|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 2K Marin, 2K Australia, Digital Extremes, and 2K China||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb 9, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Certainly all of this combines to make you one of the toughest denizens of Rapture. Regardless, you'll need all the Plasmids you can harvest to survive the waves of Splicers, Big Daddies, and Big Sisters (new foes that are lithe, ADAM-seeking minions of Sofia Lamb). That's because BioShock 2 employs excellent level design. Choke points with multiple areas to defend abound, and there are a lot of environmental hazards of which to take advantage and be wary. Throughout the game you will be forced to use defensive and offensive strategies in order to defeat the waves of skilled and varied enemies that come for you.
Combat in BioShock 2 is marked by difficult pitched battle sequences. It is often impossible to properly protect your six, so you're forced to use a varied arsenal of mines and traps in addition to outright offensive capability. This game is rife with challenging situations that will send you to the Vita-Chamber (spawn point) if you're not meticulous in the way in which you bunker yourself. Though I was often frustrated by seemingly impossible odds, proper placement of booby-traps and well-timed use of weapons and Plasmids got me through even the excruciatingly difficult areas near the end of the game. In fact, in spite of the often grueling challenge, I recommend playing at a difficulty setting that is more advanced than your comfort zone; combat in BioShock 2 loses a lot when you fight below your weight.
Combat does get repetitive after awhile even if you're constantly challenged, and the game ends up feeling very formulaic. Essentially, you'll be doing the same things over and over throughout: Take out the Big Daddy, adopt its charge, harvest ADAM a couple times, kill or save the Little Sister, deal with the Big Sister, do it over again, take out the level boss, move on to the next zone. I really wish there were some puzzles to resolve (the new hacking sequences definitely don't count). Alas, you're simply a hulk blasting your way around the game.
The environments are as interesting as ever. From Pauper's Drop to Fontaine Futuristics, the world is full of details that make the setting feel real. The Art Deco style is wonderful, and the degraded halls of Rapture lend spookiness to the title that is greatly enhanced by the excellent lighting techniques. The enemy designs are creative, the Plasmids look great, and the textures are shiny and gritty in all the right spots. What's more, though the game is constantly rendering lots of action and effects at the same time, it runs very smoothly. There's no doubt this is a polished and beautiful game to play through.
The aural complements are just as engaging. The background themes truly heighten tension and intensity - the whine of screeching violins always brings the horror home. Effects are brilliant - I especially loved the squishy thuds and gory grinding sounds my drill would make against soft Splicer skin. Best of all, the voice acting is perfect. From the diary recordings to the often hilarious insane rumblings of the residents of Rapture, all the dialogue serves to deeply immerse the player in the world.
In addition to single-player, BioShock 2 offers a multiplayer experience. The multiplayer maps in BioShock 2 are quite different from the ruinous zones found in single-player. That's because multiplayer serves as something of a prequel to BioShock. Taking on the role of Plasmid test subjects for Sinclair Solutions, players will combat each other just before the absolute downfall of Rapture. As such, players will get to see the watery metropolis in its full grandeur, save for a few strategically-placed pools of water and flammable spills. Heading back into familiar areas such as Neptune's Bounty, Mercury Suites, and the Medical Pavilion, but in their heyday, is a visual treat that adds another layer of depth to the online action.
The multiplayer side of BioShock 2 is quite good. Familiar competitive and cooperative multiplayer game modes feel fresh and unique when contested in the halls of Rapture. The use of Plasmids, obviously, adds an element that makes multiplayer standout. Being able freeze competitors in their tracks, setting them alight, bashing their faces in with makeshift melee weapons (my favorite's the golf club), and suiting up as a Big Daddy (in certain game types) all combine to make for quality multiplayer gaming.
Furthermore, as is the case in single-player, you'll accrue new powers as you level up in multiplayer. In addition to Plasmids, Tonics (similar to perks), and varied weapon types (machine guns, revolvers, shotguns, etc.), levelling will give your characters more options and enhanced performance. In order to keep them all organized, you'll be able to save a number of load-outs depending on which maps and game types your set to play in. Multiplayer isn't going to blow you out of the water, but it is compelling enough to keep you in Rapture for a few dozen hours longer.
BioShock 2 is a great game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Unfortunately, the experience wasn't as fresh as I'd have liked. It seems like the dev teams didn't take enough chances for fear of alienating the rabid fan base. Still, despite the overwhelming familiarity of the title, there's a load of quality gaming to be found here. It's definitely worth suiting up and heading back into Rapture.
CCC Editor/News Director