Today I’ve picked a bit of a controversial game to review. The Bioshock franchise is generally pretty well appreciated, but the second instalment is, for many players, a low point. But I… didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it was absolutely an enjoyable experience and I would play through it again. No, I’m not biased by the fact that one of the characters shares my name (yes I absolutely am).
In Bioshock 2, the player character is one of the first games enemies: a Big Daddy. Subject Delta, the protagonist, has been awoken after a long time by his Little Sister, Eleanor, and the other Little Sisters. The main plotline of the game revolves around Delta making his way back to Eleanor to rescue her.
Like the first game, Bioshock 2 takes place in the underwater city of Rapture, a city driven to ruin by a substance called ADAM that enables people to acquire powers including telekinesis and lightning. Also like its predecessor, Bioshock 2 offers a massive range of different weapons that the player collects through the game, and most of the information about the characters and the game world is found through locating items.
Criticisms of Bioshock 2 often focus on the similarities between the first and second games. I do agree that the first two games are pretty similar in tone and, of course, setting and mechanics, but there are many different play styles to a game like this, so it doesn’t have to be repetitive unless you make it repetitive. The variety of weapons means you can choose to focus on smaller, faster weapons, or the more heavy duty alternatives. There’s also the choice between focusing on guns or focusing on the Plasmids as your main attack. The second game also introduces new enemy types. As the character is playing as what was previously the boss enemy, a new boss with a completely different style, the Big Sister, is introduced. Where the Big Daddies are lumbering, heavy-handed giants, the Big Sisters are nimble, agile fighters. There are also new varieties of ‘splicer’ enemies (the standard, ADAM-addicted remnants of Rapture’s population) added to the second game, so in the enemy department, I do think that the second game builds well on the first.
The main element of this game that I didn’t enjoy, and in fact found very irritating, was the Little Sister harvesting ADAM. Towards the end of the game, this element is introduced. While the Little Sister you are guarding harvests ADAM, you have to defend her from an awful lot of Splicers. I found this part of the game next to impossible, and found it frustrating as every time you die, the encounter is reset (minus your ammo), so you have to faff about collecting the ammo that’s spawned and fighting every enemy again. Sometimes this is an optional way to get bonus ADAM, and sometimes the game forces you into it.
There is also a brief period in this game where you get the chance to play as a Little Sister, which I thought was a pretty fun addition to the game. It also offered a bit of a respite from all the fighting, which is pretty relentless in Bioshock 2, and did put me off a bit from exploring different areas for fear of getting caught in a difficult fight. As a result, I probably missed out on a fair amount of the extra items that tended to be hidden away in side rooms.
Like the first game, the ending of Bioshock 2 depends on the moral choices the player makes along the way. This was a bit predictable after the first game, but I do appreciate the game having different endings depending on the choices. Having bad moral choices lead to a negative ending offers an incentive to be nice, but to materially lose out somewhat in the game. Seeing as both the moral and immoral choices can lead to a Big Sister spawning to attack you, the only benefit to taking the ‘good’ route is feeling better about yourself, as you could find and watch the good ending on YouTube I expect if you were interested.
Overall, I did enjoy Bioshock 2, and there was only really the one element with the Little Sister guarding that I disliked that wasn’t something I didn’t enjoy from the first game carried over into this one. I do understand the criticism that Bioshock 2 is very similar to the first game and was a lot of fan service, but I enjoyed the first game, and I enjoyed the second game too. As long as you don’t think too hard about the continuity between the two games, it works for me. The city of Rapture is a great setting for a game, so extra exploration of the city was never going to be an issue for me. If you want first person shooter games with the added interest of ~moral choices~ then the Bioshock games are a good bet.