BioShock 2 Review: Haunting Horripilations

1968 has never been so cold and the water never this damp. Awaken as Subject Delta in 2K Marin’s BioShock 2, the sequel to BioShock that introduces the gaming world to an unraveling Dystopia in which philosophical individualism and seeping autocracy haunts the flooded corridors. BioShock 2 takes a very daring road to build upon the exotic backdrop of BioShock in which a plane crash lands the Protagonist Jack Ryan to the mysterious underwater world of Rapture. 2K Marin valiantly creates a new and recognizable atmosphere into a completely different storyline that evokes the responses through totalitarian dictatorship, improved gameplay based upon similar game interface as BioShock, and furthered incredible variety when it comes to the chills and haunting images that Rapture exudes. BioShock 2 furthers improvements and shooter mechanics beyond the first one and continues to up the par with a multiplayer mode from Digital Extremes. While something about the atmosphere, however, is not quite on par with the first title as things seem all too familiar and lose their substance that made the microscopicity of the original so daring, BioShock 2 still creates an atmosphere that is engaging and still very much provoking.  BioShock 2 incontestably creates an atmosphere that is prominent regardless of the familiarity that veteran players might feel and new players might not completely believe.

Hastily inscribed upon the walls of Adonis Spa are cries for a lost religious overtone in a philosophical narrative that is all too real. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon,” the great kingdom that was once the vision in the latter part of the third millennium, and it was here that the Bible says God confused the languages of mankind. Impregnable to incredibly different degrees of religious notions, Bayblon was lost in a bewildered flood of the Euphrates River from the Persian advance. The air is familiar as Subject Delta awakens in the decaying Adonis Spa in 1968. It feels like yesterday that you were with your Little Sister Eleanor Lamb through an unbreakable bond. As Subject Delta, one of the original Big Daddy protectors introduced in BioShock, you seek out to find Eleanor that is sending you troubled signals of being held captive by her mother:  the totalitarian Sofia Lamb, who took influence of Rapture after Jack Ryan departed on his own in 1958. Sophia Lamb is undoubtedly more different than anything Andrew Ryan preached as the wealthy founder of Rapture.  While Sophia Lamb may not be a shockingly similar match to the deep-rooted and downright maniacal beliefs of Andrew Ryan, she shares a level of disturbing presence engrossed in her own personal and moral philosophy that makes the senselessness of her persecution even more radiant.

BioShock 2 incorporates gameplay heavily through story as the original with a beautiful didactic narrative but comes with some inherent problems in the storyline progression. One of the central introduction aspects WhatIfGaming became concerned about makes itself known once again: the question of how BioShock 2 incorporates and furthermore pleases not just veterans but also newcomers of the game but also newcomers alike. 2K Marin assured that newcomers will have an equal experience as veterans of the series in terms of storyline narrative, but there are core storyline progression elements from BioShock that BioShock 2 simply does not touch upon. The first game focuses on the immense discovery and building façade of mystery on the city of Rapture and the downfall dynamic that engrosses any player who still plays it to this day. Unfortunately, BioShock 2 misses out on taking the same level of intrigue and placing it into the game in terms of microscopic details.  To fully understand the new game, players need to have prior knowledge. Some ancillary reading is hidden either in the menu or the tapes / tutorials of gameplay elements, but unfortunately it is not as powerful as incorporating these into the story directly.  The issues in terms of storyline do not end here. There are also issues in terms of the origins of Subject Delta never being truly explained along with the factors of key characters that played a monumental role of the first game being lightly delved into the sequel. Another problem that manifests itself is the lack of emotionality within BioShock 2. While Subject Delta wants to find Eleanor with tidbits of memories consistently being presented throughout the game, there is no real emotional construct to rely on other than the fact that the game simply bases the entire journey upon finding Eleanor Lamb. Despite these prominent issues, BioShock 2 still continues to present a strong case of philosophical undertones that furthers the psychological barrier that has already been established by the entire premise of the storyline.

BioShock 2’s mission structure revolves many enemies and few gains that create a survialistic nature in the horror-torn Rapture. Like Babylon, there is a lot of ADAM and an increased level of struggle with Lamb’s cult of Splicers, former Citizens of Rapture that went mad from using a drug called ADAM to give them superhuman abilities such as lightning shock and swarming bees. The ten years between BioShock reveals the splicers have gotten slightly religious and are more disfigured and confused with an even more dangerous combination than just disfigured.  Splicers encounters come with the typical enemy types from the first game which includes wall-latching splicers and teleporting splicers in addition to the fearful brute class splicers that throw concrete. Subject Delta soon reveals that he himself can use ADAM by injecting it into one of the situation cores in his suit (used to lock the Big Daddys in their suit and their body). ADAM is obtained through the unforgettable Little Sisters that made the first game iconic, brainwashed children under the aura of Rapture. Little Sisters discover various ‘angels’ or ADAM infused corpses to drain with EVE hyponeedles. The Catch-22 here follows the fact that each Little Sister is guarded by a Big Daddy that does not let another Big Daddy remotely near his ‘daughter. Once defeating the Big Daddy, it is up to Subject Delta to decide what to do with the little girl that cries and mourns for her lost Daddy like a poor orphan. As a Big Daddy, you can choose to ‘Adopt’ the Little Sister by placing her humbly onto your shoulder or sacrifice her (through murder) for ADAM. These two choices are constant throughout Rapture and the option to choose on the spot similar to the first game really extends upon the consequences of the choices players make. From here, if Subject Delta chooses to adopt the Little Sister, he can help the Little Sister to keep collecting ADAM while making sure to defend her. One interesting thing about BioShock 2 is the way the developers keep this aspect of the game astounding, through either momentary twists or dynamic variability with enemies to keep BioShock 2 from being one big escort mission.

Combat in BioShock 2 is extended with certain improvements but stays close to the original and traditional. ADAM can be spent on DNA plasmids to gain access to psychokinetic and potential powers with which players can freeze people or hurl fireballs. Gene Tonics make a return to create enhancement to certain passive abilities such as faster movement speed, quieter footsteps and more.  Combat options are not limited to genetic variability but extend to weaponry as well.  Since Subject Delta can dual-wield weapons, the combat feels more fluid and dynamic than the first game. This allows players to keep an active defense in one hand while creating a level of hard-earned damage with a gun on the other.  As players continue into Rapture, they can upgrade plasmid guns and add tons of improvements to give certain weapons secondary and tertiary abilities to grant bonuses.

BioShock 2 introduces the series’ first look into multiplayer that presents BioShock 2 as ‘part prequel in Sequel’ —with gratitude to our contact at 2K Marin for spilling the details the day the first teaser came out. Players will be the citizens of rapture that have joined the Sinclair Solutions Consumer Rewards program for self-defense to test various weapons and plasmids for the war between Andrew Ryan and Atlus, his nemesis. Multiplayer modes are pretty standard such as Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch with Capture The Sister as a capture the flag counterpart where players try and capture a crying Little Sister from the enemy.  Maps are set in notable locations from the first BioShock and multiplayer remains challenging while also adding more for players to accomplish into the game.

BioShock 2 is undoubtedly a great game with amazing improvements despite dismal issues with storyline and continuity for newcomers. Rapture continues to be the underwater city with a baroque style movement that creates the atmosphere for the continuing storyline. Sophia Lamb and her Family are constantly out to destroy older parts of Rapture to eliminate any of the remaining ego that Andrew Ryan possessed, while creating an even more interesting approach to religious backdrops of rebirth and retribution for the sins of Rapture and its existence as a whole.  The haunting atmosphere of Rapture carries through with the story embedded in the environment – the details being on the walls with crayon, neon markers, or sketchy chalk. Writings in the surroundings and the context of the storyline are undoubtedly still as disturbing as before regardless of the storyline flaws affecting the atmosphere and tone. Rapture remains an underwater city that still is impossible to escape as the struggle for Subject Delta to find humanity seems impossible in the environment. The city is undoubtedly perturbing with incredible gameplay improvements, voice acting, and soundtrack scores that make the surroundings in BioShock 2 as memorable and horrifying as ever.

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