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Sophomore slump, but still great.
on February 13, 2010
Let me start off by saying that this game was in a very rough spot when it was being developed. The first Bioshock was and still is one of the greatest games ever made, and seeing as video games are a rare medium where the sequel is almost always better, the bar was set high. I pretty much had my hopes set rather low, as I knew it could never live up to the near-flawless first installment.
So how accurate was I? Its about as good as I thought it would be.
Bioshock 2 is by no means a bad game. Its still Bioshock, you're still in Rapture, and the gameplay is the same with improvements made here and there. But, as my previous statement said, there are things that hold this installment back.
Even though this isn't the first time we've stepped foot in Rapture - and some of the mystery is gone due to that fact - it is still full of the same great atmosphere and art design that made the original so great. There are still flickering lights, leaky walls and ceilings, art deco goodness, and a general sense of a lost utopia in every area. There is still the same feeling of nervous excitement and slight fear around every corner.
The gameplay is more or less unchanged, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The shooting is still pretty tight, as is the use of plasmids. You have your standard plasmids and gene tonics from the first game, with a few tweaks here and there such as the ability to use plasmids and weapons at the same time.
There are also some small things that I took notice of and really enjoyed:
- Subject Delta (your character) grew on me for some reason. I always found the Big Daddies to be oddly lovable, and this guy is no different.
- The drill arm is a great addition to the weapon selection. I found myself using it even late in the game and upgrading it before upgrading my guns.
- Guarding the Little Sisters wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I hate escort type missions, and thought I would hate this mechanic, but I wound up loving it. You can also just down the other Daddies and return the Sisters to the vents, without doing the ADAM harvesting part. The Little Sisters are also cute and sometimes funny in what they say, and it was a good choice to allow the player to interact with them more this time around.
- (!!SPOILER!!) Later on in the game, you are able to see the world of Rapture as the Little Sisters see it, which is incredibly interesting. During this section, the real decayed Rapture is juxtaposed with the imagined Little Sister-vision Rapture, and it is very powerful when it happens.
- (!!SPOILER!!) The Subject Delta/Eleanor relationship was well told, despite the fact that I have several complaints regarding the story.
- The opening cinematic gives you a very brief glimpse of life in Rapture before its fall. I found it very interesting even though it barely lasts a minute.
- The Cons -
Before I go into the cons, just know that despite everything I say, this game is still good, and still worth playing. When writing reviews, I tend to focus on the negative too much, and the game is not as bad as these cons will make it out to be.
While the fact that the gameplay is unchanged isn't really that bad, it also strikes me as a missed chance to really improve on it. There are really no new weapons or plasmids that strike you as being really "new", as most of them are either unchanged or rehashed versions of other weapons or plasmids from the first game. The fact that you're a Big Daddy also doesn't make that much of a difference. I found my health being depleted rapidly by average splicers, and my blows with weapons or the drill arm not being as effective as they should be. The game tries to write this off as the splicers growing stronger in the ten years since the first game, but it still made a bad impression on me.
Music has seemed to have taken a backseat in this game. The first Bioshock used music to such great effect that I bought the soundtrack. Music is more or less absent in this game. I remember hearing music maybe 4 or 5 times throughout the entire game, compared to the literal dozens of songs heard throughout Rapture in Bioshock 1.
The hacking mechanic being changed is a smaller annoyance I had, as I love the original games hacking minigame a lot more compared to the color/needle game you play in this game.
Something that really confuses me is the graphics. They seem to have gotten worse since Bioshock 1. Low-res textures make several appearances, the water isn't as impressive, and the particle effects are rather pixelated. Graphics aren't really that big of a deal to me, but the obvious downgrade from the first game just confuses me.
The areas explored throughout the game are also relatively lacking. There are no Welcome to Rapture Centers or Fort Frolics in this game.
(SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW)
My absolute biggest complaint about Bioshock 2 is the story. While I wasn't expecting something of Bioshock 1 quality, I was expecting something more than what was presented.
Sofia Lamb, while being a decent antagonist, falls very very short of filling Andrew Ryan's shoes.
Her speeches aren't as fascinating, her motives aren't as clear, and her malevolence isn't as convincing. She tries to be the omniscient voice of Ryan and the villain of Fontaine all at once, and fails.
This is indicative of another problem: the characters. While the characters are still deeper than 95% of characters in other games, the first Bioshock still reigns supreme in this area. Sinclair is a likable character, but pales in comparison to Atlas (Sinclair more or less fills Atlas' role in this game). Grace Holloway plays the role of fallen artist in this game, but never lives up to the mad genius of Sander Cohen. Even the audio logs are lacking due to the characters not being as strong.
The big reveal around the 75% complete mark in this game was also unremarkable. Expect no "Would you kindly?" or "Atlas is Fontaine". I didn't even understand the significance of the twist in this game. I was unaffected by it completely.
There is also no final boss fight, no satisfying explanation for the Big Sisters, and no sense of closure that approaches the first games'.
My last complaint story-wise is about Tenenbaum. Despite being the only character from the first game in this game, she makes one appearance and then COMPLETELY disappears from the game. You aren't even told what becomes of her. This really frustrated me.
Despite all of my complaints, this is still a very solid game and worth playing. Especially if you've played the amazing first game. However, if you're new to this series, I highly recommend playing the first one to see if you like this type of game.