(PC, Xbox 360)
We were torn, really we were. On one hand Bioshock was such a triumph of imagination, design and plotting (how many games combine monster shooting and philosophical criticism?) that upon finishing it we longed to return to the decaying underwater city of Rapture. But it was also a perfectly self-contained story that left little room for development. How, we wondered, could they justify a return to Rapture’s creaking, doomed depths?
The long and short of it is that they couldn’t. Set eight years after the first game, you are now put in the clompy boots of a prototype Big Daddy, one of the lobotomised drones protecting the sinister, parasite-infested Little Sisters that roam Rapture’s halls. After your Little Sister is kidnapped by Sofia Lamb, a psychiatrist-turned-cult leader, you set off to reclaim her, finding out about your own forgotten past along the way.
It sounds like a promising setup, but the story is thin gruel, based on inverting what came before rather than inventing anything new. Old antagonist Andrew Ryan was a subscriber to Ayn Rand’s self-serving objectivist philosophy; Sofia Lamb is an ends-justify-the-means believer in the greater good. Bioshock’s protagonist was a prodigal son; in this game it’s a yearning father. And so on. But none of these changes cohere particularly well, and the whole game wobbles on its lack of internal logic (wondering how Lamb managed to convince a bunch of insane mutants to follow her ideals is only the start of it).
But while Bioshock 2 fails to live up to its predecessor’s story, it vastly improves on the gameplay. Combat is now more fluid and intuitive, thanks to your ability to wield both conventional weapons and superpower-gifting plasmids simultaneously. The weapons and plasmids themselves have been overhauled to make them more flexible and increase the possibilities for creating ingenious – and blackly comical – traps. And here’s where Bioshock 2 triumphs. If you want a continuation of the most fearsomely intelligent shooter of recent years, you’ll be disappointed; if you just want to go nuts with lightning and shotguns, you’re quids in.
Available now in stores.
Bioshock’s underwater city is a great gaming location. Here are some more
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