I’ll admit it: it was with some resemption that I went down in the underwater world of Rapture for a second time. Although I was never completely convinced by the gunplay in the original game, its unique setting and atmosphere were not easy to forget. Therefore I feared to get disappointed with the sequel which I thought would be populated by stronger but boring opponents and poised by the need for multiplayer.
Of course your first steps are taken with less astonishment than when you got to see a Big Daddy take on a Splicer for the very first time, or when you suddenly were in the middle of the ocean and approached Rapture from the outside. Also most gameplay elements are back in improved and evolved form. Ten years later the world has become even more scary and hostile and the inhabitants now seem completely mutated into unrecognisable monsters. Subtle details are often traded in for brute violence, but it does work.
The graphics are still beautiful and very atmospheric and you still have the feeling you’re inside a huge aquarium that’s slowly but steadily deteriorating while being cut off from the outside world and the devs didn’t save on the details that whisper what has happened in this terrible place before. The locations’ art design is again some of the best we’ve seen recently and also the voicing impresses. Not unimportant is the fact that this time there’s more room to test all plasmids and weapons and combine them while being stuck a lot less with that one favorite combination.
This is mostly due to the fact that the devs really did some good thinking on the course of the gameplay, the variation between quietly “exploring” and chaotic overwhelming combat, added a nice portion of coincidence, and nicely built everything into this universe. In this sequel after all you get into the skin of a Big Daddy prototype which allows you to use your weapons and powers at the same time, something you often get the chance for to do as you quickly find out what happens after discovering the precious and genetics-manipulating Adam and putting down your Little Sister: the Splicers go mad and you’ll hear them coming close from beforehand.
Nerve wrecking! From that moment on it’s up to you to put up as many traps as possible (ice, oil, water, electricity, … the surroundings perfectly lend themselves for these) and then wait for all hell to beak loose. Those that manage to survive the first slaughter will be welcomed by you and your drill or other toys to finish them off. That drill is actually a very satisfying piece of equipment but we do have to note that despite the progress, more specialised FPS games still manage to have somewhat better gameplay when it comes to shooting and controls. Not that this tampers with the fun, but I doubt hardcore Halo or Modern Warfaer gamers will be very impressed with the controls and the slower pace which luckily gets ramped up a bit in the seven multiplayer modes.
Focus is this time more on action, but with more variation and the opportunity to make your wildest dreams come true (no, not the sexual ones, ed.), enemies that vary from larger groups of cannon fodder to stronger Splicers, still dangerous Big Daddys and the mother of all problems: Big Sisters. Especially the latter will cost you blood, sweat and tears as their combination of speed, power and endurance will require all your skill.
I did miss a bit the sometimes extremely original storylines and complete filosophy from the first game, but that doesn’t mean this sequel doesn’t have any surprises and immersive stories of its own. On top of that the ending is a lot less “what the fuck” in the good sense! In exchange for the big plot twist of the original you now don’t get some cliché end fight with a suddenly mutated super soldier.
Those that would have liked some more background info in this review because they haven’t played the first game, I can only recommend to play the predecessor as you’ll enjoy this sequel a lot more when you’ve finished the first Bioshock.
A new adventure that manages to book enough progress in gameplay, creates an immersive story in a still fascinating world and most of impresses in storytelling, design, characters, graphics and musical presentation. Don’t let the fact that Bioshock 2 didn’t become the creative nautical atom bomb the first game was stop you to dive into the world of Rapture for a second time.