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Review: Bioshock 2
by Chris Hawke
Game Information

Basic information
Bioshock 2
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: 9th February, 2010

Xbox 360
PlayStation 3

First-person Shooter

BBFC: 18
PEGI: 18+
As it turns out, being a Big Daddy isn't that much different from being a human. Sure, from the outside, they look all big and bulky, lumbering and stumbling through the dark, wet and torn corridors of Rapture; but behind the diving suit there's not much change. But, then again, Bioshock 2 isn't about the Big Daddies. Or the Little Sisters. Or, even, the Big Sisters. It's about Rapture.

If you're even a slightly sane person, you'll have booted up Bioshock 2 with great expectations. The original Bioshock was unavoidably brilliant, gaining critical acclaim from all who dived into it. The stunning and awe-inspiring introduction to the underwater - and slightly leaky - Rapture immediately became one of those unforgettable gaming moments, destined to be featured in 'Top 10' lists everywhere. And now it's Bioshock 2's turn. Ohh, I wonder how they'll do it!

Well, after a slightly confusing cutscene; you're basically left on your own. Oh. Left for dead in the middle of Rapture, you get up (despite a bullet-sized hole in your face) with your trusty drill and after a few minute, gain a basic plasmid. From there, you shoot and zap things. Where's the plane crash, the terrifying darkness, the safety of a soft Irish voice? Bioshock 2 ditches all that, and instead throws you into the action. But wait - that's not a bad thing, as we'll discover.

The main change in terms of gameplay is that (OMG LULZ BBQ SHOCK HORROR!) you can use a weapon and a plasmid at the same time. Well done on picking up on the sarcasm, by the way. It sounds like such a small and minor change, that really shouldn't have been touted the way it was by 2k Games, but upon your first battle with a Splicer, you'll zap and shoot him dead quickly. And only after you do that do you realize that, actually, it makes a huge change. It feels so natural and organic, you'll hardly notice, but now you can ignite or throw or freeze anyone you want while also pumping them in the face with a chain gun. Bioshock 2 is mroe action-focused than the first, but now combat is almost gleeful, as you jump around spraying your plasmids (Eww...) around the place with your left hand as you shoot and stab with your right. Editor's note: not like that, you awful people.

What you're shooting and stabbing is, as ever, those ugly Splicers. Mutated by ADAM, these husks run around shouting incomprehensible babble and hurting you. Cannon-fodder, essentially. However, along with the new combat comes new enemies; Big Daddies of all forms, ultra-mutated Splicers who seem to have fallen in a vat of steroids and, of course, those Big Sisters. Even on Medium, these enemies take a while to drop, and while it's not usually a problem, if you're overwhelmed by a gang of powerful bad guys and you're running low on supplies, you can find yourself getting into a rather frustrating game of die, respawn, shoot them a bit, die, respawn, shoot them a bit. You can see how it might continue.

The most noteworthy new enemy is the Big Sister - an agile, aggressive and agrophobic (probably) upgrade of the Big Daddy. Sisters can come at any point when you're rescuing (not harvesting. You only harvest if you're a soulless freak) Little Sisters, meaning there's almost a tatcital edge to gaining ADAM. Each showdown is biblical and always incredibly tense as you throw down whatever traps and bots you have available.

Anyway, about that introduction. Yes, it leaves you a little empty. Soon, you're in full swing, completing objectives for the kind-voiced friend aiding you (sound familiar?), but you can help but feel that you've missed that big intro. This can plague you for a while, and as such, your enjoyment of Bioshock 2, at least for the first hour or so, is hampered. But then, you realise...

For me, this realisation came when I was offered the choice (Because we all know how much freedom you have in Rapture, right?) to either leave an old, unarmed lady who had been sending splicers my way for the best part of an hour unharmed, or to bash her stupid face off. Moral choices come around often in games, but usually there's a 'better' outcome, one where you do the right thing. Not here. She was old and tired and had little to live for, but I just didn't know if I could kill her. It took me a good minute to decide. Afterward, I thought to myself; 'That's odd - that never happened in Bioshock 1...'. And that's when you realise - this isn't Bioshock 1. This isn't close. Sure, same setting, same enemies, same plasmids, but in an industry where we're usually spoon-fed more of the same, Bioshock 2 does something incredibly impressive - does it's own thing. Imagine Bioshock 1 being the talented, intelligent younger brother touted as the star of his school, destined for great things. Bioshock 2 is the older brother who left school early, holds down a pretty low-paid job and doesn't get that kind of attention. But it's happy. It's not as fresh or invigorating or original as the original, but Bioshock 2 is it's own game; it doesn't try and follow the incredibly tough act set by the first, and instead offers you something new. There's no amazing intro, or astonishing plot twists, and Rapture feels pretty familiar by now; but Bioshock 2 brings some great things to the table, and you've got to learn to enjoy it for what it is.

As a whole, Bioshock 2 isn't as accomplished as the first. The engine it runs on is the same and now the game (I'm sorry to say) is just ugly. The water effects are nice, and the new weapons and enemies are innovative, but the story sometimes jumps through hoops and no matter how hard you try, you can't shake the fact you have been here before, and Rapture isn't as shocking as it first was. Oh, and there's a multiplayer, but frankly, with some really big hitters coming in the next few months, it's not going to hold your interest for more than a week or two. What you're paying for is a new look at Rapture, but while it gets bogged down in by-the-books objectives, some annoying die/respawn/die loops and poor looks, it still has the power to bring a smile to your face.



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- Chris Hawke

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