"In Rapture we keep what is ours"
Release Date: February 09, 2010
Developer: Various 2K Studios
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Welcome back to Rapture. It has been a several years since Andrew Ryan’s untimely demise. After her nemesis was removed from power, Sofia Lamb took claim to the throne and attempted to unite Rapture by having everyone work towards a common goal. While it may be under new ownership, Rapture has changed little. The underwater metropolis is still overrun by demented denizens called splicers, with only a handful of sane (?) humans left. Fun times are a guarantee.
My first trip to Rapture filled me with wonder as I took in every sight and sound possible. This time around the sense of wonder was replaced with a sense of familiarity. Indeed visually and audibly the game has changed little. The world is as grimy, rusty and decayed as it was a couple years ago. Located around every corner are puddles created by leaks that have not yet been repaired. Rapture itself groans and creaks as the ocean attempts to reclaim the space that was borrowed from it.
BioShock 2 continues where the first game left off. Well sort of. Jack is gone and he is not coming back. In BioShock 2, the player takes on the role of the most feared of all of Rapture’s inhabitants, the Big Daddy. Actually to say that the gamer is a Big Daddy is not entirely accurate for they are a very special Big Daddy known simply as “Subject Delta”. Subject Delta is special as he was the very first Big Daddy bonded to a Little Sister. Gameplay wise, it appears to makes little difference that the player is now a Big Daddy as opposed to just a regular man.
BioShock 2 is an adventure shooter. The shooter part is plain and old school; shoot just about everything that moves. There no fancy cover system or squad based tactics here, just point at the target and pull the trigger. As with any good shooter, guns are at the forefront of the game. The game features the usual assortment of ranged and close combat weapons. This includes firearms and melee weapons such as the drill (something I now realized is just a handheld device and not a permanent fixture on Big Daddies). Each weapon can be upgraded three times to dramatically increase its power and efficiency. The final upgrade also provides the weapons with an additional bonus making it very desirable. Unlike the first game, there are not enough upgrade stations to upgrade all weapons fully so the decision of which weapons to upgrade becomes quite important. BioShock 2 also includes many trap weapons that will only go off once triggered.
Just as in the first game, shooting stuff is simply not enough. Big Daddy or not, to get through Rapture and its many dangers will require the use of plasmids. Plasmids, for those who may not have played the first game, endue the player with extraordinary powers such as the ability to freeze enemies, burst them into flames, or to project powerful jolts of electricity. Other plasmids will allow a clone to scout out the area prior to entering the zone, or to make enemies turn on each other. Plasmids can also be upgraded to provide more powerful versions with bonuses provided for fully upgraded plasmids. Plasmids are powerful modifier, but need to be activated to use and also requires a bit of EVE. Tonics on the other hand provide subtler genetic modifications but do not need to be activated to benefit the user. They also do not require any EVE. Tonics can be used to provide various abilities such as immunity from specific attacks to facilitate hacking by slowing down the needle.
Plasmid and tonics can be found in Rapture, but more will need to be purchased. Money will not be accepted here, only ADAM will suffice. ADAM is a natural substance produced by a rare sea slug. It allows the human body to genetically alter itself to produce supernatural capabilities of the plasmids. ADAM was once harvested from the sea slugs, but very few of these critters remain so the Little Sisters were created to extract and reclaim the ADAM from the corpses that little Rapture. To gain ADAM, our Big Daddy will first need to adopt an orphaned Little Sister (another Big Daddy will need to be taken out to create this orphan) and then protect the Little Sister while she gathers ADAM. The game once again allows the player to choose to harvest the Little Sister for maximum amount of ADAM or to release the girl for less ADAM but a good feeling. Adopting Little Sisters and assisting them to gather ADAM can be time consuming, but the payoff of extra ADAM to purchase plasmids and tonics is worth the effort. A great part of the fun derived from BioShock 2 is simply experimenting with various combinations of weapons, plasmids and tonics.
With new weapons and plasmids come new enemies. BioShock 2 introduces us to the bullish brute splicer and the extremely dangerous Big Sister. Both of these enemies can put a pounding into an Alpha Big Daddy such as our hero with little effort. Better put those new items to good use. Enemies are a bit more intelligent this time around. They will react more naturally and attempt to team up against the player with a combination of ranged and melee damage making group confrontations extremely unhealthy. It is best to always do a little bit of scouting and pre-attack planning.
Hacking was an integral part of the first BioShock as it provided many benefits from turning bots and turrets on enemies to reducing the price of merchandise from vending machines. Hacking is equally important in BioShock 2, but there are differences. Gone is the “pipe dream” hacking mini-game that would conveniently cause all opponents to take a breather while the player hacked away. Now hacking is done in real time with a needle moving along a horizontal gauge divided into red, white, blue and green coloured sections. To successfully hack a device, the player must stop the arrow on a green or blue section numerous times with a bonus provided for any blue sections. Stopping the needled on a white section cancels the hack and shocks the players and stopping it on a red section triggers an alarm. For those not born with impeccable timing, there are plenty of tonics to easy the difficulty level of hacking devices and if that is not enough, there is a gun that can auto-hack devices eliminating the need to press any buttons (also useful when trying to hack while in combat).
Research is also back. No need to hunt down or spend money on film as progress means that our hero now has the use of a video camera. Simply start filming the research subject then proceed to eliminate him/her/it to gain quality research. To gain additional research points, try to eliminate each subject using a different combination of plasmids and weapons. For the most part research can be skipped, but doing so will come at the cost of many new abilities and benefits that are only unlocked by researching.
Something new to BioShock is a multiplayer mode. For those afraid that the multiplayer aspect of the game was not simply tacked on rest assured that the experience is fully fleshed out. Multiplayer was developed by famed development studio Digital Extremes. The Toronto based studio is best known for the famous Unreal Tournament series of games. Digital Extremes has done a great job at bringing all the fast paced action of Unreal Tournament to the BioShock world. Multiplayer game modes include variations of other popular game modes such as “Capture the Flag”, “King of the Hill” and the ever popular death-match and team death-match. Online play is not just part of the game; it is also part of the story. The multiplayer aspect takes place on New Years Eve 1959, a full ten years prior to the events of BioShock 2 and the start of the civil war that destroyed Rapture. The fighting done for the multiplayer is actually the battles that turned Rapture into the desecrated state it now resides. As a player starts his/her multiplayer career, they will have access to very limited weapons and plasmids, but as they perform kills and gain ADAM, new weapons and plasmids will become available. The game is extremely well balanced in that a level 1 player can still take out a player that maxed out their character. The combination of plasmids and weapons make for some real frantic and unpredictable action. The only real problem with the multiplayer aspect is that the game on occasion will freeze something I never experienced in the single player mode.
The only complaint I have with this title is the inability to backtrack to previous zones. In BioShock, only a very small portion of the game become inaccessible to the player as the story progressed. This allowed me to revisit all of Rapture even at a very late stage in the game. In BioShock 2, each time I used to train to move forward, that section was no longer available causing many audio recordings, plasmids/tonics and upgrade stations to be missed. Not really a complaint (more of a remark) is that I found it unsettling that as a Big Daddy, I had the option to harvest a Little Sister. The story does explain why and how this can occur, but I still do not agree with it.
BioShock was a grandiose title and one not easily followed, but BioShock 2 does manage. It featured an interesting storyline combined with excellent gameplay. BioShock 2 is as fun and intelligent as the first game. The world of Rapture is one filled with adventure and one primed to be revisited a few more times I am sure.