Despite being too easy and borrowing heavily from System Shock 2, Bioshock was easily one of the best games in the past decade. It was eerily atmospheric, thoroughly engaging and had just that right amount of polish that a top-notch title should have.
Since then, Bioshock has enjoyed massive success even branching out to Big Daddy figurines and even a Hollywood adaptation. But is the sequel anywhere near as good? Will we be buying Bioshock 2 collector’s editions by the bulk and watching the Bioshock trilogy in full HD this decade?
No. It’s still a good game, even if the shine has dulled a little. Rapture is still an entertaining, enthralling world to surround yourself in. The set pieces are still tactfully done, and there’s a fantastic balance between those and non-scripted action.
But the real problem stems from the utilitarianism theme and steam-punk setting that made Bioshock so different from everything else in 2007. It’s now 2010, and Rapture hasn’t radically changed from three years ago.
There are differences, of course. You now play as one of the re-engineered sterilized man that inhabit the Big Daddy suits, rather than fighting them off occasionally to gain access to the Little Sisters that were such a bountiful source of ADAM in the original.
Of course, you’re still given the option to harvest or save the Little Sisters for ADAM (since you’re a prototype Big Daddy, conveniently). If that doesn’t take your fancy, you can always choose to adopt the Little Sisters instead. This means they’ll scour nearby locations for corpses rich in ADAM, although once they find one they’ll instantly be beset by Splicers and possibly Big Sisters (more on those later).
It’s another reminder of the fact that Bioshock borrowed its spirit heavily from the System Shock games, and defending the Little Sisters is like the Combine assaults from Half-Life 2. For a game with such an original setting and story it’s a little depressing to see such obvious inspiration. The encounters are challenging, but not wholly satisfying when you’ve seen it all before.
The graphics aren’t as satisfying either, considering they haven’t changed much. There are a few tweaks and improvements, but the game still uses the Unreal 2.5 Engine as the original. Bioshock 2 doesn’t look like an aged game, but it’s definitely not in the same league as Crysis or Farcry 2 and even Modern Warfare 2 gives it a little run for its money.
Thankfully, I’m yet to encounter a game that has matched the level of the audio in Bioshock until now. The game is pitched over a wonderful orchestral score, giving the right amount of foreshadowing for the scene. It’s the perfect tone for the setting and it’s duly enhanced by the post-war radio titles that are sprinkled around Rapture. On their own they’re entertaining to listen to, but they also provide juxtaposition to the collapse of Rapture given the era the songs were produced.
The story and the environment aren’t as fresh as the original, but it’s enough to keep you going thanks to the startling difference Rapture provides to every other shooter out there. Inversely, the multiplayer is a resounding disappointment. It might be a joy to look at, thanks to the wonderful Bioshock styling that we’ve come to know and love, but it’s not well designed.
Unlike the campaign, there’s nothing original about the multiplayer. All the modes are the same as every other game you’ve ever played. Your customizable Loadouts are taken straight from Modern Warfare 2. The maps are full of potentially usable items and scenery, which you’ll waste time mid-game exploring and is a classic sign of inexperience from a developer that doesn’t have a great history in multiplayer titles.
But the absolute worst part of the multiplayer side is that the rooms all start to look the same once you get used to the maps. Bioshock’s charm lies in the surprise of the scenery and its vast difference from anything you’ve ever seen. Getting used to that dulls the experience and ruins the game slightly for me, and it confirms that you’ll be replaying the campaign more than you’ll be playing the Little Sister variant of Capture the Flag.
All in all, BioShock 2 is a well designed game which can be really fun if you don´t expect it to be better than the original. But build your own opinion – enjoy BioShock 2!