Back to Andrew Ryanís Rapture we go, but things are not as you remember them the first time around. A whole new storyline post Andrew Ryan, and even multiplayer has been added to Bioshock 2 so fans can be ready to get quite a bit of playing time out of this title. So, with all the new changes does Bioshock 2 stack up to its predecessor? Well, letís discuss this and you be the judge.
The biggest change that comes to the Bioshock franchise is that now you take on the role of a Big Daddy rather than a normal human being. Many folks were fascinated with the Big Daddy and Little Sister combo from the first game and always wondered what it would be like to have Big Daddy as a playable character. I will say it really does change the pace of the game as well as much of the environment you can traverse.
Graphically, Bioshock 2 looks absolutely amazing. Whether you find yourself outside the underwater city of Rapture, which you will, or you are roaming the inner halls of the city you will notice immediately that the game has been upgraded in all areas. The lighting effects I think have even more impact on the environment as well as the suspense of the game than it did in the original. Just looking outside the windows at the underwater seascape is truly breathtaking at times and really makes you realize how much effort the artists put into this game. Detail after detail will grasp you and force you to behold its beauty and it truly seems this is a nonstop phenomenon throughout the entire game.
When it comes to the sounds, the game is best heard in any 5.1 or greater surround sound system. I play with a pair of Triton headsets and I was truly awestruck at the minute details that are scattered throughout the game. Splicers moving throughout the shadows and can be heard literally moving around you and stalking you. I was taken back several times spinning around to find a stalking splicer in the shadows only to hear them scamper from in front of me to behind me. The old era music is once again a great touch to the atmosphere of the game and really puts you in the 1930ís and 40ís lifestyle that Andrew Ryan was trying to capture in his wonderful underwater city of Rapture.
The single player experience in the game is unfortunately a bit shorter than expected and quite linear in execution. This is not a terrible thing, but the story driven experience really does not knock you off your feet like the first Bioshock. Even though itís a linear story, Bioshock fans can move along at their own pace exploring the world and taking in the sites. There are points in the story where you will get a glimpse of Rapture from the outside which I expected to be extremely breathtaking and a great experience. I truly wish they would have let you roam the underwater environment more than they did but truly it was just a point A to point B transition.
In the campaign you will play as a Big Daddy as I mentioned earlier. You will encounter new more powerful enemies including the nimble yet clumsy ĎBig Sistersí. The Big Sisters are the opposite of the Big Daddy in many ways as they are much faster, so much more nimble, yet they still don the underwater diving suit, made for a woman. The Big Sisters are actually Little Sisters that have all grown up from the first Bioshock. They assist Lamb in protecting the Little Sisters, and each time you rescue or harvest a sister prepare to meet a Big Sister.
Youíll have access to all the plasmids, tonics and upgrades you had in the past plus even more brand new upgrades. The weaponry you have at your disposal includes your Big Daddy drill which you can use to club enemies or drill them into the afterlife. Youíll also have your left hand to fire off your plasmid powers such as telekinesis, incineration, electric shock and more. While veterans of the first game will find the controls fairly similar there have been adjustments made to the control system to make it more user friendly. It just seems to work really well with all the weapons you have at your disposal, including the great radial wheel to quick call up a certain plasmid.
There are complete changes to the gameplay as well which make this game fresh and new rather than rehashing what was done in Bioshock. The new hacking system is pretty interesting and while I didnít exactly care for it at first, it did quickly grow on me. In the original game you basically had a puzzle that consisted of pipes you had to rearrange to make a clear path for the passing liquid. If you were successful, you successfully hacked the item. In Bioshock 2, the hacking system now is based upon stopping a swinging needle in a blue or green area on a meter. Sounds simple? It can be, but the hacks do get more difficult as you move along in the game. You can walk up to a machine and hack it or fire off a remote hacking dart from a distance which allows you to hack something from around a corner. This comes in quite handy for cameras and turret guns.
I am not going to go to in depth into the storyline as I do not want to ruin the game for anyone. Youíll see the return of many characters from the original game as well as plenty of new faces. While Andrew Ryan may be dead, he still plays a heavy role throughout the game and storyline. Youíll have plenty of moralistic decisions to make whether to Rescue Little Sisters or to harvest them for much desired Adam.
One of the biggest changes for the Bioshock franchise is the addition of online multiplayer. I have to say right out that I am impressed with the online functionality of the game. When you initially fire up the multiplayer option from the main menu, you will have to undergo a short Prologue which helps you create your online profile. Here you will choose your loadout, the character you would like to play as and how you would like the character to look. As you play online and gain rank you will unlock more options to further customize all your online appearance as well as weaponry. A word of note is that the Big Daddy is not one of the characters you can choose to be at this point in the game. He appears randomly in the online play, or even appears as part of specific game types. What is really interesting and worth mentioning about the online play is that you can research dead opponents to collect Adam points as well as gain power ups against that person in your match. This research will lead you to higher ranks which obtains rewards from the Sinclair Rewards Program.
This initial startup prologue introduces you to your online apartment where you can customize loadouts, revamp your character visuals, view leaderboards and more. Itís like your online hub and youíll head out to the Bathosphere to find matches or create your own. 2K Marin did a great job at seamlessly integrating this online apartment into the game as a sort of graphical menu system if you will. A very nice touch indeed and once again sets the online multiplayer apart from your typical first person shooters.
The online play consists of 2-10 players online, but honestly the game is really about teamwork and the more folks you have the better the gameplay for each mode. Bioshock 2 takes a page out of Halo online with game modes such as the Adam Grab game mode which resembles Haloís Oddball. The other games resemble your normal online modes such as team deathmatch, free for all matches, domination modes, and more. Each game though has a specific Bioshock twist which makes them all unique in their own rights. There are a total of 7 online modes that can be played across 10 different maps. The fact that the Big Daddy is also involved in online play whether through a random power up that one can find and pick up, or including the Big Daddy in certain game modes definitely makes for a fun time.
I honestly believe the only downfall to the game is the shorter than expected single player campaign. This brings up the question as to whether single player games that decide to include multiplayer actually suffer in depth. Only time will tell with Assassinís Creed 3 later this year which is also deciding to include multiplayer. I wish there would be a little more open ended gameplay to the Bioshock campaign allowing you to complete quests more so than just a straight forward point A to point B storyline. In no way am I saying that this game should be avoided. I would actually say the opposite and recommend it to anyone. What we do end up getting with the game is totally satisfying but I canít help to just feel it could have been a little more in depth and longer in hours played.
In the end, 2K Marin delivers a completely solid title in Bioshock 2. The game has it all from another great story that continues on from the previous story to the online multiplayer that really provides a lot of fun and not your typical run and gun style of gameplay. There is some strategy involved in the online play, especially for certain game modes such as Capture the Sister. 2K Marin has definitely put together a stellar title which breaks the mold in many ways of what gamers come to expect out of first person shooters. If you are looking for something different, you should check this one out. Even if you have not played the original Bioshock, you should not miss this title. I would recommend playing the first one though just so you can experience the full story. My hats off go to 2K for a great game.