- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Suggested Platform: PlayStation 4
- Developer: 2K Marin
- Genre: FPS.
- Release Date: 02/09/10
- Why Play It?: Great atmosphere, characters, and a world and gameplay that builds on BioShock.
- Why Skip It?: If you didn’t like or didn’t play BioShock; this shouldn’t be your first foray into the series.
BioShock 2 had some big (daddy) boots to fill after the first BioShock. BioShock was amazing, and well worthy of the Best Games Ever List. Well, how does 2 hold up in comparison? (Note: This is coming from the BioShock Collection for PS4, so the multiplayer aspect is missing from this review.)
Pretty dang good, actually. BioShock 2 takes all of the things that made the first BioShock great, and made it better and more streamlined, with the exception of the story, if you ask me. While there were some pretty tense moments, nothing quite beats the big reveal in the first BioShock.
BioShock 2 (after a brief prologue) takes place roughly 8 years after the events of the first BioShock, so the city is even more run down, as the sea struggles to reclaim it. More sea life like barnacles and starfish are reclaiming the city, much like an abandoned building would collect ivy and moss on land. The beautiful views of Rapture are only made more interesting thanks to this, and there are a few portions where you get to traipse around the sea floor; a beautifully haunting contrast to the creepiness within the city, really driving home the feeling of loneliness, as opposed to the horror vibe from the first BioShock. This time around, you play as an early model Big Daddy, Subject Delta, and you’re on the hunt for a specific little girl, Eleanor. Apparently Subject Delta was part of some test to make the Big Daddies and Little Sisters linked on a more psychological and physical level, so the longer Delta goes away from Eleanor, the more his body struggles and begins to shut down. Unfortunately for Delta, Eleanor is Sofia Lamb’s daughter, the master psychologist of Rapture, who apparently has the splicers on her side this time, attempting to bring the city back to its former glory. Lastly, Tenenbaum returns to Rapture as well, as little girls are being stolen away from the surface and made into Little Sisters. Since this was Tenenbaum’s work, she feels responsible, and with the help of Subject Delta, maybe she can put a stop to these horrors once again. Much of the background story is told through the environment and audio diaries, much like the first BioShock, and they always do a great job of building a world.
While the story is certainly good, it’s the gameplay that really takes a big step forward in BioShock 2. The most notable is the ability to duel wield your weapon and plasmid, that way you don’t have to flip back and forth between the two, potentially putting you in a spot “with your pants down”, so to speak. A lot of the weapons are very similar to the first BioShock‘s weapons, but with a slight change, usually in the form of upgrades. Each weapon now has 3 upgrades instead of 2, and you won’t find enough upgrade stations for every upgrade this time around, forcing you to make some difficult decisions. The drill arm is probably the most interesting new weapon, as it allows you to use fuel like ammunition for a powerful drilling attack. Early in the game, you also learn a Drill Dash, enabling you to barrel enemies over, and destroy some obstacles in your way. Finally, if you decide you upgrade the drill all of the way, you can even deflect bullets back at attackers while it’s spinning! These new upgrades to the melee weapon are welcome, as in the first BioShock, aside from opening grates to duck into and busting locks, you hardly touched the wrench after getting the pistol. The drill in 2 stays viable the whole game through, however. Enemies are much more plentiful than the first game (and I feel the game may be just a bit longer too), so keeping a careful eye on your weapons and plasmids (that now have more functions than the first game, like wielding Electro-Bolt in a stream of electricity, not unlike Emperor Palpatine) will be important. Another HUGE improvement is the hacking system. Gone is the immersion-breaking pipe puzzle, and hello to a much faster paced hack, requiring you to stop a needle moving on green portions of a display (not unlike an old radio dial) while avoiding the red and aiming for blue if you’d like a small bonus for doing so. This makes hacking MUCH quicker and doesn’t take you out of the game like the hacking in the first BioShock did, especially because all hacking takes place in real time. If you try to hack midfight, you’re going to have some trouble, which is much more immersive than the first BioShock‘s hack game. The addition of a long range hacking tool also helps to make some interesting puzzles and new ways for you to find locked doors and open them. Unlike in the first BioShock, I found myself hacking nearly everything simply because it was so easy and much quicker to do so. In the first BioShock, you just get sick of hacking and only hack the important things, eventually.
Exploring the city will be your main source of resources and hidden items, such as ammunition, upgrades for your weapons, audio diaries, and tonics used to give you additional abilities or properties, and the team at 2K, (formerly Irrational Games) as always, did a fantastic job with populating even the corners of Rapture that every player may not see with interesting set pieces and settings. Now, either I’ve just been conditioned from playing so very much of the first BioShock that I’ve desensitized myself from the horrors of Rapture, but I personally though the first game held that sense of terror and almost a survival horror sort of vibe through most of the game, while BioShock 2 felt more strictly action, like the last few areas of the first BioShock. Maybe it’s the character, as playing as a Big Daddy makes you really feel like you’re this powerful, hulking monstrosity who doesn’t take any shit from anyone or anything. That said, the loneliness of BioShock 2 was fantastic, but I loved feeling on edge at every corner the way the first BioShock made me feel.
Finally, one minor gripe. Personally, I was never a big fan of the gathering sessions. In the first BioShock, you took down a Big Daddy, chose to rescue or harvest the Little Sister, you received your Adam (used for leveling up your characters plasmids and slots for small improvement tonics), and you were done. That’s it. In BioShock 2, to receive maximum Adam, you must first take down the Little Sister’s Big Daddy (why can’t you just knock on a vent like the others? I guess you only get one sister, Delta.), take her around to a location on the map where she can gather Adam from a dead body, spend the next 5 or 10 minutes setting up traps for the splicer onslaught that her gathering will attract, survive said onslaught, receive a small bit of Adam, perform that again (every sister has two gather locations), then return her to her vent where you’ll choose to rescue or harvest her, receiving most of the Adam. Finally, if it’s the last Little Sister of an area, you’ll also have to toe with the Big Sister, an even tougher, more agile Big Daddy-type boss. Only then will you receive the final bit of Adam for leveling up. It’s a bit of a lengthy process, but it kind of makes sense from a story standpoint. The only thing is that these sessions can get tedious and sometimes distract from the fun of merely exploring Rapture, one of the greatest parts of the BioShock series, in my opinion.
Finally, the add on content, Minerva’s Den is a great addition to the story of Rapture and everyone who owns BioShock 2 should give it a go. It’s pretty lengthy too, which is great. It tells the fantastic story of Rapture Central Computing. You play as a different Big Daddy prototype, Sigma, so it sort of is its own (fantastically told) stand alone story.
Ultimately, BioShock 2 is a fantastic game, but it cannot stand alone. Without the amazing set up that the first game provided for it, it would certainly fall short. That said, BioShock 2 is still great and a fantastic entry in the series. After spending some time thinking about the game, I’ve decided to upgrade the review to put it on the List of Best Games Ever. Get the BioShock Collection, you won’t be disappointed.