Saturday, February 20, 2010

Game Review: Bioshock 2

Blogger's note: Spoilers for the ending of Bioshock 1. Minor spoilers for Bioshock 2.

            Child Abuse? Check. Pro-drug message? Check. Lunatic asylums under the seas? Check. Time to play Bioshock 2!

            The more I play this game, the more I have to scratch my head and wonder what really happened at the end of Bioshock 1. Sure the main character escaped in the good ending, but he really didn’t bother to mention the good city of Rapture to anyone else for the rest of his life. Even though there were other people trapped down there, including children. And drug-addicts he could have maybe gotten some help for (BTW game, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but shooting drug addicts with bullets is not an acceptable answer to the problem). So why didn't he tell anyone? I guess the answer’s obvious. He had four women with him, and needed to get his pimping career underway.

            I find it more believable that the bad ending of Bioshock 1 happened-where you became an evil dictator, ran the city even more to the ground, and probably got killed off ten years later. Why? Because after ten years, Rapture is still the same old, broken city crawling with people addicted to ADAM. In Bioshock 2, you play as a Big Daddy this time (that’s the big robot on the cover, for those that are uninformed). After spending ten years…well, shot in the head, you somehow spring back to life and start looking for your playmate Eleanor, who was your paired little sister.

Continuing my usual tradition, I’ll talk about the good points first. If you liked the gameplay in Bioshock 1, you’ll like it in this one, because they’re exactly the same. The level design has been created extremely well and there is a level where you play as another character, which is really interesting to go through. Lastly, in this game you will definitely feel like a three-hundred ton robot, particularly when you jump or spot your own shadow.

However, even this is kind of flawed because as a player, you do a lot of things that are specifically meant for humans. I mean, how many times have you seen a Big Daddy smoke a cigarette or drink a coffee in the game?

 I have to mention a few negative points on the gameplay. First of all, the respawning is really annoying. In my Bioshock 1 review, I was pondering whether all the ammo and special powers still made the game a challenge, and it did. Unfortunately in this game you get so many items dumped on you that clearing out large corridors of evil villains didn’t seem much of a problem, and I didn’t break a sweat in the final boss battle. However, it was still annoying because I wanted to explore the dark corridors of rapture, and I really could have done that without some flame-throwing ADAM addict screaming in my face every five seconds.

Even more annoying is that the respawning is considerably amped up when you have a little sister on your shoulder, who is your sole source for ADAM. Not only does it take forever for her to harvest (about three minutes, and keep in mind that she can do it twice) but I later found out that it wasn’t even required, because by the end of the game I had 500 ADAM points and no idea what to do with them, because I had cashed in on the powers I wanted already. It seemed pretty pointless to spend them on hacking security cameras when I could blow them up with one shot.

But here’s where Bioshock 2 really fails-the story and the characters. To put it simply, two characters are over-explained, and the rest of the characters are under-explained. In fact, I can sum up the over-explained characters in three sentences.

Sofia Lamb: I am evil while doing this for the greater good.
Eleanor Lamb: I’m a rebellious teenager. Wahhhh!
Big Daddy: I like coffee and smoking. Allllll riiiiiight.

As a Big Daddy, you won’t remember anything about your life, and you won’t get the backstory you did in Bioshock 1. Tenenbaum from Bioshock 1 does make an appearance, but I guess after the first level she doesn’t really care about the plot, because you never see her again. The only other character worth mentioning is Sinclaire. I guess I missed some of his video diaries, because every five minutes the plot was telling me, “This man is evil! No wait…he’s good! Or is it evil? Which chapter are we on?” Oh, and thanks Sinclaire, for bravely staying in the train every time I faced an obstacle in the game.

In Bioshock 1, there was a surprise twist at the end that explained the main character’s amnesia. In this game, you keep thinking that there might be some great plot twist towards the end…and then you’re let down on epic proportions. Just more bitching and moaning about how Eleanor has to succeed in her destiny.

FINAL GRADE: 3 out of 5. Given that there were three years between the original and the sequel, I really did expect more. 

Yes, I could mention how Sofia Lamb never mentions Eleanor's real father. Yes, I could mention how she always mentions Big Daddy as the father. And yes, I could use skanky pictures to illustrate my point.

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