Bioshock 2 3-Years Later Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: January 2, 2014
No city has but a single story, so it should not be surprising to return to Rapture, the underwater city of Bioshock in its sequel. What does not return in BioShock 2 is most of its predecessor's characters, which is understandable when you consider how many were killed in the course of the game. Instead of Jack, seeking to return to the world above the waves, we play as Subject Delta, one of the oldest Big Daddies with a less than happy past, shall we say.
Like other Big Daddies, Delta had a Little Sister to look after, but he was murdered to separate them. Ten years later, he has returned from the dead with the singular purpose of being reunited with Eleanor. Luckily he has some help from a few citizens of Rapture, the weapons and Plasmids he can find, and even Eleanor. Hurry to save her.
BioShock 2 is an action FPS with some role-playing to it, like the game before it, as again you craft your character to your playstyle through the selection of Plasmids. Many of these useful gene manipulations have returned from the previous game, but how they are used has been evolved. That will be discussed further in the gameplay section, however. BioShock 2 has been given an M rating from the ESRB for blood, intense violence, strong language, and sexual themes. If such content is not appropriate for you, then chances are this review is not either, so you should probably stop reading it.
Are things best left dead and buried, or shall we dive beneath the waves again to save Eleanor? Time to find out.
BioShock 2 is not going to win awards for its graphics compared to today's titles, but it still stands up quite well. Textures and objects are quite detailed, helping to bring the environment to life, even if Rapture is dead and/or dying around you. Nothing stands out as looking great or looking bad, which is fine for a three-year-old game.
Even though the events of BioShock 2 take place years after the previous game, Rapture seems to be in pretty good condition with many sections well powered and lit. There may be collapsed walls and ceilings in those areas of course, but at least you can see where you are going by the city lights almost the entire time. The rest of the time a flashlight on your suit turns on.
Speaking of your Big Daddy suit, there are a number of sections that take you outside Rapture and onto the ocean floor. There you can see the various colorful flora, as well as some more complicated life forms, including the sea slugs that Adam, the chemical that drives the Plasmids, is harvested from. These sections also give you an interesting look at Rapture, as you are able to take in its grandeur. Up close its decay may be evident, but at a distance it still stands as a wonder of engineering.
Back inside you will find some pools of water and leaks. The leaks are somewhat simple two-dimensional animations that distort your vision as you look or walk through them. Pooled water is definitely more interesting as it reacts nicely to your presence. Your wake as you walk through the fluid spreads out very nicely, disturbing the reflective surface as it travels.
Fire is another common fluid, and thanks to the Incinerate Plasmid, you can summon it just about whenever you want to. The fire is nice and thick, but it can also have a somewhat two-dimensional look to it. (The thick look is coming from its opacity and not a spatial thickness.) Basically whenever the flames are staying in about the same place, they look like an animation on a plane. When the burning subject is moving however, the fire definitely looks more real, as it follows the motion. Of course it would be nice if the fire looked that good the entire time, but we cannot have everything we want. This is definitely close enough for me to be happy though.
Ice is another fairly common element, again thanks to a Plasmid (one of my favorite, as well). To be honest, the effect is not very believable, though in hindsight, that may be a good thing. The layer of ice added to the models is bumpier than I find realistic, making it look more like slush in some places. In other places the large amount of white added to the object is equally unnatural to me. The light distortion the ice adds does look pretty good, though.
So what do I mean by the unbelievable ice possibly being a good thing? When you freeze something, you need to know it is frozen, so you can respond to it accordingly. If the ice was too transparent and too smooth, you may not notice the status of the enemy immediately. By having the ice effect almost appear to be a caricature of actual ice, it is obvious when something is frozen, and that is a good thing. Gameplay trumps realistic graphics.
Performance time, so here are my specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
The game ran perfectly at max settings on my computer, maintaining nearly solid framerates the entire time, with two exceptions and one note. The note is that after freshly loading the game, I would notice the textures streaming in over time. It never took long for the quality textures to appear, but still long enough to notice the load time.
For some reason, BioShock 2 occasionally would abruptly crash to the desktop. I do not know what caused this to happen, but it never happened at the same place twice, so it did not impair my progress. It just meant I would have to repeat myself every now and then.
Another issue I had actually returns from the previous game. For some reason I do not know, after loading a save game or transitioning to a new area, the mouse would no longer behave as it should. It would feel like the sensitivity was turned down and inertia was enabled. After a moment the cursor would return to normal. I am not sure if this is because of the game or my mouse/mouse drivers, but I still mention it, just in case anyone else experiences it.
After three years, BioShock 2 is still a decent to good looking game. It may not stand out from the crowd much, but that does not mean its quality should not be appreciated.
BioShock 2 begins with Delta, your character, being resurrected to start on a quest to save Eleanor, the Little Sister you were tasked to protect so long ago. Delta's focus on this goal is absolute, so you will find yourself continually trudging ahead, as you do in any linear FPS. Every action you make will be to achieve that goal.
Like the previous game, there are choices to be made along the way to the end. Typically these choices are whether you should kill someone who had wronged you in the past or is trying to kill you in the present. The most common choice is if you should rescue or harvest the Little Sisters you find. All of these choices ultimately impact the end of the game, as Eleanor is aware of everything you are doing and learning from it. The kind of person you make Delta is the kind of person Eleanor will become.
Trying to stop you from reaching Eleanor is Sofia Lamb, Eleanor's mother who has taken control of Rapture by offering everyone inclusion in the Family. The purpose of the Family is to protect Eleanor and do whatever Sofia, the matriarch, commands. To explain why Eleanor is so important would spoil the story.
For those who played the original game and enjoyed its story, you may find BioShock 2 disappointing. The previous game featured a somewhat complex story with well-executed twists, but this title is a simple, linear action story. There are no real twists or surprises as you play. Delta just keeps going on in the same direction and whatever happens around him happens around him.
While BioShock 2 may not have a particularly impressive story, it is not a poor story. It is just simple. It also does not relate much to the story of the original game. The setting may be the same and some familiar names may be dropped, but you can consider the stories as separate entities if you wish.
A useful feature of sequels is that they allow mechanics to be evolved and refined, and that is definitely the case here with respect to Plasmids. These are special abilities that can prove very useful in combat. You can set opponents on fire to deal damage, freeze them in ice to make them easy targets, or stun and damage them with electricity. Before, using a Plasmid required you switch away from your more conventional weapon, but Delta is able to hold the weapon in one hand and throw Plasmids with the other. This change has a huge impact in combat, making it much faster paced as that delay when switching is no longer there. Even restoring your Eve, the fuel for Plasmids, is faster now as it no longer requires both hands to do.
No longer having to switch between weapons and Plasmids has had one not-positive impact, however. I cannot say it is a negative impact, but it is slightly annoying to me. The mouse scroll wheel is mapped to cycle through the conventional weapons all the time now, so cycling between Plasmids requires reaching to the function keys. That is not too bad in the beginning of the game, when you only have a few, but by the end you will have to stretch from WASD to F5 or F6, and that is the last thing you want to do in the middle of a fight. Plan ahead is all I can think to say about that. Know what Plasmid you intend to use in upcoming fights and just keep that one ready.
Another change to the Plasmid system, which is definitely welcome, is how the tonics are applied. These passive abilities are no longer grouped by type, so anything can be applied to a tonic slot, making managing them a bit easier.
As before, collecting more Plasmids or upgrading them requires Adam, which you gather from Little Sisters. The gathering process, however, has changed some. You still have to dispatch the guardian Big Daddies before you can get to the Little Sisters, but once that is done you have the option to adopt them. Remember, Delta is a Big Daddy, so he is able to adopt the Little Sisters and protect them while they harvest Adam from corpses. Each one can gather from two corpses found somewhere on the level, and once they do you can either harvest them for all of their Adam, or rescue them from this life.
After dealing with every Little Sister on a level, there is a chance you will meet another guardian of theirs; a Big Sister. These enemies are about as lethal as a Big Daddy and significantly faster. They may not have as much armor, but can hurl fire attacks at you as they leap around your attacks. Never expect a fight with them to be easy, but defeating them does present a nice reward that includes some Adam.
The hacking system has been overhauled in BioShock 2. Now a needle just moves back and forth on a meter, and you have to activate it when the needle is over the correct block before time runs out. This is considerably more approachable than the previous system, and thus a welcome change. You also acquire the ability to fire remote-hacking darts, so you do not need to be near the device you are hacking.
During my playthrough, I rescued every Little Sister and went everywhere I could, resulting in a game time of nine hours and 41 minutes. That is just shy of the apparent ten hour average of many FPS games, but then I may just be an above-average gamer. (Don't worry, I can't hear you laugh at that remark.) There is some replayability to BioShock 2 that can increase game time, as it has multiple endings.
Something I do want to mention before moving on is that throughout my playthrough, Xbox controller buttons were shown next to some menu buttons. I played using a mouse and keyboard, so I am not sure why controller-only buttons were presented to me, except as an indication that this game is a console port.
Additional Gameplay Images:
Should we save Eleanor from the Family and Sofia Lamb, or leave her's and Rapture's fate alone? That depends on how much you enjoy first-person shooters. BioShock 2 offers a solid FPS and fun experience, with many mechanical improvements over the previous game, but is otherwise unremarkable. The story does not stand out and the graphics are aging; aging gracefully, but still aging.
If you are an FPS fan and looking for another title to enjoy, BioShock 2 is a fairly easy recommendation to give with its refined combat mechanics. If you are looking for a game with more story-meat on its bones, then you can probably skip over this, unless you are very interested in all BioShock games.