Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bioshock 2

*Warning: There May Be Spoilers. Not Heavy Ones, but if You Haven't Played the First Game, You Can Wait Until You Have if You Want*

Just look at that cover. Just look. I finished Bioshock 2 a while ago, and it's time I did a review. Obviously, this game takes place in Rapture, and you play as a Big Daddy. If you don't know what that is, read the first post or play the game, there would be way too much to explain. This game starts in 1958, 2 years before the start of the first game, before jumping to 1968. The protagonist is that guy on the cover, a badass Big Daddy called Project Delta. As the game begins, Project Delta is fighting off a couple of splicers to rescue his Little Sister when one of them pulls out a "Hypnotize Big Daddy" plasmid, which actually existed in the first game, so I thought that was cool. He throws it at you when a woman named Sofia Lamb walks in. She takes your little sister and commands you to take off your helmet and shoot yourself in the head. Alright, cool it, Jean Grey.

You wake up ten years later, eight years after the events of the first game, in a Vita Chamber (those respawn machines from the first game). Rapture is still in chaos, Jack is gone, and Andrew Ryan has been replaced by Sofia Lamb, who is ruling along with her Little Sister daughter, Eleanor Lamb (your Little Sister). Because you're so far from her, Project Delta is slowly dying. Big Daddies die if they get too far from their charge. God, this city is so messed up. It's awesome.

Anyway, this game is very similar to the first game, but they both improved some things and made some stupid decisions. One of the things I love about this game is that you use guns with your right hand and plasmids with your left. In the first game, if you wanted to use a plasmid, you had to wait for Jack to put his gun away and put his hand up and then you could zap some people. This game makes plasmids much more usable, so I ended up relying on them far more than in the first game, which is great. They also added a button for melee attacks using the butt of your gun so you don't have to switch to your wrench to hit someone nearby, but they also added a drill that you can switch to if you want more powerful melee attacks, so that's awesome. I was just happy that you got something better than a wrench. I mean, we're fighting monsters here. I'll regret the switch once I need a bolt tightened.

Anyway, you eventually meet up with Tenenbaum, who sets you up with a new business partner: Augustus Sinclair. He's basically the Atlas of Bioshock 2, guiding you around and giving you advice. He's reasonably selfish in the beginning, but he develops well as a character. This game is much like the first game in that you run from area to area, meeting important people in each place and learning how they fit into the Rapture puzzle in pursuit of an inevitable final showdown, so there's not much to say that I didn't say in the first Bioshock post. Luckily, they got rid of that stupid pipe puzzle, which appeared every time you hacked something in the first Bioshock. I didn't like that, I thought a time-consuming and repetitive minigame like that had no place in a Bioshock game. Hacking is a thousand times more fun now that all you have to do is press a button when the cursor is over a green or blue tile. You get different levels of rewards for different colors, it's awesome.

I didn't explain very well.

I love being a Big Daddy, I do, but the Little Sister process is pretty annoying now. You can once again choose to either rescue or harvest the small girls, but instead of rescuing them right away, you adopt them first. I try to save every Little Sister in the game, which you don't have to do, but I would feel guilty if I didn't. But every time you adopt a Little Sister, you have to sit her down and defend her so she can harvest Adam from corpses, a tedious and repetitive activity that you have to do every single time you adopt a Little Sister, up to two or three times per area. It's such difficult and brutal work, but I feel really bad if I don't save the Little Sisters because they're cute and I'm weak. It's actually far easier to just harvest and kill them at this point, but they're so creepy and evil that their little virtual smiles make it all worth it. I think I need to talk to a therapist about this game.

The characters are, while not as memorable and lively as the first game, still interesting and fun to interact with. Governor Grace Holloway, psychotic scientist Gilbert Alexander, preacher Simon Wales and his brother, Daniel, and little rat bitch Stanley Poole are all great additions to the Rapture family, even if they are a bit detached from the first game. But while I loathe Sofia Lamb, she never stirred the begrudging respect that Andrew Ryan did. The new enemies are pretty terrifying, with the new "Big Sisters" prowling the streets of Rapture. They generally appear when you've rescued or harvested all the little Sisters in one area, and are always proceeded by an ear-splitting shriek. That shriek... oh god. Once you hear that, you know it's all over. They're tall, fast, slender, can use plasmids, and have the signature Little Sister needle. Words can't do them justice; I'll have to put a picture.
Left: You, Project Delta. Right: Big Sister, Satan.

I don't know why they wanted to torture us with this.

Now, I'm going to get serious for a second. There's one other major complaint I have with this game: it was unnecessary. The other installments of the series fit together like clockwork. This game, partly because it was made by a different studio to cash in on the success of the first game, doesn't add much value to the Bioshock universe as a whole. Sure, it was fun to discover more of rapture, but when you realize what the series is all about, it just doesn't mean as much as the other games. The story is just too much like that of the first installment, but without as much depth. And while Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite dealt with themes like religion, race, class, censorship, and even what it meant to be the player, controlling the fate of a person whose thoughts and emotions you feel as if they were your own, Bioshock 2 sticks to also serious but less insightful themes of family and what it means to be human. Which is not to say that it shouldn't have; it's more that it shouldn't have been Bioshock. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are experiences that draw you in to the lives and environments of its inhabitants, making you doubt whether you're really in control at all, or whether you're just a pawn in a game played by powers even greater than yours. Bioshock 2 is just an adventure through a beautiful and horrible city to find your adopted daughter. No deeper feelings, no stunning twists, and though you feel for the characters, it can't manipulate your emotions like the other games can.

Conclusion: Bioshock 2 is a good game. In fact, it's a very good game. But it just can't compare with the other Bioshocks. It lacks the raw depth and storytelling power of its prequel and sequel. That being said, the controls and playability have been greatly improved, though it does get tedious sometimes. And Rapture and its inhabitants are still, and always will be, stunning.

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