Would You Kindly?
Combat balances tactics and outright chaos; excellent level design; surprisingly enjoyable multiplayer.
No, I'd Rather Not
Set pieces not as engaging as BioShocks; multiplayer unlock system initially bars players from its main draw.
The first BioShock managed quite a feat: It was that rare game that both opened and closed the book on a strange, new environment. For the most part, it left very few questions unanswered, and despite its flaws, the general consensus was that gamers’ first go-round on the bathysphere should also have been their last. For all intents and purposes, the game was a complete experience that didn’t need a sequel. But it got one, anyway.
And yet, for all the talk of BioShock 2 being nothing more than a quick cash-grab, the game is actually quite good—great, even. But is it a worthy successor to a modern classic? Yes, surprisingly enough.
BioShock 2 stuffs you into the hulking diving suit of the first Big Daddy—roughly 40 percent of which is composed of a gigantic, face-perforating drill. Yeah, you’re not just some wimpy, fish-out-of-water human this time around. And the changes don’t end there. Rapture’s been overtaken by a veritable army of little-girl-kidnapping Big Sisters, and it’s up to you to put a stop to their maniacal plan. What follows, then, is a whirlwind adventure of drilling, Splicer shooting, Adam-harvesting, and more drilling.
And it’s tons of fun. The brand-new ability to simultaneously wield both weapons and all manner of fire-spewing, tornado-conjuring, baddie-blasting plasmid powers adds a new layer of strategy to the series’ chaotic battles. Good thing, too, because the game’s genetically mutated enemies—known as Splicers—have only gotten bigger and nastier during the 10 years that have elapsed in Rapture time.
But off-the-wall, super-powered combat is only half the BioShock equation. The other half—the story—is where BioShock 2 doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights occupied by its predecessor. Here’s the thing, though: By normal standards, BioShock 2’s story is pretty great. Fantastic, even. And, fret not, philosophy majors, because many of the game’s themes are even more interesting than BioShock’s. Execution, however, is another story. Whereas BioShock was full of memorable set pieces and moments, BioShock 2’s tend to run together—up until the last couple of hours, which, without spoiling anything, are amazing.
In some cases, this is actually a good thing, as BioShock 2 is much more consistent than its predecessor. Sure, it rarely reaches the heights of the first game’s early sequences, but neither does it ever plunge to the depths of the first game’s sub-par ending.
BioShock 2’s multiplayer, meanwhile, is a pleasant surprise. It’s injected with just enough of BioShock’s atmosphere and personality to keep things fresh, yet it’s traditional enough to remain accessible. Plasmid powers are the main draw, of course, but the possibility of one player assuming control of a Big Daddy during the match ensures that things never grow dull. Really, our only problem with the multiplayer stems from its use of a Modern Warfare–like unlock system. For weapons, that’s fine, but BioShock 2 forces you to unlock many of its coolest powers, which means the multiplayer doesn’t truly shine until you’ve played it for many hours.
Ultimately, though, our complaints are minor. BioShock 2 actually manages to surpass its predecessor in a number of ways and—in our book—is simply more fun to play. Sure, déjà vu might creep up on you every once in a while, but you’ll probably be too busy drilling a hole in its face to care.