Following up 2007's game-changing epic BioShock was certainly a daunting task for team 2K. The original game surpassed almost every expectation one could have about the underwater dystopian city of Rapture by including original gameplay mechanics and interweaving a compelling film-quality storyline that carried the title from start to finish. Even if you didn't play BioShock for the narrative, you had no choice but to be consumed by the game's gritty atmosphere and sense of importance.
Two and a half years later, BioShock 2 brings us back to Rapture for a new adventure. But enough teasing, we've been playing the game for quite some time now and here are our thoughts:
While BioShock 2 doesn't necessarily continue the story of first title's protagonist, Jack, it does prolong the original game's most likable character, the city of Rapture itself. Perhaps the most satisfying experience overall in BioShock 2 is digging deeper into the mythos of the fictional city. Early on, you're treated to even more Rapture lure that serves as a nod to those who've seen the city before and a crash course for newcomers to the franchise.
The game takes place 10 years after the events of BioShock and Rapture continues to crumble, making it more terrifying and even less functional than before. You play as a Big Daddy named Subject Delta and are tasked with discovering why a monster named Big Sister is kidnapping little girls from the surface. The story is told again through scattered audio recordings, cut scenes, and announcements made over Rapture's public address system.
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All of the action we've come to love in BioShock remains intact in BioShock 2, with a few noticeably awesome improvements. Dual-wielding a weapon and plasmid is as satisfying as you might imagine, and new powers and ammo like the Trap Rivet really allow you to strategize when taking on swarms of splicers. The new hacking mechanic is definitely easier than in the first game, but in its defense, it does keep the game moving.
Hardcore BioShock fans may sniff out trivial differences here and there, but, overall, BioShock 2 delivers on a massive level. The impressive sequel's action and story become as engaging as its predecessor all while successfully conveying Rapture's dark charm once again.
The sophomore slump can be a killer for any pop culture franchise, whether we're talking about a band, a movie series, or a video game. BioShock 2's biggest hurdle is overcoming the very high bar set by the original game.
Back in 2007, the original game's creators dressed up a familiar story driven shooter with groovy retro-modern visual details and somewhat oversold references to objectivism and a shadowy Howard Roark-like figure lurking behind the plot. The result was greater than the sum of its parts, and became a kind of video game caused widespread interest.
The initial hours of BioShock 2 suffer from this comparison, as no matter how competent its construction, we'll still never get the jolt of newness and excitement as we did form the first trip down into the undersea city of Rapture. The game's narrative thrust also takes some time to come into focus, placing you into the shoes of an anonymous Big Daddy monster, instead of a more easily identifiable everyman protagonist.
At times, the game feels somewhat too tied to its predecessor and afraid to really reach out and change an established successful formula. But after the first few hours, things start to fall into place and the game's excellent controls, pacing, and design take over. Before we knew it, we were right back to that rare feeling of near total immersion in a virtual world, which speaks well of BioShock 2's sequel cred. That said, the inevitable BioShock 3 will need to push the envelope and be set on the moon or something.