Picking up almost ten years after Jack escaped from Rapture, BioShock 2 starts you out in a similar WTF moment forcing the start of the game. You just kind of wake up as a Big Daddy and have only clouded memories on what the hell is going on. Which you spend the rest of the game pretty much figuring out. Some leads going south while others leading to a rewarding end, but still pretty much the same concept as the story from the first BioShock.
The controls for the game are almost exactly the same as before in BioShock. The only real change to the control structure is that you know can use your plasmids all via the left triggers and healing/eve regeneration are primarily done via the weapon/plasmid select screen. Not to many other changes made at all. Although it would have been nice to keep the ability to recharge health and eve without "pausing" the game. But that was more of a minor annoyance than anything.
Although that is not to say that there was not a major annoyance with the control structure of the game. That being the weapon/plasmid selection screen and genebank screens. Sometimes the button presses and stick movements were not registered or where registered as more than was pressed. Sometimes it would take four or five confirmation presses for the game to recognize that I wanted to buy an item or upgrade an Item. Which of course led to sometimes purchasing more than I wanted as they would get counted as later presses.
Also with that, when hopping through weapons and plasmids, the stick would highlight a different selection just before jumping back into action. Leading to having the camera out instead of the rivet gun, or the drill instead of the grenade launcher. Which of course could have meant the difference between life and death in many cases. In the end, it was an annoyance that really was not needed and I am not sure how this got past QA.
The visuals of this game are just as stunning as the visuals in the first BioShock. Which we all know was not a bad thing at all. But of course it also means that there was little done to improve or expand on the graphics technology out there right now. I mean, I wasn't expecting the most mind blowing graphics ever seen, but maybe a bit more to it.
I know graphics don't always sell a game, but something would have been better than nothing. It just felt that the only really new visual elements added into rapture was the new character models. Everything else felt very BioShock 1. I guess as far as an immersion feel that is ok, but things should be changing with the times.
Now with the audio, I had a completely different feel about it. It felt new. It felt changed, and all in a good way. Mainly because there was more going on in a city full of gene spliced crazies out there to drain little girls of their blood. I mean, the splicers actually had more than two or three phrases to say this time around. Something that makes for quite a change in the city.
This also goes with all other dialog and music for the game. It all seemed much improved this run through Rapture. Not that BioShock didn't have great voice acting or music when we first visited, but somehow 2K managed to one up themselves with BioShock 2's voice and music work. It was top notch in my book. My girl even swore that she heard Big Daddies wandering the house hours after we turned the game off. Showing again how immersive and clean the audio was.
Unlike other games that continue a franchise, BioShock 2 adds more new gameplay features than you can shake a burning cat held via telekinesis at. New hacking, new researching, new way to use Little Sister, and for the first time, multiplayer. Let me break it down.
In BioShock, hacking was done via a little "pipe dream" game where you had to bypass the circuit. A nice little mini game to mix things up, but something that took you out of the immersion of the game. A splicer cutting you up, then all of a sudden stops because you are hacking a security bot. That is not really fluid. Now you have a meter going back and forth where you have to hit the green sections multiple times to "hack the planet." All while still in the game. So while hacking remotely you can still be shot, stabbed, set on fire, maimed, etc.
It is a bit easier to hack things now though, even though you do still have to worry about attacks and such coming in. It only comes down to button timing more than strategy and quick thinking. But I will say I like this form of hacking better on an immersion stand point. It makes no sense that the world stops when you are trying to break the security systems.
Researching was yet another huge change made for BioShock 2. No longer are you trying to get still shots that you look at and figure out where weak points are. This time around you are required to get footage of the enemy in question being killed. So that you can replay it and study it for better strategies, figuratively. Something that makes way more sense and added a bit more fun to the mix as you got a better score if you could kill the enemy in a creative way in under about thirty seconds. All leading to more damage dealt and tonics earn for you.
Lastly, I want to talk about the new gameplay with the Little Sisters as we have already talked about the multiplayer.
As for the Little Sisters, a third option is kind of thrown into the mix when it comes to dealing with them. You can now adopt the Little Sister and force her to harvest you ADAM instead of just sucking the red juicy stuff from her in the first place. By harvesting I am talking that you can drop her on a corpse that is full of ADAM and have her suck it out and give it to you. Twice per Sister. The only issue is that every Splicer in the area comes for her so you need to keep her safe while she is drain the corpse. A nice little addition, not to mention ADAM, because after harvesting twice you can then Save her or Harvest her ADAM for yourself.
This is a must buy for anyone that loved playing BioShock the first time. Hands down and without question. It continues the story of Rapture and its inhabitants as well as what still continues to be the issues in this "Utopia," humans themselves. All in a great storytelling fashion with some heart wrenching moments to keep you enthralled to the screen and wanting just a bit more.
One thing I want to add in, and wanted at the end for a bit of spoiler alert, the final "boss" of the game is a bit of a letdown just like in BioShock. Unlike in BioShock, where the end boss was placed just because it was thought one was needed, this end boss is well placed, just a bit anticlimactic for the story. I won't say who or what you have to fight, but it just doesn't do the story full justice. It felt like the bosses of the two games should have been swapped with each other. Altering of course a bit for continuity.
BioShock 2 was developed by 2K Marin, 2K Australia, 2K China and Digital Extremes and published by 2K Games for the XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on February 9th. Retails for $59.99 USD on consoles, $49.99 on PC. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. I played single-player game all the way through on the PS3.