A Joyous Return to Rapture in “Bioshock 2”

  • Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Rating: M for Mature
  • Content descriptors: Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

It’s been a few years since 2K dropped the bombshell of Bioshock, leaving everyone dying to see what was next. The original Bioshock took gamers out of the generic WWII battlefields, away from the Flood infested rings of Halo and submerged them into the dystopian wonderland of Rapture. Giving some completely unique enemies such as the protective and powerful Big Daddies and the deceptively scary Houdini Splicers, Bioshock was able to keep gamers on their toes and on the edge of their seats. Once the initial trailers of Bioshock 2 were released, people started to realize that the developers weren’t pulling any punches when it came to this blockbuster sequel.

Let me give you a quick backstory on why Rapture is totally awesome: Down in the underwater city of Rapture, Andrew Ryan had created his perfect society. With advanced science and hard working ethics, it was somewhat successful in making a perfect city. Much like the 50’s “Future of Tomorrow…Today!” It started encountering problems when the advanced science created “Plasmids.” Plasmids use ADAM to give people superhuman abilities, such as Pyrokinesis and the ability to throw electricity. The down side to using ADAM is that unless you get regular doses, you degenerate mentally and physically (much like caffeine for the average person). So, after a while, the ADAM started to run out and everyone in Rapture went completely insane, not to mention became extremely violent. Their transformation changed them from humans into “Splicers.” Little Sisters are young orphan girls who are mutated by being implanted with sea slugs….which is pretty nasty. These mutated little girls now just go from corpse to corpse with a needle, which they use to harvest ADAM out of the dead bodies. Since there are crazy people running around with pipes and wrenches, the Little Sisters are paired up with Big Daddies. Big Daddies are mean motorscooters who are brainwashed people in diving suits. They’re extremely strong, very dangerous and will die for their Little Sisters.

The new story of Bioshock 2 takes place about eight years after the first game, where Andrew Ryan and Atlas have been replaced with a new leader, Sofia Lamb. Sofia has been influencing the inhabitants of Rapture into believing that they are one, big, happy family and she is their matriarch. Even with her “Brady Bunch” brainwashing, everyone occupying the city still have endless conflict with each other.

You play as Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy who was successfully bonded with a Little Sister. Unfortunately, Sofia Lamb’s daughter, Eleanor, is that Little Sister. After you are bonded with Eleanor, Sofia surrounds you both and uses a mind control plasmid to force your suicide right in front of Eleanor. Ten years later, you wake up on the ground completely returned to life. Now that you’re back to life, the only thing you want to do is get back to Eleanor, along with a little bit of revenge on Sofia Lamb.

The plotline that leads you back to Eleanor is done in a linear style of level after level. It takes you through various destroyed and decaying parts of Rapture, including an amusement park, a technology lab and several side streets and markets. While the level aspect takes away from the open-ended side of the game, I sure as hell won’t complain. The way that the story is told throughout the levels and the fact that it’s so fun to play each level really makes up for the fact that you don’t get to choose which path you take. Once again, Bioshock is able to deliver an amazing experience in storytelling and immersion into a fictional world.

The gameplay has stayed the same from the first game, for the most part. It’s still a First-Person Shooter and keeps the feel of the original, with left and right triggers controlling your left and right hands. Subject Delta is a little bit slower than the previous hero, Jack, but you’re considerably stronger. One drawback to being a Big Daddy is the fact that you’re so heavy that each footstep is extremely loud and pounds into the ground. Since the atmosphere of Bioshock 2is so creepy, I’d find myself quietly walking around and being frightened, when all of the sudden I would drop from a piece of debris. Even though it was just a short drop, the noise of my huge boots crashing into the ground would scare the hell out of me and cause me to frantically look around for my non-existent attacker. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just want to warn you that even your boots are scary in this game. Seriously.

Something completely new to the gameplay of Bioshock is the new way of dealing with Little Sisters. Before, you would battle the Big Daddy and choose to “Harvest” her (killing her and taking all of her ADAM) or “Rescue” her (turn her back into a normal girl and only take some of the ADAM). Well, since you’re a Big Daddy now, you get to put the little tyke up on your shoulders and take her around to two different corpses in the level. Once you get to them, you can set her down and she’ll harvest some ADAM out of the bodies for you. The bad part is that once she’s down on the ground, it attracts all sorts of enemies to your location and you have to protect her from an all out attack, while she gets as much ADAM as possible. I know that everyone hates escort missions, I mean, they’re the scourge of gaming, but this stationary defense in the game is not horrible at all. I’ll admit, it still stresses me out thinking of trying to keep this little girl safe from the damn crazy Splicers, but it was a fun way to break up the usual running around and doing objectives.

Something really great about the new aspect of defending Little Sisters is that it makes a lot of different weapons truly useful and fun. Before, the “Cyclone Trap” power was pretty fun, but useless. The only reason you would leave traps was purely for your own strange entertainment and completely unnecessary. Now, all of the trap weapons become useful and entirely vital to your Little Sister’s survival through the ADAM gathering process. I love that they finally found a place for the trap weapons, not to mention, I needed a legitimate reason to use Cyclone Trap and watch people go flying across the room. It makes me happy.

The weapons have changed quite a bit from the first game, since you’re a Big Daddy now and you can handle the heavy weapons. The trusty wrench from the first game has been replaced with the completely badass Drill. Killing splicers with the drill is right up there with scoring kills with the Lancer’s chainsaw bayonet from Gears of War. Although it’s completely awesome and a killing machine, I rarely used it. Maybe I’m just not much of a melee weapon guy, but I liked the new guns you get to use. You get to have the Rivet Gun-A powerful weapon with a slow rate of fire, the chain gun-like the original machine gun on crack, the shotgun-pretty much the same as it’s always been, The Spear Gun-a deadly long range weapon which pins enemies to the wall (Muahahahahahaha!), the Grenade Launcher-it blows stuff up, the Research Camera-new and improved, it now takes videos instead of pictures, and finally the Hack Tool.

You can upgrade each weapon three times at “Power to the People” stations, but there are only 14 stations in total throughout the game, causing you to pick and choose which guns matter to you and which don’t. As well as having upgrades, each weapon has three separate different ammo types (noticing a pattern of 3’s yet?). For example, the Rivet Gun can shoot normal rivets, “heavy” rivets that hit harder and shoot slower or “Trap” rivets that have laser trip wires. The different ammo types really make the relatively small amount of weapons feel like an endless arsenal at your fingertips. I think that they really did a great job on all of the weapons you’re able to use, making each extremely useful in separate situations.

Hacking in the first Bioshock was a mini-game, where you had a limited amount of time to connect various shaped tubes to reach point A to point B. While this was pretty fun, it did get irritating to have to do the same thing over and over to hack any machines. So, Bioshock 2 gave the mini-game the finger and replaced it with a much simpler method. The Hack Tool is a small gun which launches a remote hacking device. When you shoot a turret or camera, it puts a small bar at the bottom of your screen, where a needle moves side to side. In the bar, there are various colored sections that do different things if you hit A when the needle is on it. If the needle is on white, you get electrocuted, if the needle is on red, the alarm is sounded and you have to fight a bunch of flying security turrets, if the needle is on green, you’ll successfully hack it and if the needle is on blue, you hack it and receive a special perk. Normally, these perks include bonus items or enhanced power on hacked turrets.

The Plasmids also receive a little face-lift for Bioshock 2. All of your favorites return, like incinerate and winter blast, but they cut a few powers out from the first game and combined a few others. These changes in the plasmids are really nothing noticeable, though. Overall, I didn’t even realize that there were changes from the first game, simply because the powers are so damn fun. The powers all have three ranks that you can purchase, with their power increasing with each rank. A fun example would be the incinerate tiers: the first level allows you to light one enemy on fire, the second level lets you throw a fireball that explodes and ignites others near your target and the third level allows you to shoot a steady stream of fire from your hands. That’s pretty freaking sweet, right?! I don’t know about you, but I think that flamethrower hands are pretty rad. Each power has a fun way of becoming more useful with each level you buy and all of the plasmids are infinitely useful, versus having a few silly ones from the first game.

Tonics make their return into this sequel, giving helpful little boosts along the way. Tonics are upgrades that you can buy or find throughout the game, but you have a limited amount of slots for active tonics. You can buy more slots for tonics, but the limited space makes you pick and choose which upgrades you need at that certain time. For example, some tonics make your drill more powerful, while others make health packs more powerful and useful. Depending on your situation, you can change which one you want equipped, since only the equipped ones give you their boosts. You change them out at “Gene Banks” which are plentiful and spread all over Rapture, so you always have an opportunity to change what you’re using.

The enemies all return from the original game, along with a few new monstrous additions. The splicers all return, varying from your average people with pipes, “Spider” splicers that crawl on the walls and ceilings, “Houdini” splicers that vanish and reappear hurling fireballs and the new “Brute” splicer. The brute is comparable to a Tank from L4D, having extreme strength and the ability to jump floor to floor. I have to admit, much like in Halo, I hate the brutes. They can really kick your ass before you realize what’s going on, but it’s still a satisfying triumph to drop one of these behemoths.

The Big Daddies all come back as well. The Bouncer still pummels you and tries to gouge out your face with his drill, the Rosie has her rivet gun (considerably less cool), but there are a few new Daddies to look out for. The new “Rumbler” is a gruff looking Daddy with an elongated helmet and a massive rocket launcher on his shoulder and the “Alpha” series is a Big Daddy that’s just like Delta, except they’ve gone insane without a Little Sister to protect. You’ve really got to watch out for the Alpha’s because, unlike all of the other Big Daddies, they will attack you without being provoked and they wander around looking for trouble. Another entirely new and creepy bad guy are the Big Sisters. In the time that Delta was dead on a floor, some of the Little Sisters grew up and built their own Big Daddy suits, becoming fast and deadly enemies. The Big Sisters are by far the coolest enemies in the game. Also, the way you encounter them is truly nerve-racking, by making your screen flash red and warning that “A Big Sister is approaching! Get Ready!”. You know it’s bad when the game is telling you that you’d better be ready for an ass-whooping.

They’ve really outdone themselves on the music on this game. It consists of old rag-time swing songs blended alongside with moody, sweeping scores that keep you on edge while traveling throughout the Atlantis-esque scenery. Is it just me or are great new games (Bioshock, Fallout 3) making classy, old-school soundtracks? I’m hoping it’s a trend. I couldn’t believe how well they were able to pull you into the game with the music, making you feel like you’re actually there. This soundtrack has earned a noteworthy place on any fan’s MP3 player, in my opinion.

The shocking graphics of the first game haven’t really changed, but with an increase in beautiful games on the Xbox, the effects don’t seem so stunningly beautiful. I’m not saying it doesn’t look good, I guess I’m just getting used to how spectacular everything looks these days. The scenery and settings are so well done in this game, it really makes me love Rapture. Since the main character is in a diving suit, you now have sequences where you are able to walk outside of Rapture on the ocean floor. The way they have designed the plant life outside makes you admire how gorgeous of an environment Rapture is. Bioshock 2 is a master in drawing the gamer into the experience.

Let’s get into the only thing I don’t care about at all in Bioshock 2: the new multiplayer. It was the last thing I tried, considering that the Single Player is the big draw for the game. They have an interesting “apartment” level that lets you wander around your own apartment and customize your character and weapon layout. From there, you can head to the bathysphere and start matchmaking. All of it feels a little familiar, mostly because they’ve copied Call of Duty‘s multiplayer! You start out with only a few weapons, plasmids and tonics to choose from, but you unlock them as you rank up in multiplayer. So, the more you play, the more crap you unlock. I guess it’s a good thing, but I really don’t care about the multiplayer in such a storyline game like Bioshock.

The multiplayer is passable, even fun at times, but overall I feel that it’s an unnecessary addition to such a great game. They’ve got your standard Free-For-All mode, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and their version of Halo‘s Oddball mode. All of these get their own Bioshock style paint job, but it all boils down to the same types of games. It feels like the multiplayer was rushed and just a last second addition to the game, I honestly could’ve done without.

Bioshock 2 is a stellar game, with so many great aspects in it. The story is superb, along with the fun gameplay and creepy atmosphere. Even though I thought the multiplayer was lame, I can still see where some people can enjoy it and it can extend the replay value of the game. It’s so great to see games like Bioshock 2 come along and blow everyone away. I’d say that Bioshock 2 has set the bar pretty high for the games of 2010, I can’t wait to see where the Shock series goes next.

I give Bioshock 2 5“Boozehounds” out of 5

By Blake Edwards, Staff Writer

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About Blake

Hi...I'm Blake and I'm a Cinephile. I've been this way since I can remember, although the environment I grew up in certainly contributed to my condition. As much as I love writing about films, I hope you all know that I write this for you. Look at me, Readers. It's all for you!

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