Bioshock 2 (Video Game)
Reviewed 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.
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.
'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.
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.
2 out of 5
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