Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Bioshock 2 (Playstation 3) 

Bioshock 2 is the highly-anticipated sequel to one of 2007's most impressive games. This time around, players take the role of a Big Daddy prototype and have to rescue their bonded Little Sister from the clutches of her deranged mother. The game builds on many of the original's most successful elements while changing a few things around to keep things fresh. The doomed city of Rapture remains a beautifully designed and richly detailed world and the opportunity to submerge into its depths is a pleasure. All this makes Bioshock another outstanding installment in the series that goes far beyond what you'd usually expect from a sequel.

There's little doubt that the first Bioshock was one of the most engaging and immersive titles of the current generation. It's immersive storyline and daringly sophisticated concept was driven by a thoroughly engaging narrative that made it one of the best games of its generation. Anyone who played through the game won't soon forget the haunting vistas of Rapture, a doomed undersea city founded on utopian ideals that went horribly wrong. The new game is not surprisingly a very studied return to the first environment, and allows you discover many new areas of Rapture and learn many of its secrets. Your return trip takes place a decade after the events of the original game and, Bioshock 2 takes players back to the cursed city to see and explore its wreckage to uncover many hidden areas. This time, you're a prototype Big Daddy named Delta who's been reawaked after many years of hibernation. The reasons for this are mysterious and finding out who revived you and why is a key element in the new story. As one of the protectors, your mission is to find and locate your Little Sister who has been separated from you for the past decade.

Locating her isn't going to be easy. She still has a bond with you but re-uniting is not as simple as it sounds, since she was the daughter of a psychiatrist named Sophia Lamb. When Andrew Ryan imprisoned Sophia, her daughter was accidentally (or purposely) taken into the Little Sister program and converted into one of them. Since Rapture's founder was killed, Dr. Lamb has taken control of Rapture and has taken it's governance in a new direction. Instead of the rugged individualism spouted by the original founder Andrew Ryan, she has a collectivist socialist mentality that she wants to instill on Rapture. As its de facto leader, she controls much of the population who swallow her every word. Since Lamb is your Little Sister's mother, she is working to deprogram her daughter and save her, and will do everything in her power to stop you from rescuing her. The story runs parallel to the action and is just as immersive this time around. There are some areas that expand and enhance of the first game's brilliance, and the added details make you appreciate the total storyline even more. This is the basic outline of Bioshock 2's storyline, which effectively turns the original story on its head and this change lets you see the events from a very different perspective.

This makes for a somewhat different experience when it comes time to play. Playing as a Big Daddy lets you use the famous drill on opponents, which is quite effective when it works, but it constantly runs low on fuel and having to replenish it often means its not the killer app you'd think from the first game. Paradoxically, being in the shows of a Big Daddy makes the others you face seem far less intimidating this time around. In the decade since the last game, the Adam-addicted residents of Rapture have run amok and you'll see signs of the city's further decay as you wander through it. The Splicers themselves have been enhanced and seem to attack you much more aggressively this time around. There are more of them and they seem to have learned some new tricks, there are some that will throw fireballs at you and even some who will teleport, making them much harder to kill. One of the most intimidating are the new hulk splicers, who are incredibly powerful brutes that inflict a lot of damage and charge at you relentlessly, making them very challenging opponents who are much harder to beat than the standard ones.

These new foes make the game less predictable and even those who were truly good at the first game will find Bioshock 2 offers a surprisingly different challenge. As stated earlier, Bioshock 2 brings back the Big Daddies who will attack you mercilessly whenever you get near a Little Sister, they remain tough opponents that are hard to beat. However, in a new twist as the Little Sisters aged and grew older, they were turned into a new class of protectors called Big Sisters. They come out of nowhere and try and protect the Little Sisters, and when you hear them roar, its quite terrifying, which brings a new level of danger to the gameplay. Like the Big Daddy, a Big Sister is protected by armor but unlike the plodding and slow moving Big Daddies, they move very quickly and jump around frequently, they also throw a lot of firepower at you which makes their attacks much harder to withstand. One new gadget at your disposal is the film camera. This allows you to take pictures of enemies as they attack you. While you are in battle, filming your opponents allows you to learn their weak points and this makes these types easier to defeat later on. It's a cool addition that makes the game less intimidating.

Bishock 2's learning curve is relatively mild and most players familiar with the first title should have little problem getting through initial stages. Like the first game, there are loads of vita chambers which are frequent save points, making progression easy and fast. The game isn't a cakewalk since you don't automatically regenerate health or plasmid power. These can be collected from fallen foes or purchased at many of the vending machines in and around each level. A key difference this time is the ability to wield both a plasmid and a standard weapon at the same time, which increases the damage you can inflict and makes Bioshock 2 a much easier title than the first game. Overall, the game's less balanced approach makes it easier for novice players, but also makes the sequel slightly less satisfying.

Bishock's plasmid system from the first game returns as well, with some new abilities that let you throw objects around or freeze opponents along with old favorites like shock and fire weapons that allow you to kill opponents from afar. There's also a new telekinesis ability that lets you levitate and throw objects at opponents if you like. Finally, there's a new hacking ability weapon that lets you target objects from afar and either hack or control them. This applies to the vending machines, security robots and even gun turrets you find in Rapture. You can switch between these weapons on the fly and use several of them in combination to decimate your foes. Like your standard ammo, these are limited and require enough EVE hypno to use, so you have to wield them wisely. As in the first game, one of the Plasmids allows you to take control of the security bots that plagued the first Bioshock also return, though you can now hack them. Doing this makes them attack the other characters and you can make them target specific areas so any opponents who walk through are sitting ducks.

Bioshock 2's level designs are more straightforward this time around, which makes them easier to traverse and gives the game a more linear feel. You won't have to do a lot of back-logging to complete levels and many of the secondary characters can be largely ignored. However, there are some moral moments where you can choose the fate of different characters. There are three main points where this happens and while it doesn't seem to significantly affect gameplay, Bioshock 2's storyline pivots on what decisions you make. If you show mercy, things might turn out differently than if you take on your monstrous side. As in the first game, you also have the choice to either rescue any Little Sisters you encounter or harvest them for the Adam they contain, which also makes a huge difference in how the story unfolds. These dilemmas add another layer of interactivity to the proceedings and help to immerse you further in the story by giving you a stake in the outcome. It remains a very effect device in this respect and makes Bishock feel like more than a just another mindless shooter.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Bioshock 2 looks just as good as the original. It's expansive art-deco environments bring its lost world to life vividly with mid-century period pieces such as the music, clothing and style evoking a time and place that feels lost and submerged. Special effects such as lighting, shadows and muted colors create an ominous, haunted look that permeates every aspect of the game. The old-style 30's music soundtrack has been created for the game is once again brilliant and fits the time period flawlessly, and the posters and design that you see only add to the atmosphere. Finally, the omnipresent water effects are great, it dribbles, rains, floods and soaks everything it touches and makes you feel like you're inside a liquid environment that's gradually sinking. There's no doubt this is a gloomy and oppressive place, and your character's thudding movements make this a ponderous and somewhat depressing game. However, the production design is flawless for the most part and its technical achievements, such as detailed environments make it one of the best-looking and imaginative titles on the market.

Bioshock 2's immersive and richly detailed environments deserve all the praise they get, but it's the solid play mechanics, interesting storyline and great selection of enemies that will keep you coming back for more. Unlike the first game, Bioshock 2 is more structured and gives you less in the way of exploration. This might seem like a drawback, but the more linear approach makes the gameplay more accessible, and allows progression to occur at a much faster rate. Far from feeling watered-down, the new installment enhances the original by focusing its attention on the core elements that made Bioshock so appealing in the first place. The enemies are slightly harder to beat this time around, but the wider selection of weapons and plasmids, plus the ability to use both simultaneously helps to even the score. Those who enjoyed the first game will find that the return trip uncovers more secrets and background information behind Rapture's fall, while introducing new characters and elements that keep things from feeling stale. Bioshock 2 is one of the rare sequels that lives up to the vision of the original game while adding enough to make it a solid title in its own right.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: A-

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