Bioshock 2 is all about protection. In the first few moments when you realise that you are a Big Daddy, one of the most feared opponents in first game, you might think otherwise. Your initial inclination may be to leap feet first into a band of splicers and throw them around the room like a child having a tantrum with their toys. For the most part, this still happens and there’s plenty of action, but throughout the game I found that I was defending myself and a Little Sister against attacks, rather than initiating them. It was an unexpected direction that required a bit of a shift in thinking. It forced me to slow down and consider my surroundings, and it was there that I appreciated the compelling and detailed world of Bioshock. This is the highlight of the game, and it’s why I chose to see it through to the end.
Bioshock 2 returns to the underworld city of Rapture, and it still oozes atmosphere with plenty of dark shadows, crumbling buildings and faded art deco. The enemies are still horribly mutated former citizens. Big Daddies still stalk the halls with thunderous footsteps, their haunting groans echoing through hallways as they pound on air vents for Little Sisters.
The game takes you by the hand through the seedier views of Rapture; you’ll see the slums and tenements, the prisons, and the brainwashing facilities for Big Daddies. The level of detail that has gone into the game world is remarkable. (Spend an extra few minutes in Andrew Ryan’s theme park while you’re at it: the “Journey to the Surface” is laden with propaganda decrying the role of government, and it’s brilliantly executed.)
In Bioshock 2, the citizens of Rapture were converted to a cult masterminded by psychologist Sophia Lamb. Where the Splicers in the first game intimidated you with their sense of anarchy, the enemies in Bioshock 2 demonstrate how devoted they are to their cause. Ghostly hand paintings of butterflies, hastily scrawled mantras and shrines dedicated to a certain Little Sister are everywhere. The audio logs are back, detailing the city’s spiraling descent as Andrew Ryan loses control and its citizens are converted to Lamb’s congregation.
As you work through the levels, you’ll be required to gather ADAM for the fights ahead, and as usual you’ll be on the lookout for Little Sisters and protecting them while they do their thing. It can become a handful as you juggle traps, turrets and sentries with different ammo types, weapons and plasmids, but the combat is fairly solid and it all works out in the end. Plasmids and Gene Tonics are not all that different to the first game, so it’ll be a comfortable return for veterans. Hacking has been thankfully simplified to a timing game rather than the Pipe Dream-esque approach in Bioshock.
I sat on this one for a while, but I’m glad I decided to finish off the game. The plot can threaten to run away from you at times, and it can be fatiguing to see nothing but shades of black and grey, all mixed with puddles of water and fuel. The combat mechanics are also awkward at times, with controls that are evidently better suited for a gamepad. The game, however, presents a world that has been lovingly crafted and packed with detail. It may not instill the same sense of dread, foreboding and isolation as System Shock 2 (because Lamb, after all, is no SHODAN) but it’s getting pretty close.
Bring on Infinite.