Bioshock 2, by all rights, should not exist. A sequel to a game that did not require one, made by a completely separate bunch of teams, featuring, of all things, a multiplayer component. It is a sequel crafted in the style of a fan-made expansion pack, featuring all the things that made the original Bioshock special, but these unique features have now been expanded upon in ways that cause their core values to cheapen.
Take, for instance, the mechanic of either rescuing or harvesting little sisters. In the first Bioshock, it was a genuinely interesting mechanic, as your action had an immediate effect, which was that you either saved a girl’s life, or destroyed her entirely. Bioshock 2 takes this idea, and attempts to expand upon it, to little success; with the developers apparently deciding that gathering ADAM from corpses would be a fun thing to do. It essentially amounts to rapture tower defence, with a slow moving reticule and limited ammo.
It’s here where my one major complaint towards Bioshock 2 emerges. It just isn’t fun as a shooter, which is what it’s trying to be, with an expanded arsenal that feels better to use, but still doesn’t make you feel like the threat you should feel akin to when you are a Big Daddy, arguably the most fearsome enemy in the original game. Surely this would lead you to believe that you are the perfect killing machine? The game seemingly explains this with one simple word; “prototype”, as, if you were just a regular Big Daddy, it would all be far too easy, so in fact you are what amounts to the test run, before they had worked out all of the kinks in the design. Or so you would think, as this game suffers from what I like to call “Devil May Cry Syndrome”, as in the opening cinematic, you are a veritable smorgasbord of fury, charging through foes with your drill (in first person), and laying the proverbial smack down on all comers. Which is why the combat feels so limp, as you expect yourself to be able to destroy everyone with one fell swoop, and feel like the ultimate badass in the process. Instead, you play a fallen giant, a neutered colossus, and the game suffers as a result.
However, it is not to say that Bioshock 2 is a bad game, with stunning visuals (especially in those moments when you traverse the ocean floor, with one particular vista looking rather stunning indeed), and generally good sound design all around, with well acted dialogue and a great script, but the world of rapture just feels generally lifeless this time around, though it is still atmospheric. It’s as if you are going through a haunted house for the second time, you know where and when all the shocks are going to come, and some of them may still catch you off guard, but there’s still a general feeling on ennui, as it’s all been done before, and better. So really, it’s all just a bit disappointing.
Note: I did not try the multiplayer component, and do not intend to. The shooting mechanics in the main game to me do not feel like they could in all possibility give such a mode any replay value in the slightest, but my score remains unaffected by it at any rate. I’ll leave the multiplayer analysis to somebody that enjoys that sort of thing. Also, I reviewed the PS3 version.