Posted on May 12, 2010 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
As a sequel to Bioshock, one of the best story-shooters to have come out in recent years, Bioshock 2 had a lot to live up to. A good combination of biting political satire, excellent gameplay and superb atmosphere the original Bioshock set a standard almost impossibly high to meet and, while Bioshock 2 makes an heroic effort to equal its predecessor, it falls somewhat short of equaling that goal.
Eight years after the events of Bioshock where Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture (the undersea city where Bioshock is set) a psychologist, Doctor Sofia Lamb, has taken over the city, winning the civil war that has taken place between the factions in the fractured city. In contrast to Andrew Ryan’s ‘Objectivist’ outlook, modeled on Ayn Rand’s adolescent philosophy of selfishness, Sofia Lamb presents a sort of biological/psychological Communism as an alternative for the dispossessed and lost of Ryan’s utopia.
Lamb has reinstated the Little Sister programme, using children kidnapped from the coasts, those Little Sisters of the original generation who remained have grown up and become Big Sisters, relatively powerful and much quicker than the Big Daddies, enforcers of Sofia Lambs will. Part of the reason for her hatred for Ryan and her determination to see everything through is that her own daughter, Eleanor, was turned into one of the very first Little Sisters and was bound to the lead character, the one you play, who was – himself – turned into a Big Daddy. Bound body and soul together, the two are inexorably linked and the bond motivates Big Daddy to find and save Eleanor and Eleanor to rebel against her monstrous mother.
Initially used by all and sundry to their own ends, Big Daddy eventually finds his way to Eleanor and together they engineer an escape and an end to Sofia Lamb’s new dictatorship.
Gameplay is broadly the same as in the first Bioshock, standard first-person controls and the same weapon/plasmid (‘psychic’ power) combination as in the first game. Playing a Big Daddy you’re a bit more lumbering and slow than the lean and fast lead character of the previous game but you also feel stronger, tougher and you get some more powerful weapons to compensate. You still have to hack various machines and trade money for weapons and items – something that seems a little out of place given Lamb’s cod-Marxist philosophy. Unlike in Bioshock 1 however, you don’t gather up junk and other materials to be converted into extra supplies, fortunately this is the only piece of ‘dumbing down’ (an unfortunate trend in many sequels and modern games) that seems to have taken place.
The game is as atmospheric as the original, but suffers a little by not really advancing the appearance of the game or really making you feel like there has been a passage of time since the original Bioshock. The only truly new environmental element that you get is the ability to go outside and walk around under the sea. The thrill of being able to do this is immediately deflated by the fact that these sequences are incredibly short and that you can’t really do anything out there. One interesting aspect for atmosphere is the brief sequence
The graphics are as good as the original, though the models for the people still look a little odd (and not just the deformed gene-splicers). As compared with the original I found some of the rooms and sections surprisingly bare, harking back to the really, really old 3D games where you mostly had empty rooms and blank environments. This seemed hugely at odds with the rest of the environments which were lavish and full of junk and detritus.
A good, solid sequel that suffers only from its failure to properly advance the gameplay and the slackening of the satirical bite that was present in the original. While Ryan was a perfect play on the Greed-is-good mentality and Randian Objectivism, Lamb’s portrayal is relatively clumsy and unnuanced, barking right from the start and failing to live up to the same sort of standard as the previous game, which was another disappointment. That’s realy the conclusion on this sequel, it’s a series of mild disappointments, but only because the previous game is so good.
Review by James “Grim” Desborough