[Rather than do a general retrospective or Top 10 of the last 7-8 years of gaming, I decided to break each game down into their own little blog. Each of these games has made a huge impression on me as a gamer, so I have a lot to say about them. Confining all of them into a single blog would likely be far too long or not do them enough justice. So, here we are!]
Greenlighting a Bioshock 2, all the while still pertaining to Rapture, made by a totally different studio, was one of the most questionable things to happen in all of these last 7 or 8 years (nevermind impressions upon release). At the time, the thought was just as depressing as it was laughable. How could this "2K Marin" even think of accomplishing anything more than a so-so copycat?
Even just 2 or 3 years down the line, the original Bioshock was already a solidified classic. However, much of it's majesty was in experiencing Rapture for the very first time. Experiencing the cynicism, the oppression, the dangerous Splicers and iconic Big Daddies, the awesome Plasmids, it all came together to form such a unique package.
And we were about to do all that... again?
Oh and it has MP too? Because of course it does.
This was supposed to be an underwhelming, gimmicky ("Remember the tension from the original? Remember those awesome Big Daddies? Well, now we're gonna empower the FUCK outta your PC by making him a Big Daddy! Doesn't that sound just great?!), shameful cash-in.
And, upon first impressions, that's exactly what I thought it was. Even if the gameplay was better and most of the events in-game were wholly new, the cynic in me couldn't help but notice a lot of parrot talk. Monkey see, monkey do. At least several major plot points and events were largely similar.
1.) During your first steps, you're walking through dark corridors, taking in this "Rapture"
2.) You're very first Plasmid is the Shock Plasmid, you insert it, and the PC falls to his knees in pain
3.) You make direct contact with the main villain via a confined space with TV screens
4.) Enemy Splicers attempt to kill you while in said room, but the player manages to escape
5.) You eventually acquire the Incinerate Plasmid and are required to backtrack to a frozen obstacle
It may be all trivial nonsense in retrospect, but considering what I had expected of the game going in, this stuff stuck out to me like mud in a candy store.
However, as the game went on, the cynic turned into the optimist and I started to notice some really fucking great design decisions.
Imagine you're up against a particularly tough enemy like, say... a Big Daddy. In the original Bioshock, you had to keep switching between Plasmids that did damage overtime, distracted, or reflected attacks back at this Rapturian Spartan and weapons that did most of the work. Oh, and all the while dodging other incoming attacks.
That's bullocks now, moyt. Presenting Bioshock 2's ingenious duel-wielding system! So, while you're delivering a quick shock or a flock of BEES(!), you can immediately follow through with a shotgun blast or machine gun fire.
This (almost so simple) addition, in combination with keeping much of the other BS1 gameplay systems and other lovely advancements in gameplay and enemy variety is what, at least when it comes to gameplay, pulls Bioshock 2 leagues above the original. In fact, at it's best, it's just about the most fun I've ever had playing video games.
And it's fun not just because of the core gameplay, but because it, surprisingly, retains strategy and challenge.
"Come at me."
You'd think all these combat possibilities stacked upon nearly a dozen or more passive abilities would vastly overpower your Big Daddy. But, at least on Hard difficulty, you'd be thinking incorrectly. As, sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, careless thinking could easily lead to death or a vast waste of valuable supplies and ammo.
Just when I thought I had braved through the thick of it, Spider Splicers and a Leadhead jump me and I'm down to no heath kits from 2 or 3. I was this close to death, because I wasn't prepared. Or how about when a Brute takes up your attention while a Leadhead fires upon you from an entirely different position? There goes at least 1 or 2 health kits right there. Something that could possibly be avoided or at least kept from getting worse with quick thinking.
Even when things are easy, it's so fun that it must be criminal. And things will only go so easy during the more intense battles if you get creative. At this point, the fights may drastically tip into your favor, but it's hilariously awesome to watch everything play out.
A Splicer makes it through an explosion and a Security Bot, only to walk through 2 of your Trap Rivets. A Brute trips the alarm, 2 Security Bots hone in, I toss a Mini-Turret, I shotgun him from the side, and the poor guy has no idea what to do! I guarantee you'll find yourself giddy with power.
Or how about 2 Security Bots, 3 Mini-Turrets, an Incinerate pool, and my machine gun fire against a Rumbler Big Daddy?
Do what you want! The simple thrill of a perfectly-executed Drill Dash or point-blank shotgun blast, or something more complicated. Whatever!
I've had some especially neat things happen. Like a Splicer dropping a bomb near his side after a lucky hit with my drill, which then froze him thanks to one of my passives, I jump away, then the bomb goes off and shatters him to pieces! Show me another FPS with gameplay/combat this varied and polished.
And because it's so awesome, finding or upgrading a weapon/Plasmid isn't some casual "Oh, well, that's nice.". Reactions are usually more akin to something like:
"Tesla pack for my shotgun!!!!!!!"
A number of smaller things from the original have also been improved. Most notably is the hacking, which is not only now much less about overcoming a slightly annoying obstacle, but, in fact, pretty darn fun! On top of that, you'll be a lot more inclined to participate not only because it's a nice little reflex exercise, but, if you're particularly good, you'll also get a bonus item drop! I always hack anything I can find for extra supplies.
New enemies such as the Brute Splicers are like less aggressive, occasionally elemental Big Daddies and the Big Sisters... who are also elemental, but are just as tough as a Big Daddy and a whole lot more nimble. You also can't run away from them. They're nerve-racking fights, and if there was ever a point in the game where you needed to save (granted you've switched off those pesky Vita-Chambers), it's before these fights.
To say nothing of the game's story, this is one of the best FPS's I've ever played. On a good day, I would even say it's the very best!
But, what about the story? The original Bioshock primarily focused on Adam and EVE, the two components of Rapture's "evolutionary" Plasmids and Tonics, and it's long-term effects on the body. Essentially, it turns you into a crazed, monster-like addict.
Bioshock 2, instead of reinforcing the concept of a crumbling Utopia, focuses on a more inner, revolutionary struggle for the perfection of the human body and mind led by credited psychiatrist Sofia Lamb. Rapture may've previously attempted to evolve it's people solely through the use of Plasmids and Tonics, but Sofia Lamb has a different solution.
Sofia spouts that while Andrew Ryan claims to have created a perfect society rid of the hindrances of law and religion, that the people of Rapture are still greatly under the influence of a single man. A leader. A "God". One that inspires greed, segregation, and so on. And that they also are hindered by a so-called "nature's bias".
Through unity and control of Rapture's Adam and EVE, Sofia hopes to lead (or, as she puts it, nurture) humanity into a new age. An age of harmony and free of sin itself. A truly perfect society.
Or, so she'd have you think.
What makes Bioshock 2's story so captivating is that Sofia's vision and ideals are even more, at their surface, easily sympathized with than with Andrew Ryan's "no law, no religion, just the man". Meanwhile, Sofia points fingers at Ryan's flaws and hypocrisy while justifying her own.
She's a more ambitious Andrew Ryan within Ryan's very own already appropriately realized ambition of Rapture. So even though you can probably already guess there's something sinister going on behind all the flattery and damage control, you can't wait to see how it all plays out.
And, after playing Infinite, I appreciate that Bioshock 2 didn't try to totally blow people's minds with convoluted twists. They, in Infinite, tried to 1-up "Would you kindly?", and, in my humble opinion, failed. Bioshock's twist worked as both a statement on gameplay design and a nice surprise. How Infinite played out was the former without that just as important latter.
The canon introduced in Bioshock 2 may be tame in comparison, but, sometimes, a simpler story is what is needed.
Why, hello there neighbor!
I would delve into the things that I had a problem with in Bioshock 2, but that's not the point of this series of blogs. The point is to explain my first impressions, to then go into exactly why the game was so goddamned awesome. And that's way more fun than trying to find fault with an, overall, perfectly fine experience (although, the PC port is rather finicky).
There's a lot to take away from Bioshock 2, and there are many other great things about it that I never touched upon for the sake of time/length (such as level design, the Litter Sisters, the ending, etc.). It's fun factor is untouched by any other in the genre, and while the story isn't quite as oppressive and atmospheric as the original classic, it's a story worth seeing through to the end nonetheless. It succeeds where it counts, on top of providing the most insanely fun FPS combat around.