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Old 02-16-2010, 12:53 PM   #1
lost
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[360/PS3/PC] - BioShock 2 Review

Title: BioShock 2
Platform: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

BioShock 2 Review

Welcome to Rapture

BioShock was something of a masterpiece. Even after the hype died down people still proclaim it as a 'must-play' and rightly so. It delivered outstanding presentation, ingenious gameplay ideas and a complex story wrapped up in a few unique ideas. With the original developers of System Shock behind the wheel many expected it to deliver but few anticipated its place within videogame history as something of a turning point for the way stories are told in first person games. Strange then that the announcement of a sequel was met with a groan and followed up with a quick gasp when it was revealed that Ken Levine and his team had moved onto assuredly bigger and better things.

I'm here to tell you not to panic, 2K Marin have done a fantastic job but haven't quite pulled off the same miracle as before. Levine once said that he was startled that the original came together so well – fortunate then that Marin have studied every inch of that first game and attempted to replicate and build on its successes. The requirement to one-up in a sequel has driven the new developers to put the player in control of a Big Daddy, the diving suit behemoths that protect young girls known as Little Sisters, during a tale of revenge or redemption depending on your individual choices.
Morality is back in a big way this time around with the decision to harvest or rescue Little Sisters making a return as a start point. This has a similarly huge impact on the outcome of the story and the style of play you'll be able to afford while upgrading your abilities. Likewise you are given the option to kill or forgive key characters throughout the story and these choices can benefit or hinder your progress in interesting ways. Arguably the return of these ideas was a necessity and 2K Marin have handled that burden well, particularly in regards to your relationship with the Little Sisters, by building up Subject Delta, your Big Daddy, as a character rather than simply a soulless beast. Your position as a protector puts a completely different spin on many of the decisions than had you taken on the role of yet another human.

The similarities don't end there. Very little has changed about Rapture in the ten years since the original events took place – almost too little. With general supplies and Adam, the power for your upgrades, still abundant you wonder exactly how the underwater hell has managed to sustain itself for another decade. Similarly the appearance of new, non-mutated characters feels odd to begin with as you imagine few could survive the harsh realities of life under the sea. Regardless the returning features such as plasmids and cunningly designed weaponry feel welcome with the new developers offering up plenty of variety in the new levels to create fresh ways to use old features.

Careful economy is required to build these old features into their most powerful forms. This progression starts out a little slow and, considering you're a Big Daddy, it can feel strange that you're quite so feeble within the opening hours of the game. The options on offer give plenty of incentive to play through multiple times and create a silent class system within the game. In my particular play-through I chose to specialize in the hypnotic and fire based powers and used loads of Gene Tonics (read: attribute altering loot) to boost my powers and strength. It's unlikely you'll play the game in exactly the same way with this player creativity being the biggest incentive to enjoy these familiar gameplay mechanics again.

Moving the player character to the role of a Big Daddy allows the developers to create a unique story within the same city as the original. Discovering the character's history and the impact he had on the early days of Rapture is interesting. Likewise the new area specific characters, while not as iconic as the likes of Sander Cohen, are intriguing and impact the design of the world in unique ways. The story is, perhaps, a little secretive to begin with and only really opens up within the closing hours of the game. With the BioShock franchise being quite so story driven it's difficult not to feel the impact on the quality of the first 5 or 6 hours of gameplay. In the original game absolutely every corner wielded new and exciting discoveries. This sequel fails to pull that off and the new characters do little to help this within the opening stages. As such it took me a little while to get drawn back in before shining examples of creativity push through toward the end.
I won't spoil them but a couple of stand out moments make themselves apparent within the closing hours of the game. Both are, in hindsight, predictable but seem too bold for a game that plays it fairly safe. When the masses of story threads come together you are not offered twists as much as you are offered fan-friendly moments that ensure the game can stand on its own merits. Putting it bluntly, without the strength of the latter levels the term 'expansion pack' could have been applied. Fortunately it seems that 2K Marin decided to grow a pair and go for broke toward the end.

Art design remains consistent with the original with new enemies like the Brute Splicer, a hulking damage sponge, and the outdoor/underwater sections gifting the art team with the opportunity to spread their wings. New levels feel at home within the world of Rapture but it's easy to feel as though you're now being treated to the suburbs when the original gave you the big city. Texture pop-in was something of an issue on the 360 version I played with the Unreal engine apparently now struggling to pull off the fairly linear, enclosed levels. Voice-acting is outstanding, expectedly, and the sights of Rapture are complimented well with quality sound effects. If anything more free reign could have been given to the designers to create startling moments to return that unnerving, spooky feeling that was once felt.

The Big Sister is probably the most evocative new character and the biggest example of 2K Marin trying out something new. A female version of the Big Daddy these nimble, quick opponents will attack you once you rescue or harvest every Little Sister and challenge you at certain points in the story. You learn their origins, complimenting your own, and they remain tricky opponents even as you progress. It's possible to ease the difficult burden with the Research Camera making a return. Given the option to film your battles rather than just photograph the corpses of the fallen. Offering further stat boosts you quite quickly build up a formidable character to fend off even the toughest of foes but the camera often feels like a burden rather than a benefit. It is insanely tricky to remember to turn it on before you start an encounter and you often feel as though the best opportunities for learning pass you by as you become engrossed in the more immediate modes of play.

The new online multiplayer portion of the game feels, at best, like a novel distraction from further playthroughs. Able to create your own loadouts and play across match types that put a BioShock twist on old favorites this mode evokes the same sentiments as the single-player campaign but it won't draw many people away from Modern Warfare 2 or any other popular online shooter. Simply put the map designs don't have the same depth and, in contrast with the main story, feel driven by art rather than function. That feels a little bit backwards and beyond the neat prologue where you discover your own Rapture apartment I can't see people piling into the stable lobbies and matches any time soon.
BioShock 2 is not the ground-breaking, genre defining game that its forefather was. However, taken on its own merits it brings familiar ideas back with fresh twists and a mostly interesting story. The stuff you've played before remains absolutely excellent and Rapture clearly had a lot to give for the sequel. It doesn't really become great until towards the end. Truly those last hours of a relatively short game justify its existence. It's cool to play as a Big Daddy and the morality of the game remains clear with fascinating consequences. 2K Marin have captured the chunky artistic direction of the original and duplicated it with enough success as to squeeze some freshness out of their own attempts. You probably won't play many better games this year but it'll be difficult not to find yourself yearning for the true genius of the original.

Score: 5 out of 5


The Good
  • Familiar, creatively enjoyable gameplay mechanics.
  • Brilliant design including some cool new additions.
  • Evocative and relatively fresh story in a great setting.
  • Great new challenges with a shifted focus leaning toward hacking and trap setting.
The Bad
  • Perhaps a little too familiar at times?
  • The first few levels are somewhat claustrophobic and don't offer up as many tactical options.
  • Might be a little tricky to get into the research options.
The Ugly
  • The texture pop-in was atrocious.
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:53 PM   #2
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Writers Notes:

Total Play Time: Roughly 7 to 8 hours
Ending Achieved: The 'Very Good' Ending
Power Preferences: Hyponotize (great fun controlling Big Daddies) and Incinerate












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Old 02-16-2010, 02:38 PM   #3
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I think it is a model for other review sites to follow, that a game can fall short of its predecessor but still earn a 100% score.
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Old 02-16-2010, 02:59 PM   #4
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Lost is a mother fooking reviewing machine. I will have to buy this at a later date, still having trouble getting through my Christmas Steam sale games, too Many!!!

ps. are they your screen shots?, if so the game looks good on console.
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:00 PM   #5
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I think it is a model for other review sites to follow, that a game can fall short of its predecessor but still earn a 100% score.
It's still a good game in itself, just some parts can be annoying sometimes. And it's short.

The part that annoyed me the most is when you're fighting some splicers. Then you accidentally set off a security camera. Then you also provoke a big daddy somehow. Then you're trying to deal with everything and you end up dying. Lol.

My favorite part was setting up the traps. Rivet traps, getting the secruity drone plasmid, spear gun traps..
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:07 PM   #6
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I think it is a model for other review sites to follow, that a game can fall short of its predecessor but still earn a 100% score.
I don't want to put words into lost's mouth, but in my opinion, 5/5 does not equal 100%, nor does it mean the game is perfect.

Take that, math!
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:13 PM   #7
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I haven't had any issues with texture popin on the xbox. Have you installed the game to the harddrive?
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:32 PM   #8
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I had the popping issues a few times on my playthrough

I wasn't a big fab of it up until the last area and that's where it all kicked off. Think it was more of a 4.5/5 but still a decent. Can't see it winning many GotY awards but it'll mentioned come the end of the year
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:32 PM   #9
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Played it, it was fun but I agree that it felt way too familiar. If they create another bioshock game do it away from rapture and get some new ideas instead of recycling most of the first game. Note, I pretty much just maxed out hypnotize and freeze, those were the only two powers I needed. Any time I got into a room with more than one characters I would just toss hypnotize and let them fight each other. That never got old. If they make a new game I hope they give us some new powers, especially teleport since we see it in the NPC's have it but we don't kind of pisses us off.
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:44 PM   #10
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I loved it as well, outside of the game starting out slow I'd say my biggest complaint was that you didn't feel like a big daddy at all, really. You got hurt way too easily/quickly. However I think it was an interesting story to tell, and the focused story was better than the first.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:29 AM   #11
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Lost is a mother fooking reviewing machine. I will have to buy this at a later date, still having trouble getting through my Christmas Steam sale games, too Many!!!

ps. are they your screen shots?, if so the game looks good on console.
There'another review for thursday. Some might say I have a problem.
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Old 02-17-2010, 06:47 AM   #12
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This review was fantastic Martin. You hit the nail right on the head.

The only thing I take issue with is that I truly enjoy the multiplayer component and found it had some very interesting mechanics. However, this is coming from someone who does not own Modern Warfare 2, nor has any interest in military shooters. So I think I'm the niche gamer 2K was looking for.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:59 AM   #13
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Nicely written review, but I don't think it's all that honest.

Bioshock 2 was a hugely disappointing game to me. The changes they made amounted to nothing. It felt like exactly the same game. I played through the entire thing, and my only thought was "Wow, these developers are lazy as hell".

This game isn't even going to be in the running for the game of the year. Bioshock 2 is the equivalent of some DLC or an expansion pack to me. Not a sequel full of new features, new places to explore, and new gameplay.

Honestly go back and play Bioshock 1 for twenty minutes... The games play, look, and feel like exactly the same game which isn't fantastic in my eyes. I look for advancement in most of my games.. graphical, gameplay, and story advancement. The only reason I kept playing this game was because I wanted to see where the story went (overall pretty MEH... no real bosses either to conquer)
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:29 PM   #14
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I can't believe Lost lied to us like that.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:10 PM   #15
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To be fair, regarding my honesty, I never said that it would win Game of the Year merely that it would be one of the year's best games. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

Or maybe I lie...muahahah
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:38 PM   #16
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I honestly think that Bioshock 2 is good, but for me it does feel too familiar. Although, I do appreciate the welcome changes.
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Old 03-01-2010, 07:54 PM   #17
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I'm as big of a fan boy as they come but the game doesn't start until about hour 4 or 5, focuses too much on combat and the story is relatively weak. Also having you become a little sister? Is this whole game trying to cater to fan boy dreams or what?. All in all I'd say this just barely makes it to a 4/5, I'd even go as low as a 3.5/5, because i think too many people want this game to be good because Bioshock 1 was so amazing.
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Old 03-01-2010, 08:01 PM   #18
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I just finished this game last night and I personally found it to be a better game than the first. The only downside I had was the feeling of Deja Vu.....but other than that it was a fantastic experience.
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Old 03-01-2010, 09:20 PM   #19
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I'm as big of a fan boy as they come but the game doesn't start until about hour 4 or 5, focuses too much on combat and the story is relatively weak. Also having you become a little sister? Is this whole game trying to cater to fan boy dreams or what?. All in all I'd say this just barely makes it to a 4/5, I'd even go as low as a 3.5/5, because i think too many people want this game to be good because Bioshock 1 was so amazing.
You should rate games based on what you think as opposed to what other people want.
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Old 03-01-2010, 09:25 PM   #20
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You should rate games based on what you think as opposed to what other people want.
Have you not read my Sam & Max review?
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