“In BioShock 2, you step into the boots of the most iconic denizen of Rapture, the Big Daddy, as you explore through the decrepit and beautiful fallen city, chasing an unseen foe in search of answers and your own survival.”
After the success of Irrational Games’ phenomenal BioShock, fans of the groundbreaking shooter were soon itching for a sequel – and when it was announced in 2008 that BioShock 2 was in the works, the word ‘BOOYAH!’ sprung from the lips of those who had braved the unforgiving dystopia of Rapture and thwarted the evil Andrew Ryan, only this time they would be playing as a Big Daddy! This isn’t just any Big Daddy, mind, but the first Big Daddy – known as Subject Delta – to be successfully pair-bonded with a Little Sister. There were promises of an immersive, deep storyline, deeper combat, major twists and exciting new enemies. These would all combine to create the most all-round perfect and satisfying shooter since the original, right? WRONG! What it actually turned out to be was a fairly disappointing release suffering from sequel-syndrome. The main problem is that it offers no real improvement over the original and, while it can be argued that the first game was so good that it deserved no real improvement, we have to remember that BioShock 2 is a sequel and requires improvement, otherwise the game could quite simply be considered an extension, not a sequel. The hype for this game was big and we all expected it to pay off. It didn’t, and here’s why:
From the moment the player gains control, it is very clear that the graphics have been taken down a grade as they appear unpolished and edgy. Instantly, you take control of the drill; a very fun weapon with tons of beefiness which causes some awesome destruction. Regarding the rest of the weapons, the majority of them feel recycled; there is a looming feeling that more work could have been invested in them. However, coming across a new weapon is still as welcome as ever and weapon upgrades are fun, if a little unimaginative.
Next, the audio: the musical score is good; it sets the mood and is well composed, but it lacks the eeriness that the first game supplied so well, for example, when you’re walking through the water in the dimly-lit mortuary whilst a shadow dances on the wall ahead of you and the lights go out and the tense music kicks in, which would intensify the atmosphere tenfold. These moments are sorely missed. The voice acting is average at best, particularly the radio and audio diaries, which are voiced in a particularly cheap style. There isn’t one “The name’s Frank Fontaine” moment, or even a single smidgen of powerful dialogue. Fortunately, the sound effects are still as great as ever and deserve some credit.
Now, a question: what is the most standout and recognisable item in the series? Think about it. That’s right – the Big Daddy. Thanks to these guys, combat in the original was frantic, highly tactical and, more-so, scary. Friggin’ scary. In BioShock 2, however, there is a complete lack of everything the Big Daddy stood for and represented in the first game. Originally, you would plan your attack, strike at the perfect moment and engage in a mesmerising, frantic battle to the death, whereas now, it’s more strike>drill>Winter Blast>drill>Winter Blast>Electro Bolt>drill etc., without the ‘AHHHHH! A BIG DADDY!’ feeling. Even combat with the series’ new enemy, the Big Sister, is dull and disappointing and works by an identical attack system to the previously mentioned one, though the Sisters are a little quicker on their toes.
Despite these shortcomings, some of the smaller quirks in the game have been improved and made more inventive, such as the hacking system, which now features a moving needle that the player needs to land within a green or blue area in order to perform a successful hack. It requires more precision, but less thought, than the old hacking system, and has more satisfaction upon scoring a successful hack. Onto the gameplay!
The game runs smoothly, apart from the odd framerate issue in heavily-build action sequences. ADAM gathers, whilst enjoyable at first, quickly become a boring task and bring on a sigh of ‘Not another one…’. It’s nice to see the return of some of our favourite Plasmids for another round, as well as a selection of welcome new Tonics. It’s still fun choosing your desired Plasmids and Tonic load-outs through means of a Gene Bank. There are a number of badly executed sections, such as taking control of the Little Sister and gathering ADAM, which was clearly intended to be a significant moment in the game, but proves to be a poorly delivered and failed attempt at one. Venturing outside of Rapture may sound fun, but it’s only really walking around in some water in search of a water drainage room to gain access to another part of Rapture. One of the most poorly executed sections is the battle between the player and the now-Big-Daddied Sinclair because of silly mind control brought upon by Lamb’s command, which ends in a stupidly easy fight for a key. Fantastic. I really should start drawing this review to an end now… The game features absolutely no standout ‘WOW!’ moments, unlike the first which featured the perfect number and perfect delivery of such instances.
Next, the multiplayer, which, while it had potential, turned out to be fairly disastrous. Frequent freezes, annoying glitches and flawed mechanics create the perfect example of a broken, evil multiplayer. It feels like single player with other people playing, and it really doesn’t work. A fix for some of the issues would be lovely, but whether we’ll see one is a different question.
– Fun new quirks
– The drill is pretty damn sweet
– Decent new Plasmid and Tonic selection
– Extremely linear
– Feels recycled and boring
– Many disappointing deliveries
– Catastrophic multiplayer
Overall, it’s a fairly disappointing game that doesn’t live up to the hype that it generated before release. If you’re new to the series, and BioShock 2 is your starting point, you may enjoy it, whereas Rapture veterans will most likely be seething at what turned out to be the opposite of what they were expecting. This game is probably best as a rental instead of a copy destined to gather dust on a shelf.
Buy, rent or avoid?
This one’s a rental, my dears. Beyond the extremely linear campaign, there really isn’t anything more to do unless you fancy torturing yourself with an awful multiplayer.
Final score: 7/10