Review: BioShock 2


Developer: 2K Marin
Genre: Sci-Fi First Person Shooter
Platform(s): PS3 & Xbox 360
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Compatability (PS3): 5GB Mininum Space | DUALSHOCK 3 Vibration | HD 480p / 720p / 1080i / 1080p | Network Players 2-10
Compatability (Xbox 360): 2MB Mininum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p | Online Multiplayer 2-10
Rating: 8.5

BioShock 2 was never going to have it easy. Seen by many as an unnecessary sequel, it was forced to live up to the impossibly high expectations set by its seminal predecessor. Gone was much of the original development team from Irrational games, replaced by a newly formed studio in 2K Marin. Gone too was chief designer Ken Levine, the primary creative force behind the original BioShock. Fans cried foul, claiming publisher 2K Games was cashing in on a recognisable name, and pre-release opinion ranged broadly from cautious optimism to outright dismissal.

It came as some surprise then, that out of this hostile build-up arrived one of the most accomplished and memorable first person shooters since well, BioShock. As a singleplayer experience, BioShock 2 stands above any of last year’s console shooters, with a campaign high on atmosphere, intrigue and tension. The premise for BioShock 2 has been well documented. Set some ten years after the original, players are cast as a Big Daddy – Subject Delta – one of the lumbering monstrosities which stalk the flooded halls of Rapture. With the the underwater dystopian setting having already been explored, the developer was free to establish a more focused plot within minutes of the game’s opening. A short cut-scene introduces players to Delta, his Little Sister Eleanore, and the game’s new antagonist, the collectivist Sofia Lamb. Lamb is Eleanore’s mother, and wastes no time in kidnapping her daughter and leaving Delta for dead. From this point on the narrative is straightforward, but well articulated. 2K Marin has wisely opted not to replicate the famous twist of the first game, and BioShock 2 benefits as a result. The game is paced well, and Delta’s quest to be reunited with his Little Sister provides a compelling motive throughout the 12 hour campaign.

Presentation, storyline and setting is well documented and something that you'll enjoy.

Once again, the writing and voice acting are stellar. Dialogue is delivered with nuance and finesse, and audio diaries return to flesh out the characters, both old and new. It should be said that the assorted cast, whilst intriguing and suitably deranged, don’t quite manage to stack up to their BioShock counterparts. There are several memorable encounters nonetheless, particularly towards the end of the game, but players shouldn’t dive in expecting any Sander Cohens or Doctor Steinmans. As a central villain, Lamb is adequate. She provides the requisite menacing voice overs well enough, and her relationship with Eleanore lends an interesting sub-plot to proceedings. There is however, a lack of charisma which keeps her from reaching the iconic status achieved by Andrew Ryan in the original. Indeed, it’s telling that the audio diaries in which Ryan appears provide some of the best monologues in either game.

Whilst fans worried that playing as a Big Daddy would lead to a reduced pace and less fraught combat, the reality is that not much at all has changed. So similar are the controls in fact, that the dexterity and agility displayed by Delta appears completely incongruous alongside the rest of the hulking Daddies. Suspend disbelief however, and the additions and tweaks made to the combat system soon take precedence. Dual wielding is a welcome inclusion, and helps to actively encourage experimentation with the game’s varied arsenal. New weapons such as the drill, and rivet gun join the already significant library of plasmids and tonics available, accommodating a broad range of play styles. The research camera feature has also been refined; instead of taking still images, players set a camera rolling and are rewarded with bonuses for killing enemies creatively. Upgrades are available for everything, and the game does a great job of granting a sense of empowerment. As the campaign ramps up in the final few hours, the player gains the ability to electrocute enemies with shotgun blasts and turn corpses into hostile insect hives, to name just a couple. It is, in a word: brilliant.

You'll be coming back for more BioShock 2 especially in the multiplayer mode.

The new Adam-collection scenarios provide yet more variety, and add a layer of tactical planning to the otherwise run-and-gun combat. The player is forced to prepare by setting traps, before fighting back several waves of enemies, all whilst ensuring that their Little Sister is left undisturbed to harvest Rapture’s genetic currency. These successful variations on the standard combat are dampened somewhat by the slightly disappointing Big Sisters. Originally, pitched as a supremely powerful recurring enemy which stalked Delta throughout the game, the character has been relegated to little more than mini-boss status. That’s not to say that the Big Sister fights aren’t memorable or frantic, they are. Once the first few have been dispatched though, their tortured shrieks lose much of their fear factor. But what of the multiplayer? Developed separately by Digital Extremes (known for their involvement in the Unreal Tournament series), BioShock 2’s multiplayer is an interesting, and most importantly fun addition to the package. Set during the fall of Rapture, prior to the original game, the multiplayer segment is presented using a loosely narrative structure. This is primarily integrated by rewarding players with new audio diaries and news articles as they level up online, as well as the standard weapon upgrades and loadout bonuses. It’s a unique method of progression and one which other multiplayer games would do well to incorporate in the future.

In terms of gameplay, Digital Extremes’ Unreal experience shows. Games are fast-paced and frenetic, though momentum is handicapped slightly by excessive respawn times. Neat touches like photographing defeated opponents for damage bonuses, hacking turrets and security bots, and a game-changing Big Daddy suit help to differentiate BS2 from the wealth of multiplayer alternatives available on both Xbox Live and PlayStation network. Whether these points are enough to foster a dedicated community in such a competitive marketplace remains to be seen. Overall then, BioShock 2 is a tremendous success. Not content to merely replicate its predecessor, it takes the same superb production values and builds upon it with improved combat, a more focused plot and a fine multiplayer effort to round out the package. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for with polished and refined execution, ensuring that the trip back to Rapture is every bit as enjoyable as it should be.

Reviewed by Ross – May 28, 2010

Very interesting and eye-catching surroundings. Maybe not as remarkable as the original BioShock.
Engaging soundtrack and sound effects. Voice acting is of great quality.
You will be coming back for more BioShock 2. The multiplayer is a fun addition to the package. Awesome.
Final Score




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