I have kept this review spoiler free, but please note this does contain spoilers for the first BioShock.
Also, this does not include an online review of the game.
Andrew Ryan - the person behind Rapture, who created this world for ‘no Gods or kings, only man’, beyond the control of governments - has been dead for ten years, but somehow the city is still thriving. Splicers remain; Big Daddies still patrol, and they still have a Little Sister by their side.
There’s an unfamiliar voice running through the city, someone has taken control over these years, and this person is Sophia Lamb, a psychiatrist and a political rival of Ryan in the past.
Where Ryan ran the city for the more shallow ‘we can all do what we want’ side of things, Lamb believes strongly in the people of the city, the community, coming together for ‘the greater good’ as part of what she calls ‘The Family’. It becomes apparent that the many unhinged people of Rapture are in fact following her and her religion, and a strong cult has formed. And while the people of Rapture blindly follow, her true intentions are far darker than you could imagine.
You play a Big Daddy, an early Prototype known only as Delta. You wake up, face down on the grotty floor of Rapture. Not knowing who you are, why you are there and only a very vague idea of how you got there in the first place.
You are the first Big Daddy to have ever gone through the process of ‘bonding’ with a Little Sister, making the bind between you and this one girl – Eleanor - an incredible force to be reckoned with. Your one and only goal it to find this girl, and it seems that nothing that is thrown in your path is enough to stop you from tracking her down.
Delta is not an average Big Daddy, he can use Plasmids. He can in fact duel wield his Plasmid with which ever weapon you choose. Weapons range from the horrifically effective Big Daddy signature drill, to a ‘spear gun’ which brutally and graphically pins targets to walls by their limbs. Weapons and Plasmids can be quickly cycled through and changed pausing combat as you do so, enabling you to deal devastating combinations on the many monsters of Rapture during your travels.
Tonics return but are no longer limited to specific ‘tracks’ and you now any combination of tonics can be used without the limits of them being labelled ‘Physical’ or ‘Engineering’, for example.
The hacking system remains. You can still use the familiar method of zapping and hacking that many had no doubt mastered, but you now come equipped with a hack dart gun, allowing you to hack from a distance. The water pipe mini game has been replaced with a much simpler process – only this no longer pauses combat, occasionally leaving you to hack, whilst being attacked from all angles.
Rapture remains eerily familiar, still beautiful, despite a decade of decay. The constantly unsettling, sinister yet serene atmosphere remains, keeping you on the edge of your seat… be it through awe and wonderment or… abject terror. The city of Rapture is still living and still breathing, still teeming with life ready to kill you in a heartbeat. Yes the Splicers return more twisted and vicious than before, some mutated beyond recognition through years of plasmid and tonic abuse. These Splicers still lurk in groups, with some “fresh” faces amongst them. The game manages to keep things fresh by populating previously explored areas with wandering Splicers, scavenging and bickering amongst their selves. This means that combat is rarely far away and serves to keep you constantly on your toes with nasty surprises and fights that you most likely won’t be prepared for.
The Big Daddies still patrol with their little ones, and just like the first, you will have to take out the protector in order to gain access to the Little Sisters and their ADAM; the vital substance that is what Rapture revolves around, which enables you to enhance yourself with the various Plasmids and Tonics in whichever way you choose.
Only this time, it goes much further than simply getting the Little Sister alone; you have the choice to ‘Adopt’ her. If you wish, you can simply harvest her on the spot for a quick fix of ADAM, but just like the first game, she will not survive this process, but this is the cost of the convenience.
If you choose to adopt the Little Sister, you will carry her and she will lead you to an ADAM-filled corpse, which she will collect from. However, the sweet smell of the ADAM brings all Splicers running, and you must defend your little one while she does her collecting. This can become a detailed process of setting traps, hacking nearby security and taking advantage of your surroundings to defend her and yourself which she does her little duty.
Once done you return her to a vent, where once again you will be given a choice; To rescue her – to save the little girl behind it all, but gain minimum ADAM from the process - or again, to harvest her, to remove maximum ADAM from her for you to splash out with, but killing her in doing so..
Regardless of how you ‘deal’ with these Little Sisters, the second you save or harvest the last little one, a haunting, shrill scream can be heard in the distance. The screaming will send a shiver down your spine like nothing else, and this will continue, getting closer until she finds you. She is a Big Sister. Big Sisters are Little Sisters, all grown up. Looking over and ‘protecting’ the current little ones that have now been forced into the cruel position they once found themselves in all those years back.
Once you are found, the Big Sister will not leave. She will pursue until you – or she – ends up dead. The Big Sisters are much like the Big Daddies, strong, tough, and powerful. Only, on top of that, the Big Sisters have the ability to use Plasmids, and are incredibly agile making a tough fight for even the well equipped.
One aspect that BioShock 2 shares with its predecessor is the feeling of self sufficiency the game creates. Your survival and progression is dependant on you, the Plasmids and Tonic combinations you choose and your inventory. The game makes you use everything effectively. Weapons don’t hold a generous amount of ammunition and a heavy fight can easily leave your favourite weapon ammo-less. Even as a Big Daddy you truly feel like you are fighting and scavenging for survival, which is how the city of Rapture has ran for some time. The feeling of ‘dog eat dog’ is never far away, even the Splicers fight amongst themselves, everything is about survival.
Communication with all characters is still traditionally radio based. And although the game is filled with varying personalities, none of them come close to grasping that brilliant level of passion, insanity and instability that the likes of Sander Cohen did previously. But on another level, all characters will have you questioning their motives after the betrayal witnessed in Rapture first time round.
Where the first game had only one fairly simple, major decision or route that would sway the end of the game, this one has several. Several key decisions that you must make throughout the story will influence how your game ends, on many levels.
While BioShock 2 is overall a brilliant return to Rapture, regardless of the motives and reasoning behind it, it struggles to escape the shadow of its predecessor. It has its own unique, breathtaking moments but it fails to deliver such a wow-factor that was seen back in Ryan’s office. But with Rapture now being a familiar surrounding to many people, would it be unreasonable to expect something to have that same effect all over again? Is it even possible to get such an effect from the follow up to the game that did this so well before? Perhaps the anticipation and expectations left by the first is in fact what makes BioShock 2 the tense, mysterious and fantastic experience that it is.
I know I am not a strong reviewer. I am trying to improve so please leave your criticisms, they are actually highly appreciated. I don't know how to improve if people don't tell me, so please feel free to share your thoughts! Thanks!