BioShock 2 Xbox 360
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: 2K Marin, 2K Australia, 2K China
One of the best games to date on the Xbox 360 is BioShock. The game had an incredibly rich atmosphere and a distinctive Art Deco look that helped to make the game quite unlike anything else that had come before. Whilst it's only natural that we would see a sequel for this 2007 classic, a sequel is potentially awkward seeing as BioShock was pretty much a complete experience by itself and didn't leave much, if anything, unresolved. Thankfully BioShock 2 does a good job in not being superfluous however and manages to improve on some aspects of the original game.
Whilst the single-player game, which is set around ten years after the events in BioShock, retains a lot of the concepts from the original game (you can read our review here) it's also quite different in that it puts you in the rather large shoes of one of the first Big Daddies, known as Subject Delta. If you've played BioShock you'll know that a Big Daddy is bound to a Little Sister. As luck would have it, Subject Delta's Little Sister happens to be the daughter of the maniacal Sophia Lamb, Eleanor Lamb. Andrew Ryan, the head of Rapture in BioShock, is no longer around of course, but Sophia Lamb is one nasty enemy who is out to rid Rapture of Subject Delta. Subject Delta on the other hand is desperate to reunite with his Little Sister, Eleanor. Sophia has almost the entire population of Rapture on her side however and Subject Delta's life is certainly going to be as far from easy as it could possibly be.
The single-player experience isn't as novel this time around. It's a linear but enjoyable experience as you'll take The Atlantic Express from one destination to another, always progressing forward along the route of the Express. You'll be exploring some of the oldest parts of Rapture which are linked by the Express. Essentially you'll do what you have to do in a given location and head back to the Express to move forward to your destination. Of course it's not quite as straightforward as you might think as you'll come across obstacles that have to be overcome before you can leave one Express station for another. Then of course you have the enemies such as Big Daddies, the wonderfully agile Big Sisters and an assortment of rather wild splicers. The enemies are much more aggressive this time around so you'll need to be prepared, especially for the battles with some of the stronger enemies in the game.
Where BioShock 2 really shines is in its experience as a shooter. The FPS experience is certainly better here than it was in BioShock. The controls feel better and dual wielding is now possible with weapons used by the right hand and plasmid powers consigned to the left. This certainly opens up quite a few strategic possibilities and it makes the combat much more enjoyable. There's a variety of weapons, including a useful hacking tool, although it has to be said that the default weapon, the drill, isn't as satisfying as you might think and I only used it as a last resort (however it's rather useful for removing certain obstacles). The weapons can be upgraded and you'll also come across a variety of ammunition for some weapons which further increases your tactical options in a very satisfactory way.
BioShock 2 isn't all about slaughtering enemies however and there are several moral choices that are thrown your way during the course of the game. Most of these are concerning the Little Sisters in the game. When you find a Little Sister you have the option of adopting, harvesting or rescuing them. If you adopt her, she'll harvest ADAM (a valuable resource in the game) from the various corpses in Rapture. This makes her a target for the splicers however and it will be your job to protect her. Harvesting the Little Sister will kill her and give you a generous dose of ADAM. Rescuing her will restore her to a normal little girl and she'll escape through one of the many vents scattered around Rapture. Your reward for rescuing the Little Sisters comes later on in the game but you won't receive the ADAM boosts for this action so it's up to you as to whether you want an immediate reward or one that's given fairly late on.
BioShock was only a single-player experience but BioShock 2 comes with seven multiplayer game types, with support for up to ten players, as you get to battle it out in the fall of Rapture. In fact you'll recognise several locations from the original BioShock. The seven game types are BioShock variations of standard multiplayer game types. In fact it's pretty impressive just how many BioShock concepts have been included into these standard game types to make them feel unique. You'll eventually get to configure up to three different loadouts for your online character and the persistent levelling feature means you'll want to keep coming back for more. All things considered, the online multiplayer is a surprisingly solid addition to the series that manages to compensate for the single-player game not being quite so impressive as it was in BioShock.
Graphically, BioShock 2 looks great. Naturally you're getting the same Art Deco styled environments that gave BioShock its own unique look although BioShock 2 is set in the older parts of Rapture and there's quite a lot of it that's in a rather poor state. Rapture is still an impressive looking universe however and BioShock 2 has to go down as one of the most impressive looking games of this console generation, at least from an artistic point of view. The frame rate remains smooth throughout and the load times are decent even when the game hasn't been installed to the hard drive.
BioShock 2 is subtitled and there are options to enable both Art and Dialogue subtitles. Unfortunately, you can't enable them before starting a new game. Thankfully you won't miss out on too much dialogue before the subtitles can be enabled. All of the important dialogue in the game is subtitled with character portraits and names accompanying the text. The recorded messages that you'll find scattered around, which help to add to the game's storyline, are subtitled. At certain points in the game you'll have a time limit and thankfully a countdown does appear on screen to signify that you can't afford to hang around as well as showing you how much time you have left. There is some peripheral dialogue that's not subtitled and whilst none of it is really important, it does mean that deaf gamers will miss out on some of the game's eerie ambience. The short movie clips that play when you acquire a plasmid are also not subtitled. Your objectives and other pieces of important information are shown in text and you're always alerted when you're given a new goal. The game's tutorial messages are delivered via text and the game does a good job of providing you with tutorial information when it's needed so you're never swamped with too much information at any point.
I don't think anyone could claim that the single-player game manages to capture the same atmosphere and intensity of the original BioShock but having said that, it's still more than good enough and it's definitely a solid addendum to the events of the original game. It also has to said that the combat definitely feels better in BioShock 2 and that's certainly a welcome improvement. Of course you also have the added bonus of a respectable multiplayer component to consider too and when you take all of this into consideration it has to be said that BioShock 2 is a fine sequel. On the whole then, it may not be as immersive a single-player experience as the original BioShock but when you take the game as a whole, BioShock 2 is a great game that will not only appeal to fans of the original but others too (and if you haven't played the original game, it will certainly make you want to).