BioShock 2 Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

For me, BioShock was a game that was really defined by its extraordinary world. The underwater city of Rapture was a brilliantly realised environment that was a pleasure to explore and plunder, and was all the more immersive thanks to its beautifully unique art style. But the game itself also had elements that divided opinion, and, for me, it wasn’t quite on the same level as its aquatic city.

BioShock 2 once again has us returning to the ruined city of Rapture, now almost a decade after the events of the original and wearing the very big boots of a Big Daddy as he searches for the Little Sister he has been bound to. Those who remember the 2007 game will know that these heavy suited characters are the protectors of the Little Sisters: small girls who have had their minds manipulated to gather ADAM (an addictive, body altering drug). As was with the original game, much of the well developed, mature plot is told through audio files left behind by its characters, and, even though the visionary creator is dead, Andrew Ryan’s legacy and ties to the city live on in these voice recordings. It’s a nice reminder of his previous role in the original game perhaps, but that’s not to say that I’m dissatisfied with the living characters of this sequel, as the script is once again superb and a memorable cast have been born from it.

The story is certainly one of intrigue, and the city of Rapture is now in the grip of Sofia Lamb: mother of your Little Sister and a female psychologist whose values are quite different from those of Ryan. Twists are to be expected, and playing as a Big Daddy brings forth a story that is both horrific and tender, with choices once again questioning your morals and shaping the outcome.

Indeed, even though you’re a Big Daddy, you’ll still be killing your own kind in order to get to their weeping Little Sisters. Once you’ve used all manner of heavy weaponry to send a Big Daddy to his demise, it’s then your decision whether to harvest the Little Sister there and then for a lot of ADAM or to adopt her as your own. Adoption was never an option in the original, but here it allows you to carry the Sisters to glowing bodies in order to extract ADAM from them. During the extraction process, enemy splicers will attack you and your Little Sister, leaving it up to you to be a good Daddy and protect her from harm. Each individual Little Sister can harvest ADAM from up to two bodies, and then you can carry them to vents – bringing about the ultimate decision: rescue or harvest. You’ll get an ADAM reward for both decisions, though it’s the coldblooded cruelty of harvesting them that will ultimately give you the most ADAM. This time around, harvesting or rescuing a certain number of Little Sisters will result in the new, agile Big Sisters attacking you, and you’ll have to kill them to get them off your back, earning an ADAM bonus from their corpses for doing so.

ADAM is once again the currency in which you improve your body with, and the customisation options are really quite staggering. Plasmids and tonics give you all sorts of different perks, including everything from firing bolts of electricity or fire out your hand, to improving your resistance against certain elements, making the hacking process easier (which is already much more intuitive, given that it now basically has you stopping a needle in target zones, with various bonuses possible by hitting the blue zones), shortening alarm lengths, summoning bots to help you out in a gunfight and much, much more. Options are vast and I’m sure there’ll be a time for us all when we are split between what to buy and what to leave for another time.

There’s a lot more to BioShock than shopping or window shopping though, and this sequel is certainly an improvement when it comes to the action. Switching between plasmids and weapons is no longer needed, being that you can now dual wield: throwing plasmids with one hand and firing your current gun with the other. It’s a sensible improvement that makes the action all the more fluid than it was first time around.

Protecting the Little Sisters whilst they extract ADAM also gives the game a tactical feel that the original game just didn’t have. Failure to protect your adopted one will cause you to think in another way before putting the Sister down again to do the deed, tackling the situation differently and placing all sorts of traps in an aim to keep the enemy at bay.

But said action still isn’t as satisfying as many others in the FPS genre: guns don’t feel quite as punchy as they should and enemies fall over in a very unimpressive fashion. I was hoping that the aforementioned things would have been improved in this sequel, though both do remain serviceable enough.

Another thing that diluted the action in the original game was the vita chambers. In Rapture these meant that death was nothing more than a very small inconvenience as you’d be returned to a nearby one each time your health had been completely depleted, with no real penalty: enemies stayed dead and your equipment remained intact. A patch was released to turn them off and this sequel also includes that option, with death sending you straight back to the title screen and reloads then taking you back to your previous save. But some will leave them turned on, just happy to be back in Rapture once again.

Rapture is still one of the finest locations that has ever been dreamed up for a game. It’s an artistically wonderful place that is memorable, splendid, at times claustrophobic, and all the more better thanks to its moody and attractive visuals. Shockingly there were no underwater sections in the original game, but this sequel has you taking a dip into the deep, blue ocean. These portions of the game are sadly few and far between and feel too linear, taking away much of the exploration of the far more regular topside sections. Topside, there’s still plenty of interaction with objects (many of which contain ammo, money, health and other helpful items) around each environment, but Rapture is in no way an open world as the story still has you following a very linear path.

The original only had its lengthy campaign, but this sequel also has a separate online mode for up to ten players. It may take its inspiration from the likes of Call of Duty, though multiplayer in Rapture is still rather unique. The actual set of modes are the kind that we’ve seen before, although some do have a twist: Capture the Sister, for example, has you capturing a Little Sister as opposed to the usual flag. The addition of plasmids makes the multiplayer quite chaotic, and being able to get damage bonuses on your opponents by researching their bloody corpses is very unique. All in all, the multiplayer is a fast and fun addition.

BioShock 2 is a highly successful and familiar return to Rapture, although, whilst its world and storytelling remain a triumph, the guns are fun to shoot and the vast customisation of the plasmids and tonics is impressive, the game itself would definitely benefit from some improvements to the action. It’s still good to be back in the underwater utopia of Rapture, though I’d like to see a third game truly live up to this series’ potential.