Bioshock 2 Single-Player Review

Bioshock 2 takes off ten years after the events of the original. You’re one of the first Big Daddies, code-named Subject Delta, killed by Sofia Lamb more than a decade ago and revived by your now-grown up Little Sister, Eleanor Lamb. Sofia, who killed you in the introduction to get her daughter back, was once a psychiatrist and one of the minds behind the man behind Rapture, Andrew Ryan. Lamb came to the undersea utopia to smooth citizens’ tensions and cure their cabin fever at a critical time when a man named Frank Fontaine was trying to subvert Ryan’s power and influence and his insane ideology. What she really does is use her powers of influence to sway all of Rapture to her own radical beliefs: reject the self, embrace the masses—work and live only for the good of the whole.

After killing you, Sofia Lamb took your Little Sister away to groom her to be the world’s most selfless, perfect being, a Christ from the abyss, and the hopeless masses flew to her like moths to flame. Eleanor was lifted up above the common squalor and exemplified, but she wanted no part of it. Using her mental connection to guide the new batch of Little Sisters, your armor and DNA was gathered and put in a Vita-Chamber. Voila! Big Daddy reincarnation! Death can eat your shorts.

Your one objective, barring brutal revenge on the people who made you into a Daddy and stole your Sister away, is to rescue Eleanor, and it’s an ordeal of bullets and fireballs. At some point in the intermittent decade between Bioshock and its sequel, the Splicers have gained the unique ability to eat bullets and crap out shell casings cuz they’ll charge into hailstorms of minigun fire without stopping or blinking. Leadheads scream incoherently as they unload clip after clip into your tissue paper armor, Spider Splicers drop down out of no where to cleave open your back with fish hooks, and Lamb waxes eloquent about her dreams of a perfect world you’re not a part of. Just as the last Splicer falls and you think the worst is over, a stray bullet pings harmlessly off a Big Daddy’s armor, sending him into a hellish fury. His drill revs up and spews acrid blue-black smoke; you backpedal into a Brute Splicer, a thuggish splicer on steroids and the one new addition to the Splicer family. The Brute rips a hundred-pound hunk of rubble out of the floor and breaks it over your head just in time for the Daddy to fly across the ten meter gap and frappe your organs with his drill. Rapture becomes your tomb. Game freaking over. Try again? Hell yes!

Dual-wielding weapons and plasmids might be your only saving grace against the horrors Bioshock 2 sends your way, and it helps to work strategically with them. Whether its redoing an area you were killed charging recklessly into or guarding a stolen Little Sister while she harvests “angels” to get you ADAM, Bioshock 2 is made for taking advantage of almost all the weapon’s secondary booby trap ammo. Laying down my rivet gun’s trap bullets to explode in rusty shrapnel confetti while simultaneously wearing down my attackers with electro bolts to die from the red-hot shards of metal is the most fun I had in the game, and made the difference between life and death.

The story is a whirlwind of disappointment wrapped up in one quasi-communist’s desire to free the world of suffering, and Eleanor feels like a plot device until the very end of the game, the one and only thing keeping you going. If it wasn’t for the frantic combat (which stales about 3/4 of the way into the game,) I would’ve kept playing only for curiosity’s sake . Everything worth seeing (Sofia Lamb clashing with Andrew Ryan, the fall of Rapture, Lamb’s rise to power) happened while you were taking a dirt nap, and the story of saving your little girl plods along without bringing anything new or interesting to the table. Bioshock 2 colors inside the lines and feels a lot like the original; handcuffed to the Bioshock mythology, it gets dragged down into the abyss with the rest of Rapture by game’s end. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to explore and enjoy the story while you can. Like its predecessor, Bioshock 2 is full of fascinating and revealing tidbits about Rapture’s history, how you came to be a Big Daddy, and the story behind the Little Sisters.

Unfortunately the designers seemed to have dragged their heels in other areas that desperately needed overhaul for the second game, namely the plasmids and weapons. All the plasmids are the same and the weapons feel exactly like their Bioshock counterparts. When you’re drill is done burning through gas like a Hummer it becomes a melee weapon… kinda like a wrench. I started wondering why a Big Daddy needs money, needs to raid safes and spend hundreds of dollars refilling his ammo. Do all Daddies use Ammo Bandito? When did they start stocking Rivets and Proximity Mines? You don’t feel so much like a walking tank as you do some guy who stole an old Big Daddy suits from one of the many Big Daddy locker rooms (which brings up countless more questions) and pilfered a real Daddy’s drill while it wasn’t looking.
Which brings us to the two other things 2K hyped for this game, both of which missed their marks by mere miles—the Big Sisters and the ocean. The ocean is indeed a character unto itself like 2K said: an empty, unexciting void of a character. Like an estranged uncle you pray never comes over on Thanksgiving, but there he is, just—there. Going in I had this crazy idea that I’d be able to, y’know, “explore” the ocean a little; silly me for thinking that. Your route is set in stone, your speed is slowed to a crawl, and you can’t go drill to tooth against any hammerhead sharks. It is truly beautiful to look at, and it gives you a gentle reprieve from the chaos inside Rapture, but I wanted to see the city as its never been seen, from the outside. Your oceanic walkways are short, arbitrary, and give you tantalizing glimmers of hope of good times before taking them away.

And then there’re the Big Sisters. The femme fatales were built up to be the stuff of grown men’s nightmares: sleek and agile, extraordinarily tough, and wielding wicked needles on their arms to boot! They’re the hounds of hell that drag small girls away in the night to make them into Little Sisters. The deathless, the incomparable, the toned, faceless, sonic-shrieking juggernauts of—did I just kill one? Yeah, uh, yeah I think she’s dead. Literally a half an hour into the game I had the bane of my Big Daddy existence flattened against a pillar like a rag doll. Don’t get me wrong, the Big Sisters are cold, menacing powerhouses, but they can be worn down fairly easily by attrition and with a little intelligent strategy (read: don’t run headlong into them, don’t forget to heal) like every other battle in the game. And they only attack when you’ve cleared an area of Little Sisters, so you never have to worry about one popping up out of no where and spiking you through the spine.

Is Bioshock 2 worth your hard-earned sixty dollars? No. But it is worth playing. If you have a friend who still plays, ask them to borrow it, or rent the game. The game is short, fun, and brutally delightful for the ten bucks it costs to snag a copy at Blockbuster, but it won’t keep your attention after more than one play through.

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