The original BioShock deserved every accolade it received, with an original plot, an immersive and fresh setting, impeccable graphics and unique gameplay that kept the experience different from player to player. If BioShock had a movie corollary, it’d be Gone With the Wind. Yet much like the cinematic classic, BioShock felt by all accounts like a one-and-done experience. How could 2K Games top it?
Well, sales results from the original warranted an attempt, so 2K returned to Rapture with BioShock 2. The first game was pretty cut and dried, so with BioShock 2, gamers get a multiplayer addition, a completely new protagonist, and a new outlook on the same underwater world. Rather than do away with Big Daddies in BioShock 2, we finally get the chance to play as one. The primary opponent this time around? The cleverly named Big Sister, who’s just as badass as the first game’s Daddies, only skinnier.
At least, that’s how it feels at first. In the first previews of BioShock 2, the Big Sister seemed like the penultimate boss, something players would “train” for as they plodded through Rapture in the boots of a Big Daddy. But the Big Sister ends up being almost as common as a Splicer, acting as the boss for just about every level, regardless of whether you’re nice to the Little Sisters or not. The result provides less of an original gameplay experience than expected, and in fact it makes BioShock 2 feel more like BioShock 1.5. This impression only exacerbated by the game taking place in Rapture, and by many of the same plot-development tricks being used this time around. There aren’t all the same twists, but playing as a Big Daddy doesn’t seem quite as powerful or original as I would’ve liked. At least the online multiplayer options let you whoop up on opponents unfettered….
Granted, playing as a Big Daddy does provide some gameplay changes, such as the ability to explore the “outdoors” environment from time to time and the ability to use plasmids and weapons simultaneously. But considering how new the open-ocean sequences are, they’re painfully linear. And considering how formidable the Big Daddies were in the original BioShock, it’s surprising how neutered you feel in BioShock 2. Even the drill, which you’re encouraged to use quite a bit, doesn’t seem nearly as empowering as you might think. BioShock 2 definitely hits its stride halfway to two-thirds through the game, but it makes you wonder why 2K couldn’t have just started there and saved us all some of the “been there, done that” vibes. And enough of the Little Sister protection missions already. I know the Big Daddy’s purpose in life is to protect them, but for Pete’s sake, they can’t even wipe their own noses.
Now, do all these comments mean you should turn your nose up at BioShock 2? Not at all. This sequel picks up immersion-wise where the original left off, and the production qualities that made the first so outstanding are largely intact. It’s just that where the first BioShock wowed with its originality in nearly every regard, BioShock 2 — while a solid game — doesn’t feel nearly as original because it doesn’t stray far from the first title’s formula.
- Score: 8.8
Platform reviewed: PlayStation 3
— Jonas Allen