BioShock 2 (PlayStation 3) review
"Those who don't care for First Person Shooters should probably look elsewhere, as it can make an unprepared person dizzy and aggravated. I highly recommend “Bioshock 2.” "
I won't ruin the story of "Bioshock 2" for you, but playing the original "Bioshock: will help with some of the background. Suffice to say that it takes place in a post-apocalyptic, underwater city called Rapture, within an alternate history of the U.S. in the 1950s, which feels not too different from the Fallout universe. The aesthetic of the game could be loosely described as "steampunk," in light of the fact that there is an emphasis both on advanced technologies such as computers and robotics, and also on everything having a kind of low-tech feel to it, as if the machines might break down at any moment. The atmosphere is thus ominous and surreal, since much of the area you'll be exploring has been abandoned. Because much of the shock value from the game comes through its subtle use of lighting, you'll happen upon great surprises as you make your way through an journey with a look like no other game.
As you might have already gathered, "Bioshock 2" is somewhat of a survival horror first-person shooter, and this sense becomes even more pronounced as you amp up the difficulty level. I played the game through on "hard" mode, and was disheartened to find very little ammunition and supplies, meaning that every bullet had to count. Luckily, you can toggle through the three difficulty levels from the "pause" menu at any time in case things ever get too difficult or too easy. Those who have played other successful FPS' such as "Half Life" will feel more or less at home here, but "Bioshock 2" contains enough unique elements to set it apart from any other series in the genre. The grotesque nature of everything you see in Rapture will clue you into the “survival horror” subtext, which might remind a seasoned gamer of “Silent Hill.”
One gameplay mechanic which you'll notice first in Bioshock 2 is the ability to use two different kinds of attacks, which are assigned to the left and right trigger buttons of the PS3 controller. On one side, your character uses his standard weapon. These range from the default electric drill (a melee weapon like the chainsaw in "Doom") to all kinds of firearms, including a shotgun, a minigun, and a grenade launcher. To add depth, every weapon in the game has three types of ammo which you can alternate between using the d-pad. For yet more depth, you'll find "power to the people" machines throughout the game which allow you to upgrade your weapons in limited quantities. A fully upgraded weapon becomes a powerful killing tool indeed. Your other kind of attack is called a "plasmid," which is Bioshock 2's version of "magical attack." These tie into the story and involve genetic mutations, but the gist of it is that plasmids allow you to perform ranged attacks using EVE (or "MP", represented by a blue bar) which could include anything from freezing or igniting enemies, to moving objects around with your mind (telekinesis), to confusing enemies so that they attack each other instead of you. Like the weapons, you can also upgrade your plasmids, which just makes the game more interesting as you progress.
"Bioshock 2" is quite unlike other FPS games in that it has a currency system. Although it isn't an RPG by any stretch of the imagination, you do collect money as you kill bad guys and traverse the city, which allow you to buy upgrades and items at vending machines. In fact, one major aspect of excelling in this game is having a keen eye for twinkly, useful objects scattered around the environment. The more you collect, the better your chances will be of fending off whatever opponents come your way. Aside from American dollars, there is another form of currency in the game called “Adam.” You collect this red, gooey substance by defeating bosses, gathering it from special enemies, and keeping your eyes open. Adam is even more useful than money, as it allows you to buy gene upgrades, the real essence of building your character's abilities in the game. “Gene tonics” are passive abilities which, when equipped, give you certain advantages, and like with everything else in the game, there is a huge range of these; they include everything from HP/EVE additions to being able to move more quickly. The game gives you a great deal of freedom in allowing you to choose which upgrades to buy. There isn't enough “Adam” in the game to vest equally in everything, so you'll end up concentrating on certain weapons, plasmids, and gene tonics in order to best suit your playing style.
One ubiquitous activity in the game which is going to seem new to folks who didn't play the first game is “hacking.” Even those who did play “Bioshock” will find that the hacking this time around has been changed. Vending machines, health stations, safes, and security bots can all be hacked. There are very few times when you will need to use the hacking activity, but it's so much fun that I can't see why anyone wouldn't want to. Hacking is a kind of mini-game which involves stopping a needle at exactly the right time, as it bounces back and forth across its meter. If you succeed, you'll win an item or take over an enemy security bot (which will join you in fighting the enemies), but the consequences can be severe if you fail a hack, so you'll have to be careful. Of course, there are gene tonics which assist you in hacking as well, plus you'll collect “auto-hack darts” somewhat rarely, which instantly hack any machine without you having to perform the operation yourself. This is yet another part of “Bioshock 2” which makes it unlike any other game available right now.
Like with many games, the flow of play here is somewhat formulaic. You fight rooms full of enemies, scour their bodies, and any nearby cabinets, crates, cylinders, and so on for items; you'll fight bosses, basque in the victory, and continue with that pattern until the game is done. You'll learn about the story and characters as you move through the story, and the game does deepen significantly the more items, plasmids, weapon upgrades, and gene tonics you acquire. Thankfully, the overall mood is excellent, due in large part to the graphics and art design. There isn't much to complain about regarding the visuals, except for maybe that things can be a bit dark at times. Still, the shadow effects look excellent, and some of the occasional blandness in the textures is mostly forgiven by the creative architecture of the city. There is almost a disturbed circus vibe in certain parts, although I also noticed traces of “Max Payne” and a significant dose of “Fallout.” The voice acting and sound effects also complement the ambiance nicely. I'd even say that collecting the radio recordings, which allow both insights into the plot and potential access to secrets, are an accent well worth mentioning insofar as the audio is concerned.
The bottom line here is that “Bioshock 2” is an excellent game. It's on sale these days for $20, and no, I don't work for anyone remotely connected to the video-game industry. The reasons for its less-than-perfect rating are: length, as the game runs for around 10 hours or less, and monotony, since you will have to backtrack and fidget more than you'd like; plus, once you grasp the game's overarching pattern, it can suddenly seem a bit flat. Still, this review won't convey the experience of actually playing it, so I recommend even renting the title if you think it would be worthwhile. Although it contains elements which wouldn't be out of place in an RPG, such as the ability to power up weapons, to buy items, and acquire powerups, this one knows precisely which genre it fits into. Those who don't care for First Person Shooters should probably look elsewhere, as it can make an unprepared person dizzy and aggravated. I highly recommend “Bioshock 2.”
Community review by ender (March 12, 2011)
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