Review | BioShock 2
Format: Xbox 360/PS3/PC | Genre: FPS | Publisher: 2K Games | Developer: 2K Marin | Release date: 09/02/10 | RRP: £34.99-£45.99
This review and its associated score refer solely to the single-player content of BioShock 2. We’ll be taking a separate look at the multiplayer component when we’ve spent more time with it.
Why couldn’t there have been just one game? BioShock was an ambitious, frighteningly clever first-person shooter, let down by some occasionally shaky combat and a lacklustre final third. Its sequel emerges as a markedly less ambitious, less intelligent game, but a game with wonderful combat and one of the best endings I’ve seen. Fused together, BioShock’s flesh and its successor’s metal would have created something basically unstoppable.
On its own, in a world that had never before visited the remarkable underwater utopia of Rapture – an art-deco paradise, collapsing under the strain of its own ideologies and the water piled above it – this would be a fascinating game. But it’s no longer 2007, BioShock does exist, and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise.
BioShock, for all its quirks, felt revelatory. BioShock 2, for all its individual merits, never does. At just seven or eight hours in length, and with few significant changes to the formula, it feels more like an expansion than a full-blown sequel – an Opposing Force to BioShock’s Half-Life, if you will. But Opposing Force was a good game. BioShock 2 is a good game.
It’s very familiar. Visually, structurally and thematically, it’s BioShock again. Its opening two hours feel like a remix of those of the original. You harness Eve – the genetic code that allows you to develop Plasmid powers: surges of lightning, or fire, or bees, that fly out of your left hand. You get hold of a camera, which allows you to video your battles with foes in order to assess the best ways of taking them down, and this time develop new skills of your own. Tunnels collapse, blocking access to essential areas, forcing you into a work-around. Characters demand the completion of menial tasks before they’ll grant you passage. It’s BioShock.
Which, in some ways, is fine, because there’s a certain quality bar already there. In others, it feels less forgivable. It’s not on, especially in a game as short as this, to leave you hanging for a good three hours before anything particularly interesting happens. Even then it’s a fleeting interest, and it’s not until its second half proper that BioShock 2 stops feeling like a pale imitation of what came before.
Rapture is still immediately brilliant. But we already knew that. The writing and acting are always strong, but that was to be expected. The early downtown section is lovely, but we’ve been spoiled by more expansive areas in shooters since BioShock. Something about these elegantly designed regions now feels cramped and claustrophobic. Even the new underwater sections, out on the sea bed, are completely boxed in. It is perhaps even more linear than before.
What BioShock 2 does offer, pretty much from the outset, is a mass of refined combat. AI’s improved, and large groups of Splicers – hideous, mutated former-humans, slaves to their additiction to the genetic drug Adam – attack at once. Those who found BioShock too easy will find themselves appeased here. It’s noticeably more difficult. This time, as in the PS3 version of the original, the Vita Chambers can be turned off – which means death really does mean death, instead of being respawned with 50 per cent health in a nearby location. I found myself relying on them considerably more than I expected, though – resources are more scarse, and failure in battle is commonplace. Ammo is particularly rare, and you’ll find yourself settling on melee combat more than you might expect. Fortunately, as a prototype Big Daddy, you have an enormous drill on your arm, which is agreeably devastating.
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