Everyone who played Bioshock will remember walking through the cold, dark corridors of Rapture - gun poised and plasmid on hand - as they fought numerous enemies whilst making progress through a narrative consisting of many major twists and turns. Just over two years on and Bioshock returns, allowing players to, once again, dive down into the underwater city of Rapture for yet another unforgettable experience.
Bioshock 2 is set eight years after the events of the original with players occupying the role of a Big Daddy - on the hunt for his allocated Little Sister: Eleanor, as well as attempting to overthrow Sofia Lamb, Rapture’s leader and soon to be responsible for Rapture’s destruction. Throw in a combination of some new and improved enemies, plasmids and weapons, as well as some new plot twists and Bioshock 2 is the sequel fans of the original have been craving.
With the original Bioshock’s ending leaving no loose ends, the change in the game’s protagonist proved to be a favourable move by the game’s developers, allowing progression within the series, rather than a prequel like early rumours suggested. This change also allows for numerous modifications to occur within the gameplay. Possibly the best and most-beneficial example of a modification within the gameplay is that players are now able to use both plasmids and weapons simultaneously, whereas the original Bioshock only allowed players to use either a plasmid or weapon at any one time. This permits players to create combinations that can prove especially useful within battles.
Each of the game’s plasmids has been fine-tuned to suit the game’s new player-style. Some plasmids have been re-invented in terms of upgrades or simply a change in name (for example: ‘Target Decoy’ being reduced to ‘Decoy’) and a number of plasmids have even been removed from the single player experience entirely. Nevertheless, this allows space for new plasmids. The first of which is Scout, which temporarily grants the player invisibility – though makes weapons unusable. This plasmid is particularly useful as it allows the player to venture into new rooms and areas unnoticed and, more importantly, to fire a surprise plasmid on an unsuspected enemy. Unfortunately, the second of the new plasmids is a major spoiler alert, though it is also one of the most beneficial plasmids players will come across.
It’s a very similar case with Bioshock 2’s weapons with many of them receiving slight refinements from the predecessor. An example of this is the Research Camera which, when activated, now records video. Like previously, the video highlights one of the enemies evident within the frame and scores points based on what is happening within the picture (i.e. how many plasmids have been fired, weapons used). Collecting a certain amount of points within each area of research (each enemy type) earns Subject Delta rewards, which can prove beneficial when fighting against the enemy type in the future. There are also some new weapons including the Leadhead's Machine Gun, Rivet Gun, a drill and the hack tool.
Players of the original will remember the pipe mini-game which players completed in order to successfully hack the intended safe or security turret/camera. This has been ditched for the sequel to allow for a quicker, less tedious mini-game that requires players to press ‘A’ on the controller when the constantly-moving needle, running across a dial consisting of different coloured areas, is positioned on green. Whilst it isn’t as entertaining as the pipe mini-game, it certainly allows the game to progress at an increased rate, something that returning players will find rewarding.
The campaign also introduces some new enemies that inhabit within Rapture. Firstly, there is the arrival of the Big Sisters, the female version of the Big Daddy – smaller in size, though twice as quick. The second new enemy comes in the form of a Brute Splicer - abnormal in size and very muscular, making them harder to overcome than your traditional splicer. Both of the new enemies have been well designed and feature fairly regularly throughout the story, therefore making them a very welcome inclusion into a title memorable for its unique foes.
The campaign on the whole is a worthy successor to the original, providing players with a very similar gaming experience to the one witnessed first time round. Whilst the plot twists aren’t as big or as effective as those evident in the predecessor, the thrills and spills are to a higher standard, as is the presentation of the storytelling. Nevertheless, the Bioshock 2 ordeal doesn’t finish there, not by a long shot, thanks to the introduction of multiplayer.
Initially, the main worry regarding Bioshock 2’s multiplayer was how it might have been “tacked on” – cheap, rushed online play that would fail to grip players. Fortunately, the multiplayer is quite the opposite; in fact, some may go as far as saying it’s one of the best multiplayer experiences available.
The multiplayer begins with an interactive introduction prevailing within your typical, 1950’s-looking apartment. During the introduction, players are able to select their online appearance, as well as their melee weapon and loadouts (consisting of which weapons, plasmids and tonics players spawn with). Primarily, players begin with a small arsenal though, quite similarly to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s perks, more options become available as players venture through the rank system. The rank system awards ADAM based on the player’s performance throughout each match they undertake, awarding ADAM for the amount of kills and assists players achieve, the amount of vending machines they sabotage, the amount of turrets they hack and the amount of trials they complete.
Trials are set challenges which, when completed, give players a rather generous ADAM boost. These often consist of simple tasks such as killing a number of enemies with a specific weapon or plasmid; though do provide some challenges such as eliminating a Big Daddy with a melee. Whilst this isn’t the first time this feature has been included within games, it has once again proved successful, this time within Bioshock 2.
Throughout all but one of Bioshock 2’s multiplayer game modes, a Big Daddy suit features, spawning at certain intervals within a randomly selected place on the map. Upon collection of the suit, the player’s health and strength dramatically increases and they have control over the game’s strongest weapon, the rivet gun. Whilst this does offer a major disadvantage, especially in free-for-all game modes, it is a worthy inclusion that is unique to Bioshock 2.
The multiplayer categories themselves are all traditional game modes with a Bioshock twist. Survival of the Fittest is a free-for-all deathmatch in which each player aims to kill all of the other players. Similarly, Civil War is a team deathmatch mode in which players are split into the two teams of Team Atlas and Team Ryan. It’s these game modes that the player will consume the majority of their multiplayer playtime on. Nevertheless, that doesn’t necessarily mean players won’t indulge in the game’s remaining multiplayer game modes.
Bioshock 2’s equivalent to “King of the Hill” is Turf War, which splits the players into the same two teams. The objective behind the game mode is to have obtained the most points before the time runs out, by capturing and holding the control points within the level. Others include Capture the Sister Bioshock 2’s take on Capture the Flag, ADAM Grab a take on Halo 3’s “Oddball,” and last but not least is Last Splicer Standing, a team-based game mode in which there are no respawns; the team with the last Splicer standing at the end of the match is the winner. This is probably the poorest game mode in all as it fails to provide much in the way of intense action, the other game modes pull off so well.
As you could probably make out from the team names, Bioshock 2’s multiplayer is predominantly based on the on-goings within the original. This is clearly reflected through the multiplayer maps, each of which is instantly recognisable and very-well designed to suit all of the title’s game modes. As always, players will develop their own opinions on each of the maps and are more than likely to form favourites fairly quickly.
Graphically, Bioshock 2 isn’t much of an improvement over the original with many of the textures and modelling being ported straight over though, in saying that, the game still looks fantastic in high-definition, with great lighting and shadow features to match. Similarly, the game’s audio, has once again raised the bar, adding to the game’s suspense and tension well. Throw in some 1950’s music amidst the array of superb sound effects present throughout and you may actually be fooled into thinking you are physically in Rapture.
Overall, Bioshock 2 is an all-inclusive game package that should not be missed out on. The thrilling single player lives up to the standards originally set by the predecessor and the addition of a very strong multiplayer takes Bioshock 2 to another level. It may be too soon to call Game of the Year, but Bioshock 2 is certainly a contender and a very strong one at that.