The original Bioshock was one of the best games of the last decade. Sure, it looked fantastic and had gameplay that was as well executed as it was unique, but it was the immersive setting and exceptional story that made the game not only stand out from the crowd, but a truly memorable title. So naturally, any developer who was tasked to work on the inevitable sequel and be forced to live up to such a high standard was walking into hell. That is to say, it’s no easy task to develop a sequel that lives up to the quality of the original game, let alone one that is so successful and highly acclaimed. But alas, we now have Bioshock 2, a highly ambitious title trying to live up to a highly unobtainable standard. So does Bioshock 2 succeed? Let’s find out.
The story in Bioshock 2 begins in 1958, but really starts ten years later. You play as a Big Daddy, one of the enemies from the first game who played the role of the lumbering protector of the ADAM-harvesting Little Sisters (to those of you who never played Bioshock 1, sorry if none or this makes sense). However, you’re not just any Big Daddy, you’re the first Big Daddy to be bonded to a Little Sister, which makes you one of the first Big Daddies in general (but not the absolute first, as was advertised). Anyway, unlike the other Big Daddies, you’re bonded to one and only one Little Sister. But something happens to you in 1958 and you wake up ten years later in 1968, separated from your Little Sister and in an entirely new Rapture. That is to say, one that has fallen into chaos, from which a new order has emerged. With that in mind, your objective is to venture through the city of Rapture to reunite with your Little Sister.
Just once, I wanted a Little Sister to call me “Mr. Bubbles” but NOOO!!! They had to shorten it to “Mr. B” instead
On its own, I would say that the story in Bioshock 2 is slightly above average. However, comparing it to the story in the original Bioshock is like comparing Chips Ahoy to homemade chocolate-chip cookies: while the former is good, the later is much more delicious. Yes, Bioshock 2 has a solid, personal narrative, but it’s clear-cut, which strips away a level of intrigue that led to such great plot twists in Bioshock 1. Yes, the characters in Bioshock 2, such as the primary antagonist, Sophia Lamb, and the guiding character, Augustus Sinclair, are complex and enjoy speaking in high-brow language and metaphors (with good voice acting to boot), so they’re well-done to say the least. However, neither of those two holds a candle to Andrew Ryan or Atlas from Bioshock 1, and comparing the supporting casts from both games would end in the same result. And yes, the world of Rapture is still immersive with a well-executed atmosphere and great lore, but it doesn’t have the same “wow factor” in Bioshock 2 that it had in Bioshock 1. The point is, while Bioshock 2’s story is good, it doesn’t live up to the bar set by the original Bioshock (especially the last section of Bioshock 2).
Where Bioshock 2 does live up to the original though, is in the gameplay department. The sequel is still an FPS with some RPG elements here and there, as well as some exploration of levels that makes the game less linear than your typical shooter. Additionally, weapons can be upgraded (there are new weapons by the way, which include Big Daddy gear like the Drill and Rivet Gun) and tonics give you certain traits, both of which allow for some character customization. Most of Bioshock 1’s gameplay features return, but some major changes have been made to two of them. First, Plasmids, genetically produced powers that are a staple in the series, can now be wielded simultaneously with weapons, allowing for more variety by adding new strategies to combat. Secondly, while the moral choice about Little Sisters returns, the “Save” option from the first game is given only after you adopt a Little Sister first. When you adopt one, you’ll take the Little Sister to certain bodies to gather ADAM. This leads to massive fights, but they are all fun and challenging (especially since Vita Chambers don’t affect these, so you’ll have to start over completely if you die). Certainly these changes, along with the returning elements, give Bioshock 2 solid gameplay that equals the gameplay in Bioshock 1.
The Big Sisters are challenging enemies in Bioshock 2.
Bioshock 2 does make a major addition to the series though, and that’s a multiplayer component. The addition of this raised a lot of controversy among fans, as although many fans clamored for it, more believed that the addition of multiplayer would take away from the single player portion of the game. While the later party now has a strong case, as the sequel’s story didn’t live up to the original, let me just say that you’re still buying Bioshock 2 for the single player; the multiplayer is just there for those of you who want to blast your friends with plasmids from time to time (as in online friends, because there’s no local multiplayer). But how does the multiplayer stack up in general regardless? Unfortunately, Bioshock 2 loses a lot of its identity in multiplayer. While things like tonics and weapon upgrading make Bioshock 2’s single player unique, when translated into multiplayer, they’re the same thing as perks and weapon mods in Call of Duty. In fact, while Bioshock 2’s multiplayer follows the standard “Call of Duty multiplayer” formula that a lot of game use nowadays, Bioshock 2 seems to offer less tonics, weapon upgrades, and whatnot than other multiplayer offerings. Therefore, the only things that keep Bioshock 2’s multiplayer unique are plasmids and the ability to play as a Big Daddy if you’re doing well in a match (you play as a normal person in multiplayer, so you have the guns from Bioshock 1, but can still use them simultaneously with plasmids), but those two alone aren’t enough to make Bioshock 2’s multiplayer really stand out. There’s also some plot set-up too, but it never amounts to anything, so it’s negligible. So really, what you’re left with is a generic multiplayer experience with leveling up, standard modes, perks, etc, Bioshock-style.
Finally, there’s the graphical side of Bioshock 2. The game still looks good, and even though I said the “wow factor” was lessened this time around, the environments are still varied and well designed. However, the game does run on the same engine as Bioshock 1, which wouldn’t be a problem normally, except that very few improvements were made. Thus, the sequel looks good, but not much better than the original. Despite that though, I didn’t find any lag or bugs in my playthrough, but those issues could exist. Still, the game is well done from the technical standpoint, but more graphical improvements should have been made.
Bioshock 2 is one of those games that should be viewed on its own accolades, but it isn’t going to be. That is to say, the story can stand on its own well enough, but it’s going to be compared to Bioshock 1, and it’s not going to look as good. However, it’s not as though the story in Bioshock is fantastic in the first place; it’s good but not fantastic. Other than that, Bioshock 2 has solid gameplay and looks good, but the multiplayer is generic, if not lacking the substance found in other multiplayer offerings, and the graphics haven’t been updated that much since Bioshock 1 and it shows. But overall, Bioshock 2 is still a good game, it’s just lost some of that extra something that its predecessor had. If you’re a fan of the original, I would still recommend picking this game up. However, if you’re new to the series and are trying to choose between Bioshock 1 and Bioshock 2, I’d go with the original, not just so that you’ll understand the plot on the sequel, but also because the original is the better game by far. That’s not to say that the Bioshock series is necessarily a one-trick pony, but if Bioshock 2 proves anything, it’s that the most unique experienced are the hardest to replicate. While it can’t hold a candle to the original, try and view Bioshock 2 on its own, because it’s still a good game through and through.
+ A good story, solid and unique gameplay, and good-looking setting, coupled with the series’ immersive world and lore, make Bioshock 2 a great gaming experience
– The story pails in comparison to its predecessor and there’s been very little graphical updates, both of which (especially the former) prevent Bioshock 2 from having that extra something special that the original Bioshock had. Additionally, the multiplayer offering in Bioshock 2, while good, is generic and isn’t quite as large as the multiplayer in some other games