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BioShock 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

BioShock 2 (Xbox 360) review


"BioShock is the game that never needed a sequel, but this is the video game industry we're talking about, so we got one when the game sold well. BioShock 2 had an uphill battle to overcome, since BioShock had such an original setting, with an entertaining plot and good gameplay to back it up. Obviously, there were concerns, especially when it was revealed players would be returning to the underwater utopia turned madhouse, Rapture. Was it even possible to squeeze out any more from this ci..."



BioShock is the game that never needed a sequel, but this is the video game industry we're talking about, so we got one when the game sold well. BioShock 2 had an uphill battle to overcome, since BioShock had such an original setting, with an entertaining plot and good gameplay to back it up. Obviously, there were concerns, especially when it was revealed players would be returning to the underwater utopia turned madhouse, Rapture. Was it even possible to squeeze out any more from this city that forever remained in the 1950s, in design, fashion, and mind frame? My worries subsided a little when we were told that the playable character this time would be a Big Daddy. The short experience of becoming one in the first title was definitely an interesting one, and I was curious to see what it would be like for an entire game. At this point in time, BioShock 2 showed me a small glimmer of hope that it could be a good sequel.

That hope quickly faded within the first hour of playing. After an opening sequence where the protagonist, the Big Daddy called Delta, is forced to blow his brains out in front of his Little Sister, he awakens ten years later, thus beginning the simple plot of rescuing his Little Sister. Seriously, that's the story of BioShock 2. So, after getting up, I was reintroduced to Rapture. Well... it looked like Rapture, but it didn't feel like the Rapture I loved exploring in BioShock. It has the same deco art design, the same crazy, hopeless inhabitants that want nothing but to destroy and loot me, same tunnel tubes, and, of course, the much beloved audio diaries. It really does try to mimic the first game in nearly every aspect, right down to the first plasmid received and how to use it on a group standing in water. Hell, it's even disturbing how similar its plot flow is with its predecessor. The only difference is that BioShock 2's main antagonist, Sofia Lamb (the woman responsible for making Delta shoot himself), just doesn't compare to Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. She attempts, but merely comes off as a decent "successor".

The biggest issue with BioShock 2 is that it's content with being a copy of BioShock, with minor adjustments. Sadly, it doesn't even do a good job at being a copy, since it's lacking that special feeling the first one had. In BioShock, every time I stepped into a new area, it was a hell of a sight: the tour I got at the start showing Rapture in all its ghostly beauty, the run down Farmer's Market with red lights from security cameras illuminating the corners, and Arcadia's plant life displaying its dominance over the desolate hallways. BioShock 2's environments blend with one another too much to notice anything significant. There's a cute museum where I knocked Ryan's robotic head off several times, a neat diner a bit later, and a freaky area towards the end, but the majority of this new Rapture consist of small rooms and apartments with next to no imagination. I think it's very telling that the concept art, which is shown during the ending credits, is more creative.

The actual gameplay isn't that bad, because it, too, retains the original's to a t. But, due to the blandness of the surroundings and the nearly non-existent plot (and I ended up tuning in and out to most audio diaries), it was hard to be motivated into finishing the game. It tried wooing me, though, by introducing new enemies and changes. However, I did feel cheated when I saw one of the Brutes, raging gorillas that used to be black men (?!), since they look and react exactly like Tanks from the Left 4 Dead series. The Big Sisters, thankfully, fared better, putting up nasty fights the rare times they made appearances, flipping around everywhere, then throwing fire and objects at me. I also liked that acquiring Adam is more of a challenge this time around; after killing Big Daddies, I had to take their Little Sisters to specific dead bodies, then fend off the onslaught of enemies that suddenly appeared while the girls grabbed Adam from the bodies.

While some of the new additions are nice, they're nothing that makes the original game obsolete. BioShock 2's single player mode as a whole is nothing earth-shattering, I should say. It does improve right at the end, but by then, it's too late. Some cool twists and gameplay elements get introduced during that time, and while they made me go "wow", I also wondered why the rest of the game wasn't this thrilling. Surprisingly, there was one aspect of BioShock 2, an aspect I thought the game didn't need, saved the entire product from being a disappointment: The multiplayer. It's nothing special, honestly, giving us basic playlists like deathmatch, capture the flag (sister), and capture points. There's also no bs ranked and player sections, and it features a simple upgrade system rewarding players with weapons and plasmids. It's one of the more pleasant multiplayer experiences I've had on the Xbox 360, since it cuts out all the garbage most multiplayer modes include in favor for a simple, fun experience. I certainly wouldn't spend $60 just for this one mode, however...

You know, maybe that's what should have been the solution for the game that never needed a sequel: A multiplayer expansion pack. I'm not one to believe that multiplayer modes make everything better (Red Faction: Guerrilla is a good example), but in this case, it could have been a great addition to the original. Better than buying a watered down version of the first game.

Rating: 6/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (February 15, 2010)

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Suskie posted February 15, 2010:

I'm glad you didn't use the lazy old "more like an expansion pack than a sequel" routine here; that's a phrase I've already seen in several reviews for this game alone, and it's one I'm frankly sick of. I like the conclusion you came to about BioShock working better as a standalone game, and that a multiplayer expansion was really all it needed. I liked the game more than you did, but while I'm seeing some improvements most people apparently aren't, I agree that it by and large does nothing for the franchise, at least until the end, like you said. Good review, overall.

Myself... honestly, the fact that you can now turn off vita chambers and dual-wield weapons and plasmids has really made the combat more enjoyable for me. It's still got a lot of the same problems the first one had (namely the awful pacing), but the underwhelming plot and recycled environments are canceled out by the entertaining combat, in my mind. If these tiny adjustments had been made for the first BioShock, it would have been a much better game.

Although I hear the people would played it on PS3 had the option to turn vita chambers off. Lucky them.
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pickhut posted February 16, 2010:

Hmm, I never really did have any issues with the Vita Chambers in either game, since I would just reload my recent save after dying. But I guess I can see the convenience for some players to have it disabled.

Thanks for the comments on the review.
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Lewis posted February 16, 2010:

"raging gorillas that used to be black men"

Where in the blinking crikey did you get this from?

Suskie: But it does feel more like an expansion pack than a sequel.

Your feelings kinda echo mine, Pikhut. For me, the excellent final couple of hours made me more enamoured to the game than you seem to be, but those first five or six were such an underwhelming slog. The combat, though, I did find to be better, particularly when doing the harvest missions. I gave it a 7 at the place I reviewed it, which I'd stick by.
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pickhut posted February 16, 2010:

One of the Brutes had a diary on him, who happened to be black. Also, one of the concept art shows a black Brute in a bellhop suit.
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Masters posted February 16, 2010:

Great review pickhut. Great insights delivered in the most succinct and no-frills manner possible. I also agree with everything you said. ^_^
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pickhut posted February 16, 2010:

Thanks!

I didn't think I would get this many comments. Or any. >_>
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aschultz posted February 25, 2010:

Big picture stuff--I liked this review too.

Cranky RotWer-proofreader sentence-level stuff:

The only thing about this review that made me grumble was the over-colloquialism e.g. "a hell of a sight" combined with fluffy words and sentences like "The actual gameplay isn't that bad, because it, too, retains the original's to a t." or "It really does try to mimic the first game in nearly every aspect." "Gameplay" is one of those abstract nouns that give a general idea but it's more like a rating than a feel for the game, and "to a t" is the sort of thing I dislike. The second sentence has 2 adverbs that can just GO, and it seems better broken down into a few examples (which you already have) and ways in which BioShock 2 doesn't imitate it. The next paragraph sort of destroys the meaning of this sentence as you point out some differences and why you don't think that's enough.

The editor's pen probably comes down too heavily here, but my impression is that it'd work even better to say straight out that you're glad you stuck around the mediocre game til the end. There's a bit of "he said she said" pong between what you don't like and like, and that's important to observe, but a series of observations will make for a good review if not a great one. That said, your claim that multiplayer is what makes BioShock work, and that the $60 expansion pack is not worth it, is good. Maybe you could have a teaser for that in the first paragraph?
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pickhut posted February 25, 2010:

I really don't see the added benefit of mentioning it in the beginning, since it works either way, so I'm fine the way it is.

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