“I’m ready for dream-time, Mr B.”
This is a line you’ll hear often when playing in the disturbing and yet beautiful world of Bioshock 2. It’s an action-packed game, full of detail, great stories and heart-pumping ambience. This game might not beat the original Bioshock, which attracted me to the sequel, but it comes damn close.
Bioshock 2 is once again set in the ruins of Andrew Ryan’s Rapture. Rapture, like in the first game, is a highly detailed, graphically awesome, underwater paradise. Well at least it was a paradise until everything went wrong. Nevertheless the game world is visually striking, filled with posters telling you to ‘Pick your Plasmid and Evolve today!’ I would often stop to check things out in this game, and there are a couple of places where you actually have to go outside Rapture across the seabed to reach another section of the city. The story-telling is great because rather than have the player read vast amounts of text on the screen, the story devices are interwoven into the environment itself. Also like in the first game, there are heaps of audio logs littering each level, which really help to fill in the story about what sort of hell the people of Rapture were going through. These are excellent, and really add that feeling of reality to the game. Although it’s not necessary to listen to them, I felt that I had to. While the game’s ambience, voice acting and music are pretty much the same high calibre as the last game, the story isn’t as good as its predecessor, but it’s still a compelling experience. Basically you travel through various sections of Rapture by a train, unlocking doors and meeting interesting characters along the way. You play as one of the original Big Daddies and your mission is to rescue your Little Sister Eleanor from the bitch villainess Sophia Lamb. While Lamb doesn’t particularly come across as a great villain, the game introduces a new type of enemy – the Big Sisters.
Big Sisters are a skinnier, faster version of the Big Daddies, and come equipped with plasmids which they will use frequently and with much ferocity in their effort to take you down. But once you defeat them you’ll be rewarded with a glut of Adam to buy more plasmids. Throughout the game you’ll have the opportunity to help the Little Sisters gather Adam. This can get a little tedious at times. First you’ll have to kill the Big Daddy in order to adopt his Little Sister, and then battle against two waves of Splicers – one for each time you set her down to gather from a corpse. Then, after you ‘deal’ with the Little Sister by either harvesting or rescuing her, as in the first game, the Big Sister turns up and you have to fight her. All this action uses up massive amounts of ammunition, but luckily there are usually heaps of ammo dumps around and ammo drops from the Splicers you kill. The action is exciting though, and is just as thrilling as in the game’s predecessor and the lines of dialogue your Little Sister reels off are quite humorous (“Unzip ‘em, daddy!”) Battling the Big Sisters gets easier throughout the game as you buy and upgrade Plasmids and gene tonics to give you a whole heap of passive bonuses and I noticed that the Big Sisters didn’t turn up to hunt you every time – it was more like one Big Sister for every two Little Sisters you rescued.
It should be noted that hacking is a bit smoother now, using a dial system instead of the pipes, and the plasmids work a lot better as you upgrade them, giving a greater feeling of power and progression. The plasmids in the first game make a welcome return, but with interesting new additions. As for the weapons, while there is a great variety, including a Big Daddy’s drill I sorely missed the crossbow with incendiary bolts as it was my favourite from the first Bioshock and I don’t see why it’s been excluded this time. There is a spear gun, with rocket-like projectiles, but the spear gun is cumbersome and slow and doesn’t really make up for what the crossbow brought to the game. The closest thing to the crossbow was the shotgun, using phosphorous shot, with each shot causing mini-explosions on the target, which was actually pretty cool. Of course though the most prominent evolution Bioshock 2 displays is the dual-wielding. This is excellent, as now you can have a plasmid in one hand and a gun in the other to ‘shock ‘em and clock ‘em.’ There are many combinations of plasmids and weapons, and it’s up to you to find the right mix of death-dealing that suits your playing style, whether you blast enemies with ice and then charge in there with the drill, or set them on fire and pump them full of lead while they’re running around burning and shrieking. And remember there are areas of the environment that can help out with combat: using fire on oil spills and electricity on enemies standing in water.
Interestingly, there is also a multiplayer option on Bioshock 2. The setting is a prequel to the original Bioshock, involving a civil war that leads to Rapture’s downfall, so you can see the city’s appearance as to how it was originally intended. Unfortunately due to my not being a Gold Member on XBOX Live I wasn’t able to check it out. Looks pretty fun though.
So Bioshock 2 improves on the gameplay and builds on the awesomeness that was Bioshock, making for another thrilling adventure in the dystopian world of Rapture. Many sequels suffer from the fact that they don’t really do anything beyond their predecessor, however it’s safe to say that while Bioshock 2 doesn’t have the same aura because you’ve already experienced Rapture before, it certainly does evolve the game with its new features. If you liked the first Bioshock chances are you’ll have a blast with this one too. It’s an 8.5 from me.