BioShock 2 Review for PC

BioShock 2 Review for PC


Few gamers that played BioShock didn’t immediately fall in love with it. The Art Deco style, the Plasmid-enhanced shooter gameplay, and the utterly compelling story made it an instant classic; one that will be remembered as a generation-defining gaming experience. Of course, original hits are hard for publishers to come by, so a sequel was inevitable.

BioShock 2 screenshot

While the second entry in a proven franchise typically greatly improves upon the framework already put in place by its predecessor, BioShock 2 is more of a mildly refined experience. Rather than incorporating anything groundbreaking or entirely original, the development teams behind the game decided to leave well enough alone. While this will undoubtedly please many fans, I couldn’t help but feel I was playing through essentially the same game I played on the Xbox 360 in 2007 and then again on the PS3 in 2008. Sure, taking control of a Big Daddy in all new environments seems like an important new direction for the series, but in the end, the novelty wears thin quickly and you’re left with more of the same.

That doesn’t mean BioShock 2 isn’t a great game. In fact, I sat down and plowed through the single-player portion in just two sessions. Players will still find all the bits of gameplay they so enjoyed the first time through, and the story is every bit as interesting and well detailed. Just know that the devs really played it safe, resulting in a been-there-done-that feeling I just couldn’t seem to shake. Still, diving back into Rapture certainly was no chore, and I’ve come away with an even greater appreciation for just how amazing the first game was.

BioShock 2 takes place about ten years after the events that transpired in BioShock. This time players will take control of one of the first few Big Daddies ever created. Actually, you are the first successfully bonded Big Daddy; far more reliable than the failed, single-minded Alpha models. Unfortunately, you were bonded to Eleanor Lamb, the daughter of Sofia Lamb, and you soon go from revered Rapture citizen to the infamous Subject Delta.

The game’s antagonist, Sofia Lamb, is an expert psychiatrist hired by Andrew Ryan, creator of the underwater city of Rapture, to quell unrest among the citizenry. This was a massive blunder by Ryan, however. You see, Sofia Lamb is a collectivist progressive, a viewpoint that is in stark contrast to the city’s founding principles of the sanctity of capitalism and the individual. As Lamb settles in, rather than resolving the issues that abound, she subverts the status quo and shapes the people to her vision, instantly becoming a power-player in Rapture. Soon, Andrew Ryan finds himself on the wrong end of a mounting civil war.

With this as a backdrop, it’s easy to see that the plot in BioShock 2 is heady, but it has the same cerebral attraction and intrigue a television series such as Lost has. As such, players will definitely want to scour the world looking for the umpteen diary recordings to reveal all of the juicy tidbits in order to piece the story together. By the same token, all the details are essentially filler. All you really need to know is that there is a new adversary in town and you’re here to foil her best laid plans with a whole lot of whoop-ass!

BioShock 2 screenshot

Once again, the genetically-enhanced Plasmid powers that you’ll accumulate are awesome. They really make the BioShock series standout from the crowd. For the uninitiated, you’ll traipse around Rapture collecting a gene-altering element called ADAM that can be used in concert with Plasmids and Gene Tonics to give you superhuman abilities in the palm of your hand. Electrocuting unwary Splicers standing in a pool of water and then freezing a Brute or an Alpha into a solid block of ice and shattering the foe with your massive drill is incredibly satisfying. There is a host of new Plasmids to purchase too, so you’ll have even more ways to unleash fury.

The only problem with Plasmids is that a few are far more powerful than others – so there’s no real incentive to unlock all of them. In fact, you’re best served concentrating on a handful of Plasmid powers and maxing out their potential rather than being a jack-of-all-trades. Of course, neglecting some of the lesser abilities will take some of the strategy out of fights later on. Nevertheless, whichever power progression you decide on, you’re bound to have a bunch of fun, so there’s no real wrong way to level your character.

Speaking of power leveling, there’s a camera recording system in BioShock 2, which is an interesting way to perfect your character. Each enemy type can be recorded with the camera, allowing you to “research” that enemy. The better, more interesting ways you kill them the higher your grade will be. Accumulate enough high marks and eventually you’ll unlock bonuses against those enemy types. Each enemy has its own research gauge with four levels of improvement, and you’re able to see which boon you’ll get at each level. Best of all, each gauge culminates in a powerful Gene Tonic, some stronger than others, that make researching worth the effort. That being said, it does feel a bit awkward and time-consuming to activate the camera. This is especially the case when you’re surrounded by Splicers and Alpha Daddies. So, it’s likely you won’t fill each and every gauge unless you make a concerted effort to do so. Despite the awkwardness, it’s a quality leveling mechanic.

BioShock 2 screenshot

There are also a lot more engaging weapons to wield in BioShock 2. Handguns and Tommy Guns are useless for a Big Daddy, so you’ll be packing heat in the form of machine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers. Like the original, each gun makes use of three different kinds of ammunition, some rarer than others, which you can switch to immediately via the D-pad. Having access to this more powerful arsenal is great, but I took a particular shine to boring holes into the bellies of Splicers with the drill appendage. The drill, like the other weapons, can be upgraded and enhanced up to three times with killer properties. Eventually, you’ll be able to deal extra damage, deflect incoming bullets, freeze enemies in place, etc. with your tricked out weaponry.

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.

BioShock 2 screenshot

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.

BioShock 2 screenshot

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.

Rapture is as creepy and beautiful as it ever was. The game features rock-solid technicals. 4.3 Control
It is effortless to shoot and Plasmid your way through Rapture. A more streamlined camera recording system would have been nice. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music, effects, and voice acting are amazing. 4.0 Play Value
The single-player experience is great, but short and too familiar. Multiplayer is good and adds to the overall package. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Evolution of the Genetically Enhanced Shooter: Innovative advances bring new depth and dimension to each encounter. New elements, such as the ability to dual-wield weapons and Plasmids, allow players to create exciting combinations of punishment.
  • Return to Rapture: Set approximately 10 years after the events of the original BioShock, the story continues with an epic, more intense journey through one of the most captivating and terrifying fictional worlds ever created.
  • You Are the Big Daddy: Take control with the original prototype Big Daddy, and experience the power and raw strength of Rapture’s most feared denizens as you battle powerful new enemies.
  • Genetically Enhanced Multiplayer – Earn experience points during gameplay to earn access to new Weapons, Plasmids and Tonics that can be used to create hundreds of different combinations, allowing players to develop a unique character that caters to their playing style.
  • Experience Rapture’s Civil War- Players will step into the shoes of Rapture citizens and take direct part in the civil war that tore Rapture apart.
  • See Rapture Before the Fall – Experience Rapture before it was reclaimed by the ocean and engage in combat over iconic environments in locations such as Kashmir Restaurant and Mercury Suites, all of which have been reworked from the ground up for multiplayer.

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