I’d like to thank GameStop/EB Games for giving me the opportunity to pick up BioShock 2. Without their “Power Trade” promotion, I wouldn’t have given it the time of day. I wasn’t hankering for a sequel to BioShock; it felt like a complete experience and I was satiated from a narrative perspective. I also didn’t want a sequel which wasn’t handled by the original development team, Irrational Games. Discovering that the sequel was being handled by five developers and will include a multiplayer mode certainly didn’t calm those worries for quality either. But alas, for the most part, those fears were quickly put to rest once I stepped foot onto Rapture.
The game started strong by utilizing the iconic elements of BioShock: the Big Daddy, the Little Sister and control. I witnessed a powerful scene which pulled me back into Rapture hook, line and sinker. It was important for the sequel to retain certain themes and “control” was easily the most evident in the franchise. It was also important to not to rehash the famous Andrew Ryan scene at the half way point once again, so I was very glad to see they played that “control” card immediately.
From a narrative standpoint, I felt BioShock 2 was more an expansion pack or a long side mission. BioShock was about the story of Rapture while BioShock 2 was more of a story told in Rapture. The focus this time around was squarely on me, a protoype fourth generation Big Daddy, who only wishes to be his designated Little Sister. The audio diaries returned, but this time they seemed to be more abundant than ever. They shared tales of Andrew Ryan vs Sofia Lamb, the ongoing Big Daddy program and a heart felt story of a father looking for his daughter. The Andrew Ryan and civil war stories felt revisionist and negligible, but the other two tales were pertinent to the Big Daddy lifestyle.
As mentioned earlier, audio diaries were everywhere and secret passages were more-or-less gone. Nearly everything I needed to know is beaten on the path. It was like they were afraid to hide things — including the story, the upgrades and the enemies. Action came into the forefront while exploration and atmosphere peered from the back.
I revisited BioShock again just before the sequel debuted and I was creeped out by it. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still unsettled by the mood and setting. This was not the case with BioShock 2. I attribute this shift to a number of decisions including the decision to change in the character art style along with the regularity of enemy appearances. The original BioShock featured doll-like models with exaggerated features and grins. Even the Little Sisters were creepy creatures in the first game, while they were more like adorable clones in the sequel.
And with fewer lulls in the action to wallow in and a more humanized cast of enemies, why would I be afraid? There’s no reason to fear combat when I could best any Splicer with ease since I wasn’t fumbling between plasmids and weapons anymore. But I think the big reason why I wasn’t feeling any unease was the fact that I was giant lumbering Big Daddy. How can anyone be afraid of anything when they have a giant spinning drill of death for a hand? It’s easily one of the most satisfying melee weapons in a long, long time.
The shortcomings of BioShock 2 were primarily technical. I dislike framerate drops. I dislike them even more during the heat of battle. When there are turrets firing, Splicers dancing to the electricity flowing through their veins and me, firing armor piercing rounds into the new rocket launcher equipped Big Daddy: frames will be dropped. Sometimes they even drop to the point where audio stutters. Perhaps it’s a problem exclusive to the PlayStation 3 since the original BioShock wasn’t so hot on the platform either. I can’t say for sure, but it’s disappointing. It’s also a disappointing to see BioShock‘s strongest technical feature — water — not shine as it did in the original. This can be attributed to the way they handled transparencies and reflections on Sony’s console (ie: poorly)
A sequel comes with high expectations. Sometimes it’s warranted and met while other times it falls short. I don’t know what I was expecting with BioShock 2, but I enjoyed my time spent with it. I don’t believe it should have been called a sequel — they could have gotten away with a “Fallout: New Vegas” type of naming. Nevertheless, it’s still amusing to set a Splicer on fire and follow him to a pool water where I can greet him with a jolt of lightning. The technical issues got in the way of the fun at times, but I didn’t let it stop me from completing the game. With expectations in check, it’s more BioShock and if you enjoyed your time in Rapture and are looking for a reason to revisit, you can’t go wrong with BioShock 2.
Even the multiplayer which I will discuss in a later post.
For more information on BioShock 2, visit the official site.