It’d be remiss to overlook the fact that there’s an element of business as usual about Bioshock 2. A radical overhaul of the first game this clearly isn’t, and while it does inject one or two changes to the formula, this is very much a continuation rather than a seismic jump.
It’s a continuation that picks up ten years after the events of the original, and sees a return to the underwater city of Rapture, which looks as stunning now as it did before. Rapture is not in a good state, though, and the game’s graphics reflect this with real detail and effect. Here is a world where nothing really works so well any more, and where things are simply falling apart. It’s a fascinating place simply to walk around.
This time you take control of a Big Daddy, one of the infamous lumbering monsters of the first game. Once again, you’re armed in two ways. On the one hand, you have an increasingly capable selection of weapons (including your starter, a drill, which has the ability to do a lot of damage in its own right). And on the other there are the plasmids.
Plasmids are special powers that require a finite substance called Eve in order to work, and can involve the wonderful lightning bolt and fireballs through to more subtle choices such as a decoy, which can draw enemy fire away from you. If you want to upgrade your plasmids, you need Adam, which is where the Little Sisters come in.
Little Sisters are small, scary young girls who walk around with other Big Daddies. You need to beat the Big Daddy – and those fights are as ferocious as ever – to get to the Little Sister, and then you can choose to harvest or save her. The former gets you more Adam, the latter makes you nicer, and the game has consequences for your moral choices whichever way you jump.
You can, once you pick a Little Sister up, get her to harvest Adam from corpses for you, which adds to your spending power, but also attracts attention from the drug-fuelled Splicers. Splicers prove to be the most regular foe that the game throws up, and while – as with all enemies – you can research them to find weak points and earn yourself more powers, they still require your time and very finite ammo.
In fact, pretty much everything in Bioshock 2 is finite. Ammunition, dollars, first aid kits: you name it, it’s thin on the ground. That can be frustrating, although you can hack the likes of bots and security cameras to give you some extra assistance. You need to get used to exploring every nook and cranny of the game for every pick-up you can find, otherwise Bioshock 2 is a game you’re really going to struggle to get through. But those used to the first game will already be familiar with ideas such as these.
More than that, though, they’ll be familiar with the game as a whole. For the truth is that Bioshock 2 doesn’t have much to add to the original Bioshock at all. Granted, there’s a tepid multiplayer mode in there, and you’ll also experience the introduction of Big Sisters, who come along when you’ve utilised a Little Sister. But it’s very much more of the same here, to the point where the game feels like an extended add-on pack.
That’s not a totally bad thing. Bioshock 2 is going to earn its highest regard among fans of the terrific original, and there’s certainly plenty to enjoy and get your teeth into. But considering the sheer vision of the first game, it’s a little disappointing that this is such an unambitious sequel. It’s still good; it’s just not exceeding the high standards set previously.
Company: 2K Games