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BioShock 2

Score: 86%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 10 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

I don't envy the guys at 2K Marin. When a game is as well received and influential as BioShock, the follow-up is always going to be a tough hill to climb. BioShock 2 is, for lack of a better analogy, the band that has to follow The Rolling Stones. This left 2K Marin in a bind: play it safe and change little about the game, or pull a 180 like Mass Effect 2. In the end, the developers decided to take the safe route, though with a few minor changes to the formula. Some work and others don't.

BioShock was a "complete package" sort of game. Everything about the game - from presentation to gameplay - informed the overall experience. BioShock 2 follows the same concept, but without coming off as a retread. Rapture is a big place, so don't expect to revisit past areas. Instead, it introduces players to a completely new, yet just as ravaged, part of Rapture. Every area paints a better picture of what life was like in Ryan's failed utopia. The areas are effective at conveying a deeper sense of story, but aren't as successful. Unlike the first game, I didn't feel myself as drawn to wanting to explore every leaky corner. It looks phenomenal -- both in its artistic direction and technical finesse (especially the water effects) - but beyond looking great, I never felt as locked into what I was seeing as in the first game.

Keeping with the idea of aiming towards something bigger, sound is easily one of the game's real strong points. Not that the game has many weak ones, but sound really stood out for me. I wasn't a big fan of the original score, but the era-specific songs set the right mood.

You'll meet a number of characters in your adventure, either in person or via taped messages hidden around Rapture. The voicework is strong, though the real impact moment comes from the Little Sisters. I'm not one to talk about the "morality" of BioShock 2. I've never killed a Little Sister and probably never will. I get it's just a game, but I just can't. If I were inclined, however, I would have to think long and hard. Snapping a kid's neck is one thing, but doing it while she calls you "Daddy" takes it to a whole other level. I understand some players won't think twice since it's "just a game," but I also know a few who've reconsidered because of it.


BioShock 2 takes place 10 years after the first game. Ryan's dead and his rival, Sofia Lamb, has taken over. Ryan may be gone, but his philosophical influence is still felt around Rapture. This doesn't go well with Lamb's new philosophy, creating a bit of unrest among the Splicers. The turmoil has also led to the appearance of a new citizen, the Big Sister, who has her own ideas about Rapture's current state. In the midst of it all is Subject Delta, a long dormant prototype Big Daddy who has suddenly become self-aware. In his confused state, he decides to seek out the Little Sister he was originally paired with, Eleanor, who just happens to be Sofia's daughter.

As in the first game, most of the game involves exploring Rapture and fighting Splicers. The core concept hasn't changed much, though as a Big Daddy, you're in for a different sort of experience. The biggest gameplay addition is the ability to adopt Little Sisters. Once you take out her Big Daddy escort, you're given the choice to kill or adopt the Sister. A quick kill will give you a quick boost of ADAM, while choosing to adopt her will add a new objective - find ADAM "donors," defend the Little Sister from attacking Splicers and get her back to her porthole.

As I said, BioShock 2 is played safe. There are changes, but it's the same game. Not that I really minded, but the entire game did feel like a bit of a rehash. I can't think of any time where I was absolutely giddy to uncover a secret and towards the end, things started feeling too mechanical.

BioShock 2 adds multiplayer to the series. All of the included modes should be familiar to online players, but each has a BioShock twist. For instance, Capture the Flag is replaced with Capture the Sister. In addition to including familiar play modes, multiplayer also includes level-based perks, mainly new Plasmids and weapons, earned through play. I wasn't sure how into the multiplayer I'd get, but I really enjoyed myself. I rarely continue to play some online modes after turning in a review, but BioShock 2 managed to hold me.


Several things will influence just how hard a time you'll have in Rapture. There are surface level options like Difficulty and the ability to turn off Vita-Chambers, cutting off your ability to respawn after death. However, what you choose to do with Little Sisters will also play a large role.

If you go for the quick kill, your ADAM levels will soar, quickly giving you access to upgrades. Choosing to protect the Sister, on the other hand, adds another level of difficulty by giving you a short "defend the territory" mission while the Sister harvests. Protecting the Sister isn't impossible, but can lead to some really frustrating moments. Enemies come from everywhere and seem more aggressive. You have the ability to set traps, but purchasing traps means not having enough money for ammo. It's an understandable situation for the gameplay, but it also took some of the shine off of playing as Big Daddy. I never felt really powerful, but instead just like a guy in a diving suit.

Repeated deaths does, however, work towards a bit of a moral conflict. I'd never hurt a Little Sister, but boy was I tempted. To that extent the idea works, but not without hurting other elements.

Game Mechanics:

Once again, BioShock 2 feels like a very familiar game mechanically, but there are changes. Since you're a Big Daddy, you can't use normal shotguns and machine guns. Instead, you're given a super-sized arsenal of heavy machine guns, harpoon guns and Big Daddy standards like the Drill and Rivet Gun. You may not always feel like a badass, but the weapons certainly give the appearance. Each also has three ammo types, including "trap" versions like landmine-like rivets.

Weapons are a small part of combat. Although the adopt mechanic is interesting, the best mechanical change is the ability to dual-wield Plasmids and Weapons. This opens a huge list of new tactics, like freezing an enemy, them smashing them with the Drill. There's also more co-operation between Plasmids. In the first game, I mainly stuck to a set of three Plasmids, but this time I found it hard figuring out which to take with me. There's something really cool about freezing an enemy, then using telekinesis to toss them into another group.

Interplay between Plasmids and weapons carry over into multiplayer. In fact, most of the single-player mechanics do. Killing opponents and capturing Little Sisters will, of course, net you ADAM, but additional ADAM is earned by researching recently-killed opponents (this will also give you a damage boost against that enemy). You can also hack turrets to help you out, or hack vending machines to make sure opponents get a nasty surprise when they attempt to use them.

Even if it isn't a masterstroke, BioShock 2 is still a great game and worth checking out. It doesn't reach the same heights as the first game, but it's a worthy follow-up.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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