Bioshock 2Overview -
The sequel, be it book, movie, game or even album, fans always want the chance to recapture the magic of discovery a second time. In the gaming world often a sequel means some cosmetic changes and a few innovations and that’s good for most. 2007’s “Bioshock” on the other hand didn’t amass legions of fans with providing them an online arena for first person mayhem or the chance to live our their sports fantasy. No, “Bioshock” put them into the underwater dystopia of Andrew Ryan’s Rapture, a (nearly) dead city happened upon the player’s character, Jack, in the year 1960. “Bioshock” was an immersive, often cinematic experience with a story that kept players moving at a steady pace forward, serving up twists and a the answer to the mystery, “what happened to Rapture?” Along the way, Jack encountered Rapture’s drug addled Splicer inhabitants, some survivors like himself, and most notably, the now iconic Big Daddy, protector to the Little Sister, small children responsible for harvesting ADAM, a substance that unlocks the fullest of human potential.
Nearly perfect but missing the mark in a few key areas, “Bioshock 2” follows in the footsteps of its revolutionary predecessor to bring players back to the city of Rapture to explore new areas, many with their own sense of visual style and flair.
The game’s water effects are a crown jewel, with water looking natural a wide variety of settings: outside the windows in the ocean, streaming in through stress fractures, standing pools, and rising up past your field of vision as you must traverse the ocean floor to reach another portion of rapture. The only water effect that kills the mood of the game is the rapid melting on ice when affected by the fire based Plasmid. It’s the same quality as the previous game and there’s just something not right about it, mainly the speed and lack of residual drip effect.
Performance wise, the graphics are smooth and crisp, with the framerate being a non-issue. The developers give the option of unlocking the frame rate, which can cause slowdown during graphic intensive sequences, but the alternative is to leave the rate locked and experience some minor but noticeable screen tearing. I personally left it locked as I’d much rather experience the occasional image tearing then a drop in performance at a critical battle.
The high-res graphics of “Bioshock 2” once again bring players into the world of Rapture, and like “Bioshock” before it, the game setting is an eerie technological marvel; unsettling lifelike. Sadly though, the overall art design of the game does become repetitive and the game’s heavier reliance on corridor based game play is revealed earlier than desired. Likewise, while character models are fluid, unique and distinguishable, a few classes Splicers still have a not-of-this world look to them, reminding players they’re still in a sci-fi world. As a whole though, “Bioshock 2” is a very realistic looking and artful game, assisting its stellar game play and story, rather than acting as a crutch or detracting from it.
Quite honestly, the sound design in “Bioshock 2” may go down as underrated. It’s one of the few games that sells the actual weight of the character whose shoes you inhabit. If you choose to jump down a level in the game, the low end of your sound system responds accordingly with a heavy thud and a reverberation of your metal armor echoing off the cold surfaces of Rapture’s interior.
The immersion continues as you progress through the game with the distant sounds of vintage music, psychotic Splicers, low groans of other Big Daddies, and banshee like shrieks of Big Sisters keeping you on edge at all times. The directionality is so good you can track down a stray Splicer in an open area via sound with ease. Granted some of the minion vocal work gets repetitive, but that’s the only negative as the main cast is in top form, staying in character both through “live” interaction with your character as well as on the 100+ audio logs hidden away in the corners of Rapture. A testament to the voice work is the player’s ability to identify who is talking without even needing the on-screen visual cue.
The smaller things that end up constituting the experience as a whole are just as solid with effects being strong and well-defined, your Plasmids all have at least some semblance of unique auditory cue to their usage as do the physical weapons you employ. Even in the most hectic of battles, separation and sound balance never wavers reminding you of what is charging towards the barrel of your gun, scurrying along a ceiling above your head, or flanking you from your blinds spots, never allowing you to fully catch your breath until the last body drops.
While many elements of “Bioshock 2” feel like rehashes of the original game, the saga of Eleanor and the Little Sisters makes it a far more emotional experience. The world of Rapture comes alive with greater vibrancy to the ardent explorer who seeks out the supplementary audio logs. Subject Delta’s tale is simple on the surface, but more complex as he uncovers secrets of his past and Eleanor’s. The challenge of “Bioshock 2” can be a bit unbalanced with the game’s final act substituting strategy for endurance. “Bioshock” fans will want to weigh whether they purchase this entry on the strength of their connection to the series and the interest in multiplayer. If you think you’ll some time into the game’s multiplayer experience, then pick up the game posthaste. If it’s only going to be a solo trip to Rapture for you, consider a rental or discounted purchase as the inability to backtrack for forgotten collectibles makes another playthrough a tedious endeavor.
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