The original Bioshock was one of the most atmospheric games I’ve ever played – like Todd said on the show, it’s a game that grabs you by the hand and doesn’t let you go until the end. When Bioshock 2 was announced I had my concerns – one of the things that was so great about the original was that the setting, Rapture, was unknown and I had no idea what to expect. There would be no way a sequel would be able to have the same effect on me – it’s like trying to forget the ending of Fight Club the second time you watch it. But then another reviewer mentioned that the game proves that the setting can be host to many stories and that changed the way I thought about Bioshock 2. It’s not trying to pick up where the original left off or outdo it in any way – it’s trying to show another side of Rapture and deliver a completely different experience.
On the surface Bioshock 2 looks and plays almost identical to the original even though you’re playing as one of the original Big Daddy’s – the graphics are a little more cleaner and you see your plasmid hand and the weapon you’re holding at once but everything you remember about the underwater utopia is just as you remembered it. Rooms are littered with goodies like wine, gin, whiskey, ammo, money, first aid kits, potato chips and you’ll run into a variety of enemies, defence turrets, security cameras and audio diaries giving the back story to the characters you’ll encounter on your journey. The vending machines are also back where you can purchase healing materials, ammo and upgrade your abilities. Hacking works a little different this time as instead of playing the pipe game where the action is paused, you now play a rhythm type game where a needle swings from left to right and you have to hit the button when it’s in the right coloured section. But this time hacking doesn’t pause the action and if you activate the alarm or if a Splicer is around then they can attack you while you’re hacking. On your travels you will pick up a hacking weapon that allows you to hack from a distance and there’ll even be automatic hacking darts that do the job for you.
As I mentioned, you play as a Big Daddy, this means you can adopt Little Sisters after defeating another Big Daddy. In the original when you defeated a Big Daddy you had the choice to harvest or rescue but now you can adopt them before rescuing them… or harvest them immediately if you want to be evil. If you do adopt a little sister then you can collect Adam – which is the currency that allows you to upgrade your abilities and plasmids. While your Little Sister is collecting the Adam out of the corpses you will need to protect her by fighting off Splicers left right and centre – it can be a tough job but if you die you can always pick up where you left off.
This leads me to one of the issues that return from the original – the Vita Chambers. Every time your Big Daddy kicks the bucket he is reincarnated in the Vita Chamber and can return to battle. The damage you’ve done to enemies do not regenerate and it takes the challenge out of it because all you can literally go in guns blazing until you die then come back to finish the job without any real penalty. Sure, you could try to not die based on your pride and you might not get a trophy or achievement if you continually use the Vita Chambers but there isn’t anything stopping you from going in like a metallic Rambo and being turned into a cheese grater.
The story in Bioshock 2 makes up for any issues this game has – the original Bioshock story was one of the best I’ve played and this one if just as solid. While there is no huge twist or holy shit moment – the story in Bioshock 2 is well paced and well told. Like the original, the game takes you by the hand and takes you through an experience that you’ve never seen or played before. I would highly recommend playing the original Bioshock first because this game doesn’t provide a back story to what happened and you will be lost trying to understand why some characters are doing what they’re doing. New characters are introduced and fleshed out through their own communication with you and with the audio diaries lying around Rapture – but it’s the way they are connected to you and your goal for the game that makes them memorable.
Multiplayer has also been introduced to Rapture and it is surprisingly solid – I admit, I had my doubts but it plays very well. You’ll have your own PlayStation home-like apartment, except with more stuff in there, where you can change your clothes and abilities – then when you’re ready you can jump into an escape pod and enter a game. There is your standard deathmatches and goal specific gametypes with a Bioshock twist such as collecting the Little Sister and protecting her while she collects Adam. It might not replace Modern Warfare 2 at the top of the Xbox Live charts but it’s great alternative to the glitchy war “experience” and one that Aussies will actually be able to get into a game without lag. Hoorah!
Like its predecessor – Bioshock 2 is an amazing experience that should be played by all. It still has its faults but the story and events that transpire make up for it. As I mentioned earlier, play the original Bioshock first. If you have already played the original and loved it then there is no reason for you not to return to Rapture. It may not grab you like the original did but you’re still getting an awesome game that will leave you lusting for Bioshock 3.