you a wide range of play styles that should suit most players.
The actual experience of wielding the fire plasmid in multiplayer is something awesome indeed, it did take a short while to adjust to the plasmids being weaker than in single player but once you start you realise very quickly that the weapon/plasmid combination you choose and greatly affect your chances in a one on one confrontation with an enemy and if all else fails you can repeatedly hit him with your trusty wrench as he tries to reload. There have been a few glitches and random drop outs with the multiplayer but nothing more than has been experience with other games online.
Overall the multiplayer really does add another dimension to the game, the inclusion of the apartment as a means to customise your characters weaponry really helps give the illusion that it is in fact your apartment and you are a citizen of Rapture.
The main campaign in Bioshock 2 is short even exploring all areas and rescuing all the little sisters you're looking at completion time of around 6-7 hours compared to the original you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bioshock was longer which it is but in Bioshock there was a lot of backtracking to complete objectives, in Bioshock 2 however there is little backtracking as most of the game is pretty linear. Once you've completed the main game there is always the multiplayer but if you're not a person who plays online it might seem a little steep to spend full retail on a game you may have completed in a single sitting.
When everything is weighed up Bioshock 2 may not have the dynamic story from its predecessor but it excels with its tight game play and compelling voice acting, fans of multiplayer FPS's will be more than happy with what Bioshock 2 has to offer. The game is a complete package for anyone looking for something a little different to all the war based shooters out there, a must buy!