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Christopher J Oatis avatar 5:05 PM on 02.21.2010
Bioshock 2 Review: Great Story driven game-Unnecessary Multiplayer

Remember a few years back when that crab went on and on about how life was better under the sea? Of course, the grouch I’m talking about is Andrew Ryan, the developer of Rapture, an underwater setting of genetic drug addicts and insane science. With Bioshock 2 on shelves this month, gamers are invited to return to the city of sunken dreams where the individuals freedom is prized above all.

Bioshock 2 starts off with a bang as your protagonist , a special Big Daddy model named Delta, shoots himself in the head after being coerced by Rapture’s newest zealot leader, Sophia Lamb. After you wake up—somehow—ten years later, you learn that after Ryan’s death Lamb has united rapture under her rule and this concept of ‘family’ that she waves around as a means of psychology control. As you move through the game you discover that Lamb’s vision for utopia is intimately centered around turning her daughter, Eleanor, into the perfect human. Eleanor also happened to be your character’s ‘Little Sister’ until the bond was tore apart by the forced suicide attempt.

While story is intriguing it is hard pressed to compete with the initial mysteries of Rapture that the original game dealt with, but the developers did a good job of not trying to write the same type of narrative arch. Instead, the fan will be treated to some blanks filled-in from the last game and the newcomer will get a decent stand alone storyline that won’t even spoiler too many twists of the original.

Storytelling does remain the focus of Bioshock as every room is littered with remains and clues about a dream turned nightmare. Prostitutes with “Eve” needles sticking out their arms lay dead in their bed. Victims of science experiments remain bound to chairs and gurneys. Even subtler imagery like propaganda posters and graffiti tells the tale of Lamb’s rise to power while expositions from old tape recorders and radio communications with the few people that are neither dead or insane provide the missing pieces.

Gameplay itself, matches the original’s quality without question and also adds some more strategic elements. For example, hacking is now done in real time. At first glance, the simple reaction test format may seemed dumbed down after Bioshock’s pipe mini-game, but as the game goes on you realize that hacking is now a part of battle. One of your weapons is a gun that shoots hacking tools and you may have to reprogram an enemy turret to defend as it unloads at you and while ducking a Splicer’s wrench.

New Plasmids are also designed in a more strategic fashion giving you the ability to summon flying robots to your side, hypnotize enemies into fighting with you, and even sending a ghost of yourself ahead as a scout.

Why all this strategy? Because harvesting is now a part of the game. After defeating another Big Daddy and adopting his Little Sister, you can search out bodies for the little Sis to drain of Atom, which seems simple enough until you put the girl on the ground and hordes of Splicers start showing up. The goal is to use Rapture’s security, your enemies; and your arsenal of traps, firearms, and offensive plasmids: to snare, blast, burn, and beat back the enemy away from the Little Sister in whatever way possible. If you can accomplish this for a set time limit without being killed or the Little Sister being interrupting from her blood sucking duties then you’ll reap the benefits of her Atom collecting.

Accomplish a few harvesting runs and you’ll should a have a nice bank roll of Atom to purchase plenty of upgrades. However, keep in mind that you’re always being watched by Rapture’s newest nightmare, The Big Sister. Big Sisters are like Big Daddy’s but twice as fast and strong. They’ll toss fire like a volcano until they get bored then they’ll switch to using Telekinesis to heave rocks or corpses, and if you can’t keep them away from you they’ll lift you off the ground and drill the blood from your vein restoring their own life bars in the process. By the way, fighting them is difficult.

While the challenges, fire-power, and strategic element have upped the ante quite a bit, the freedom in the game has really only seen minor tweaking. The developers clearly wanted to move away from the Harvest/Rescue, Bad/Good binary; and as a result, Bioshock 2 does have three additional story based decisions to make, which do offer some freedom to how the story evolves, but ultimately your bound into a track that can only take you one of three places: Good/Bad/Neutral.

Still, it’s hard to criticize this game. If a Big Daddy put its drill to my head and told to come up with critiques I would say the underwater segments are lame and unnecessary serving only the purposes of showing off cool graphics and doing a little Easter egg hunting. Also, unnecessary and lame is the multi-player that has the same gimmicky capture-the flagesk games that Quake was doing ten years ago. Bioshock has no need for a mutli-player, but it had to have one as selling point, which is just the state of things these days.

Other than that, quality has not slipped an inch on the Bioshock front. Every aspect is as pleasing as the original , and the developers didn’t drown Rapture with attempts at innovations, which is too often the case these days with sequels.

The final word is that the Bioshock franchise is still one of the most original concept in the industry today. Even though, the story may not be as intriguing as its predecessor, the writing didn’t take unnecessary risks trying to top it. Recognizing that the mystery of Rapture and Ryan is already public knowledge, the writers wield another kind of intriguing web that will still have gamers wondering who to trust and rushing through the game to find out if they made the right choice. However, Bioshock 2 does have a host of fun and interesting turns, and it is a MUST play for anyone that likes a little bit of intelligence and thought provoking story elements with their First Person Shooter.

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