For the love of god, stop re-spawning
It’s time to go 50,000ft below sea and stop off to the wonderfully fucked up world of Rapture. 2K Marin has stepped up to the plate to the much anticipated sequel to Bioshock. Bioshock 2 is still set in the Rapture world but obviously no Andrew Ryan this time round instead we get the equivalent of when Harry Potter had that annoying head mistress perusing around in it’s series with Sofia Lamb. Lamb sends all the splicers to try and kill you as the plot unfolds. Initially why your still alive after the first cut-scene of the game is a bit of a mystery but as the game progresses the plot becomes more sophisticated and starts to reveal itself and the importance of still being around. With rapture falling apart and you playing the role of the big daddy this time around, the adventure though familiar is a whole new ball game for the player.
Now, I wanted to be brief on the plot line for you, simply because the whole reason you’ve come on here to read this review is because you already know that the original Bioshock set benchmarks in narrative and by throwing in a few cut scenes but keeping the primary focus on the audio diary’s it enables the player to imagine the visual aspects to the audio flashback’s as well as learn more about rapture and it’s people. Bioshock 2 continues to do this but to top the plot line of the original was a massively tall order and despite the admirable effort by 2K Marin, they don’t quite achieve it and allot of that is down to the fact that we already know so much about the world and it’s people that it’s very difficult to throw new surprises at us, other than offering us new tech and weaponry.
If you haven’t stepped into the world of Rapture, you are going to love it, but may I suggest you go back and play the first one before playing number two. Everything looks allot more polished in the sequel, though some area’s of Rapture look familiar you’ll find coral reef around growing from a flooding and generally more water, leaks and rubble all over the place. One particularly impressive graphical and sound element I came across was when you walked under water, your glass helmet would be covered in water, screw your peripheral vision and the sound of water dripping or gushing onto your suit, sounded like copper pipes on a rainy day. It’s a lovely subtle touch, which probably best describes the excruciating detail that the developers have gone to engross us into this world. The FPS element on the PC works very well, this time round we have dual wielding, which works nicely in combat, being able to use plasmids and shoot ammunition at the time feels good and you can feel the impact it’s having on the mutilated hypo addicts. The default control set up is spotless, having ammo types fitted to the mouse track wheel is a stroke of genius and the standard WASD controls player movements well. All other well used items such as rotating the plasmids are set to Q and picking up items to F. I’m not even a seasoned pro to PC gaming and I’ve just walked into it in the last month but the controls feel like the most intuitive I’ve used thus far.
Weaponry in Bioshock 2 feels powerful especially the 50cal. The array of ammo types lays down a thick layer of strategy, especially when you get the little sisters to extract ADAM. These elements of the game require you to lay traps before engaging in combat and it’s a nice touch. You’ll be familiar with taking on the big daddy’s and fortunately it does seem that on the whole they are a little easier to take down on Normal difficulty than the original, this is welcomed as the first Bioshock really didn’t get the difficulty tier system correct at all. Using the Big Daddy’s drill for the first time is as brutal as when you watched someone die from the use of it in Bioshock. Unfortunately you always have to top up the fuel needed to run it, so its advisable to spend your gene tonics on making this last longer. You still get to upgrade your plasmids but as expected your locked out from buying them on the fly as they are essential to the narrative progression with the game. For instance, you’ll need the incinerate plasmid in order to push the story forward past Ryan’s Amusements. When it comes to items available in the game, there are plenty, you can get drunk on wine or eat a ridiculous amount of beans without farting (which is a shame) but the main element of checking dead corpses are mainly for small morsels of ammunition and cash to purchase ammunition, eve and health in the Circus of Values vending machine.
It all sounds great the single player, however there are two fundamental problems with this game that I simply have to take issue with. Firstly, you’re a big daddy. Now, when you face a big daddy, it can withstand a ridiculous amount of punishment, however because you are one of the older models you’ve pretty much got the protection of a chocolate fire guard. It’s such a shame that this is the case because it could of combat the second floor with the game, as my title suggested, re-spawning. A good deal of the game is exploration at times, finding dead splicers for ADAM or generally locating audio diary’s or generally checking everywhere out because Rapture is such a beautiful place to explore, except when you go back to where you were originally, you’ll find enemies have re-spawned. This happens time and time again, this would be fine if you didn’t have to conserve your ammunition or had better protection from your suit. Seriously, even on Normal the Vita Chamber will become your next best friend. I actually think 2K Marin have tread a fine line in this department because had they not introduced as many Vita Chambers as they did, this game could have become one of extreme frustration and annoyance.
I don’t want to give away too many surprises about the single player, but to entice you a little more into your consideration for picking this title up, around 1 hour into the game, you’ll finally be able to step outside the structures of rapture and walk through the city in the water. This moment is very refreshing and doesn’t get old at all. Did I mention the hacking system is now decent? Now all you need to do is stop an arrow over a blue or green area, instead of stupid Pipe Mania rip off puzzles. It’s good to see that they’ve simplified it and the introduction of the hack dart is also a nice touch, hacking from a remote distance on security camera’s is a real joy and throws me back to playing Deus Ex for the first time.
Unlike the original, Bioshock 2 actually has Multiplayer and it’s damn good. I love the way it introduces it to you as well, with a prelude system that allows you to walk around a living space customise your character and then eventually head off to some biosphere where you can enter the matches online. You can choose between a handful of different characters, ranging from a Gurkah to a well dressed woman and to add more variety you can then customise there headgear, for instance a rabbit mask or a masquerade mask. These are nice little touches but the nicest of them is selecting a melee weapon. Now, depending on your character it varies, for the Gurkah man he can use a caine or if you are the woman that looks like a cook, you can choose a frying pan. Yes, Left 4 Dead 2 and Dead Rising aren’t the only games offering melee combat in form of a beautiful stainless steel ping!
BioShock 2 has several multiplayer modes including Survival of the Fittest, Civil War, Last Splicer Standing, Capture the Sister, ADAM Grab, Team ADAM Grab and Turf War. These are all pretty good but for me Survival Of The Fittest is my favourite as the combination of plasmid and firearm attacks makes a free for all more interesting than any other FPS I have played to date. Team based games work well too, but don’t expect the level of depth in these areas that your Call of Duty’s will give you. You can get strength bonuses also by researching dead bodies and the levelling system opens you up to better plasmids and other items the more you play. Online lobbies are nice, you can chat easily enough by voice and text in the PC version and matchmaking is doing pretty well at the moment, whether there will be a continued community on the online element remains to be seen, however from what we’ve played the maps are engrossing using close quarters combat, some nice short-cuts through ventilation to sneak up on your enemies and no default radar, which ensures that you’ll always be looking over your shoulders.
In essence Bioshock 2 is a very accomplished piece of work, the environment is more beautiful than before, the combat system is better than ever and even hacking is worthwhile now. The game will offer more depth of strategy than most FPS games but the story isn’t as sharp as the original and the constant respawn of splicers becomes a bit of a nuisance and almost as a cop-out to increase the length of the title past the 10 hour mark. Multiplayer is sturdy and a fresh experience and when you combine all of this together it’s definitely worth spending some dollar on what will be one of the top five rated FPS games this year, without question.