Bioshock 2 (Video Game)

Bioshock 2 game reviewReviewed by Mr. Dark

Available for the Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC

Published by 2K Games

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries, shall we? I’m pissed. I was afraid I’d be pissed, and I’m pissed. I hate being right in cases like this.

Bioshock 2 isn’t the sum of all of our fears, but most of them. When they announced a sequel to Bioshock, I was concerned. That game didn’t need a sequel. It really didn’t leave room for one, and was a perfect, contained story. If that weren’t bad enough, they announced that 2K Boston (AKA Irrational Games) and the great Ken Levine wouldn’t be handling the sequel. Rather, new studio 2K Marin would take the reigns. 2K Marin was formed around a nucleus of 2K Boston vets, but still … no Ken Levine, no Bioshock as far as I’m concerned.

We have the sequel now, and the worries are confirmed for the most part. Bioshock 2 is, in effect, an expansion pack with delusions of grandeur. The story, as it is, has virtually no emotional hook. You’re one of the first big daddies, and your ‘daughter‘ (the little sister assigned to you) is the daughter of Sofia Lamb, the new villain for the piece. She kills you early on, but you wind up back from the dead and seeking your ‘daughter‘, Eleanor. That’s about it. Sure, Lamb is trying to do some grand scheme to create a collectivist utopia, but it never really makes much sense and absolutely never becomes a driving reason to run around the ruins of Rapture shooting up splicers.

Bioshock 2 game review

What’s more, rather than set the story entirely after the first game, they base Lamb’s origins prior to the fall of Rapture. This attempt to ‘retcon’ the characters into the story we know falls flat, and leaves any logical person wondering just how the hell they waded through the events of the first game without ever hearing the name of Sofia Lamb. It all feels tacked on and cheap.

Tenenbaum from the first game makes a cameo before leaving you with Sinclair, a minor character you never hear from in the first game. Why is he helping you? No clue. Is he good or bad? No clue. I’m not spoiling anything, because there’s nothing to spoil. I played through the game and I couldn’t answer that question. Considering the story was the primary attraction to the first game, the absolute lack of story here is downright heartbreaking.

What’s really sad is the story is the only thing really new about Bioshock 2. Yes, you’re running around new areas of Rapture, but really…are they that different? Definitely not. Beyond that, we have a few new weapons, a couple new enemies, and a new hacking mode. Seriously, that’s it. Beyond those changes, it’s Bioshock. Back in the day, before console gaming pulled up next to PC gaming in quality, publishers would release that a few months after a major game came out as an expansion pack for $20 or so. First Halo ODST, now this? 2K needs to be kicked square in the junk.

Bioshock 2 game review

‘Oh!’, I hear you say. ‘But you play as a Big Daddy!’ Big deal, I say. Never ONCE do you feel like a Big Daddy. You make the big whale-y noises, you stomp really loud, but a single splicer can still take you down if you don’t take your cards right. I don’t blame 2K Marin for this, considering they painted themselves into a corner with the decision. How could they put you on par with the BD’s in the first game? You’d cakewalk to the finale without so much as a scratch. What matters to us is that being a BD just means you have a different set of weapons, and have to babysit Little Sisters to get adam instead of just harvesting/rescuing them.

And if you’re wondering, yes, the moral decisions you make in the game do change the ending, again. Now if only said ending made any sense at all.

One important note to our readers: one big change is a change in tone. Bioshock was a horror title, 100%. The game made very specific attempts to scare you. Bioshock 2 does not. The tension comes purely from the action, with the exception of one or two small scares. To most, this wouldn’t matter, but you guys will likely care, so I have to let you know: don’t come looking for the same blood-soaked environs and well-timed frights, because they ain’t here.

Bioshock 2 game review

The other big addition to this title is multiplayer. Now, I was honestly intrigued by this. They actually built a plot around the multiplayer. In this case, it’s New Years 1959, the night Rapture exploded. You saw the debris from it in the first game, especially in the Kashmir Restaurant. You’re part of the madness when the civil war between Atlas and Ryan breaks out. I admit the prologue to the multiplayer was awesome. You start in your luxury apartment, you select your character (each with a different backstory, along with different unlockable audio diaries fleshing out their backstory) and build your loadout of plasmids and weapons along with some costume choices, then you’re off to a lobby.

Now the problems start. The game types seem clever, but after playing them, they’re revealed to be the same multiplayer games you play everywhere else. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing special, either. Once in a game, you run into the same benefits and problems you find in other online multiplayer games. However, you also find one you don’t find elsewhere: game-crashing bugs.

This one has made some news in the days since Bioshock 2 came out, and I experienced it myself. Randomly, the game freezes, completely locking your 360. For a AAA title like this, it’s an absolutely unforgiveable sin. This was my third match, not after hours and hours of playing. Word on the various gaming news sites have this problem pretty widespread, and as of press time there’s no word on a fix.

I want to be clear: Bioshock 2 is not a bad game. It looks, feels, and plays just like the original. If you’re okay with recreating that experience in a slightly new environment with some minor tweaks, you’ll have a good time. Just don’t go looking for a new game with a good story, because there isn’t one here.

Game Features

  • Online multiplayer 2-10
  • Game content download
  • Achievement and trophy support


    2 out of 5

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  • Mr. Dark

    A man of mystery. An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a low-carb whole grain tortilla. A guy who writes about spooky stuff.

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    • frank_dracman

      Mr. Dark is insane. Downright crazy. Not only did it feel like a sequel to me, I thought they improved on some of the issues with the first. Everything felt smooth, protecting the little sisters was a hoot, the drill rush was fantastic and the more action-oriented gameplay was different enough to satisfy action junkies but also felt familiar to fans of the first. Yes, the story was pretty bad, but the gameplay makes up for it. Not as perfect as the first, but it’s definitely worth a rental.
      The poor guy’s loony I tell you, loony!

    • Uncle Creepy

      Here are my thoughts on the review. Bioshock 2 is a tough one to make heads or tails of. On one hand it has all of the mechanics of the original, with a few minor tweaks. On the other this is supposed to be Bioshock 2, and when the main thing that drives home the original game was its rich storyline and that very element is missing from its next entry then yes, there’s a big problem.

      As a sequel all it does is make you want to go back and play through the first which had a wow factor and a half. That’s not what a sequel is supposed to do. In that regard it fails. As a game all on its own, without having played the first I probably would have given it a three or a three and a half TOPS.

      You NEVER feel like a big daddy (why is a single splicer knocking me on my ass when it took a massive amount of gunfire to put just one down in the first?) Big Daddy’s were feared. When one was headed your way you panicked. Here? Not so much. The atmosphere of the first game is all but gone. The scares are few and far in between and the game relies more on constant action than it does the splendid bits of subtle horror the first introduced.

      It really feels like the game devs spent more time focusing on only the surface stuff, instead of trying to grasp what made the first game a classic.

      • Pestilence

        Couldn’t agree more, Creepy. I had a blast on it at a friend’s house to decide if I felt like shelling out the dosh. Came away extremely disappointed after a couple of hours’ playtime.

        The one thing that struck me hardest was that you quite simply don’t feel like a Big Daddy. Standard splicers do more than enough damage if you don’t take them down quickly enough. I’m pumping round after round from a machine just to take down one of them, and other pops 4 shots from a revolver at me and I’m close to death? HUH?

        I’ll be waiting for the price to drop and sticking to Mass Effect 2 for now.

    • LSD Zombie

      Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I loved BioShock 2 just as much as the first one. Sure, the story isn’t as rich as the first one, but the gameplay is still solid and a ton of fun.

    • Floydian Trip

      Fuck these Bioshock games. Give me a System Shock 2 redux.

    • nonserviam03

      Honestly, an expansion pack with delusions of grandeur doesn’t sound all that bad to me. I mean, that’s what Left 4 Dead 2 is, and I play the HELL out of that.

      Besides, gameplay is more important than story, and the gameplay in the first game is great, so if it hasn’t changed at all, I think 2 out of 5 is a bit low.

    • WallyBalljacker

      That’s an unfair score. If Bioshock was a 5 then Bioshock 2 is easily a 4. I keep hearing all these reviews, written in anger or frustration, giving BS2 low marks and it’s bullshit. How many game or movie sequels don’t have similar stories to the original? Why is it forgivable for some but not others?
      I realize and fully admit that there are little new innovations made to the gameplay or narrative, but, Christ, wasn’t the first game innovative enough? If you’re looking for something completely different, play a game from another series. I walked into Bioshock 2 just wanting more of a location I had grown to love. And that’s exactly what I got. More Rature. Would have preferred it take place in a city in the sky? What more do you need from this series?
      The story isn’t as bad you’re making it sound. I even found it quite touching at times. Mark Meltzer’s story of traveling to the submerged city in search of his kidnapped daughter had me riveted alone, and that was only told through audio recordings! Also the addition of the Big Sisters and a many more Big Daddies to take down crank the difficulty up to a point that you feel Jack couldn’t have handled this much thrown at him. You’re not just a Big Daddy, you’re a prototype; one of the first. Of course you’re not as powerful as the others, but they sure make you feel that way when you’re detroying splicers with the Drill Dash move.
      ***END SPOILERS***
      In the end, Bioshock 2 is solid in many ways. Anyone who feels that a sequel was unnecessary, feel free not to play it. Otherwise, strap in for another gripping trip through Rapture.

    • jesstro

      man… really sux to hear that the story is kind of weak. That was the main thing that made the 1st game so great, I was really into it. The difficulty was wack on the first game, but the story was enough to make the game great and creepy. Oh well… patiently waiting for Dead Rising 2! YES!

    • BoggyCreekBeast

      Never had the game freeze up on me and I’m on my second run-through. The MP is fun, especially after the Glitch City known as Modern Warfare 2 MP! Well worth the money, IMO.