BioShock 2

by Angela Simpson
author awarded score: 90/100

Bioshock 2 Review
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Format Reviewed: Playstation 3
Reviewed By: Angela Simpson

Ahh Rapture, an underwater city of wonder, how I have missed you and your deranged beauty. When BioShock released back in 2007 (on Xbox 360) it was a game changer. With that in mind, its water drenched sequel has much to live up to. The narrative, environment and characterization in BioShock was superlative (as you can see in our review) and it seems with BioShock 2, the developers have managed to retain the magic of the first game and added to it just enough to keep fans of the series happy. Please note this is a full review of the single player game. BioShock 2 also features multi-player.

The story…
Andrew Ryan was a man with a vision, his underwater city of Rapture was home to the great thinkers, out of reach of government control. Rapture goes from utopia to dystopia, a disturbing place where freedom it seems has led to its total breakdown. It’s set ten years after the first game and your antagonist for the most part is one Sofia Lamb, a brilliant psychiatrist who has opposing ideas of leadership when compared to her predecessor Andrew Ryan. Whereas Ryan believed in the freedom of the self, Lamb believes in the idea of collectivism. Though these philosophical views are different, they both act as a catalyst for the overall story, which in and of itself, feels all too familiar, despite the fact you are now placed in the role of a Big Daddy. For those not in the know, that’s a big guy in an old style diving suit, fitted out with a large drill like hand. Your name is “Delta” and you must find a girl named Eleanor, Sofia Lambs daughter. Eleanor you see is connected to you, because ten years earlier she was the Little Sister you were bonded with. These “Little Sisters” too are a major part of the story, for those who have played the previous game, their use is just the same. For those new to the world of Rapture, I’ll leave their use as a surprise. Your “Little Sister” Eleanor is sending you – Delta – messages, psychic visions of a sort and she needs help.

As Big Daddy Delta you must work your way through the halls and denizens of Rapture, in first-person perspective (given this is at its heart an FPS title). Aiding you in this quest is your standard weapons allotment, ranging from rivet guns, to fully upgraded grenade launchers. Weapon upgrade stations are dotted around and these work in incremental fashion on whatever weapon you choose. As well as your arsenal of ass kicking weaponry (and differing ammo types), you’ve also got genetically enhanced powers called plasmids, which means you can set enemies alight, electrocute them and various other nasties. I don’t want to list every weapon and plasmid here, because I feel it may mar your experience, just keep your eyes out for the spear gun. Oh, there’s also melee combat this time, but who needs that when you can fry someone at a distance, though drilling someone to death might be your cup of gore. You also have the ability to ‘hack’ various machines and weapons in game, thus making things cheaper / easier for you.

So who are your enemies in this beautiful and disturbing place? The insane populace of Rapture, of course means the splicers are back, including the irritating Houdini splicer, who pops in and out of view, to make your ass kicking that little bit harder. For those who missed the last game, the splicers were once regular folk, but now they want to eat your face. As far as AI goes, this is actually pretty good – enemies will try and kick your ass, they will hide, run and lurch at you in terrifying fashion. One of the coolest – and most frustrating – enemies you will face is Big Sister, she’s allegedly one of those Little Sister’s that didn’t make it out of Rapture last time and now she is a quick moving, psychotic fighting machine. This bitch is bad ass, it’s just a shame we don’t get to play her.

Visually BioShock 2 is a wonderful, watery experience, on par with the first game. There’s nothing that leapt out as being overly better, but given the first game was so visually resplendent this is by no means a negative strike against, what is a graphically superlative piece of living fiction. Environments are fairly sprawling, though the story sees you traverse them in fairly linear fashion. Lighting and water effects are fantastically handled and it is nice to see some of what lay outside Raptures art deco halls along the ocean floor. As for sound, this is Rapture and everything is handled in stylish fashion. The voice acting is – for the most part – sublime, the quirky old recordings of the soundtrack is reminiscent of an old Ink Spots recording session (and if you know who they are, bravo, you must be as old a gamer as I). The score itself too is haunting, creepy, beautiful and almost perfect.

Female Gamer Angle…
As far as female characters go in BioShock 2 your main protagonist is “Big Daddy” and as the name suggests he’s a dude and the main character you take control of. To give away anything further in this regard would give away plot points and thus ruin game elements so I’ll be vague. As mentioned previously one of the antagonists in game is the “Big Sister”, she’s lithe, fast and will – for the most part – make your life a living hell. On the opposing end of the spectrum of your Big Sister troubles you have Eleanor Lamb, the girl bonded to you ten years earlier. As female characters go in games Eleanor Lamb – despite being once more the non playable narrative tool – is a cracker. She’s strong willed, empathic and you will grow to love her, I will say no more however as I would hate to ruin even a smidge of this game for you. Other female characters of course include the “Little Sisters”, the adorable little girls who harvest the life blood of others, because through their eyes they’re helping them. As well as this the main narrative antagonist is Sofia Lamb and you will hear much from her in the game. There are also a few other secondary female characters you’ll meet along the way and finally some of the splicer denizens of Rapture are also female. All-in-all a lot of female characters, though playability for the most part is of course a male lead…. but one wonders what BioShock 3 has in-store in this regard.

BioShock 2 delivers an underwater wonder. The story, score and characters are filmic in nature, which lends itself to the player on a more emotional level. As the end credits roll, you will sit and ponder what has occurred, dependent on your actions throughout the game, you may even question your moral compass (my ending was the ‘best’ I am glad to say reflected well as to my own proclivities and I felt better for it). There are four endings to BioShock 2 and dependent on what you do throughout, the ending narrative will be the appropriate end to this wonderful story. 2K have once more exceeded expectation and brought forth a sequel worthy of its place in the BioShock landscape. It will stay with you for some time afterwards, perhaps one might say ‘on your shoulder, whispering’.

This review originally appeared at our partner site Thumb Bandits