Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3 Publisher:2K Games Release Date: February 9th 2010
BioShock was a great game and, while reactions to the supposed successor to System Shock have shifted somewhat since release from “this is awesome” to “this is consolified dross”, we remain stalwart in our opinion. BioShock really was a fantastically ambitious and involving experience.
Still, it had problems – a lack of real replayability and multiplayer, plus one of the most underwhelming endings ever, to name a few. It also wasn’t the type of game that would seem to lend itself all that well to further exploration and exploitation - an impression which left us with uneasy suspicion when we heard that a sequel was in the works.
BioShock introduced us to a brilliantly realised world and we loved every moment we spent in the fallen, underwater megalopolis of Rapture…but coming away from it we felt like perhaps we’d seen all that Andrew Ryan had to offer and that a follow-up would be more a rehash than anything truly worthwhile.
Even my little sister isn't this evil!
It’s probably a good thing then that BioShock 2 (which has apparently dropped the ‘Sea of Dreams’ subtitle) is actually both a prequel and a sequel, with the singleplayer action set ten years after the original and the multiplayer couched in the civil war which destroyed Rapture. The decision to explore Rapture’s past and the civil war which left it as the shattered shell we fell in love with will potentially allow the game to compensate for the familiar levels with a greater scale of conflict and a more intact world.
Rather than casting players as a simple Splicer or another interloper in Rapture’s oceanic opulence though, BioShock 2 has made the unusual move of extrapolating the character from one of the most ill-judged areas of the climactic levels in the original game. You’re a Big Daddy.
Well, not just any Big Daddy admittedly. You’re the original Big Daddy. The first prototype who is endowed with enhanced movement and agility beyond what players were capable of in the first game, as well as free will. You’ve long been deactivated though and when you wake up in a long forgotten storage facility then you’re not entirely sure what’s going on – only that everybody is fighting and some powerful new factions have arisen in the chaos of this genetically modified war.
Predictably enough, you soon get involved in the politics of the war (because it’d be a short game if you just quietly departed or deactivated yourself once more). Unable to locate the original Little Sister that you were paired with, you sign up with the same tortured Dr. Tenenbaum who appeared in the first game and agree to help her try and save as much of Rapture as possible from the chaos which is enveloping it.
My big sister is probably even more evil though
There are new antagonists for you to go up against too, obviously. Both Andrew Ryan and Fontaine from the first game have been removed from the storyline, though there are some characters who reappear and guide you along. The new main baddies are the Big Sisters and a new character called Sophia Lamb - who is kind of an anti-Ryan.
The Big Sister is probably the one which BioShock 2 fans will know much about already – a sleeker, faster and more threatening variant of the Big Daddy who is fiercely protective of the Little Sisters and apparently has it in for you. The Big Sisters effectively take the role of the Big Daddies in the original game, with a finite amount of them littered through the levels for you to overcome. A much more serious threat than the relatively easy to defeat Daddies, a countdown sounds when Big Sis starts hunting for you and you’ll have to quickly prepare yourself for the coming battle.
It’s this idea we like most about the Big Sisters; the fact that they are actively hunting you and aren’t purely reactionary enemies. One of the reasons the Big Daddies were so easy to kill in the first game was that you were always battling on your own terms and they’d only really respond if you got to close to a Little Sister. Having a more aggressive and agile foe who’ll randomly show up and try to kill you is a brilliant way to bring tension to the game, even if it is very similar to the threat of stumbling across a Tank or Witch in Left 4 Dead 2.