Posted: November 23
BioShock 2 is good. Not exactly a surprise given the content of other available reviews on Steam, but why is it good seems the more important thing, something I'll try to address here. I'm going to tell you why I think BioShock 2 is a worthy successor in the series.
First things first, to get right down to brass tacks BioShock 2 is a sequel, it is mostly more of the same gameplay (with a few twists) and the few innovations don't exactly break the bank in the inventiveness department. A few new weapons and interesting plasmid variations and a small smattering of new enemy types don't do much to dispel the notion that the combat is totally more BiShock. But that's not what makes a BioShock game, not really. Sure, the combat has to be engaging enough to drive the narrative forward, but in this game it does that just enough. No, much like the first, the true draw is the dark and twisted story, the narrative tapestry that shows the dark and twisted nature of those living in Rapture.
This game has you playing as a Big Daddy, the stalwart if myopic defenders of the Little Sisters. In particular, you play a “prototype”, a nameless everyman changed into a monster but also a kind of father, and it is the theme of fatherhood that, like the first game, shares the roost with a political ideology to form the basis of the disastrous tale of the fall of Rapture. Where the first game gazed on what genetics truly determine, on the pure unbridled force of Libertarianism and Capitalism, this game focuses on what it means to be a parent, and the equal sociopolitical dangers of a Communistic ideal that crosses the line into religious fervor. It is the other side of the coin to Andrew Ryan's Rapture ideal of the individual's power in Rapture, the ideal of not just the social as one entity in a metaphorical manner, but what might happen if science could allow us all to actually become one. And just as in the first game, the dangers of extremist politics show how such ideas can rip a society, and in particular a family apart.
This is the crux of the story: as the first game contained two father figures for the original protagonist, the Big Daddy is one of two parent figures presented in the game. Unlike before where you were being acted upon as a child with two parental figures, now you are one of the agents of change, and your actions effect the story in a more noticeable (if still superficial) manner.
It also drips the kind of scary, jarring atmosphere that is at once engaging to behold and terrifying to think about, the constructive and destructive nature of humankind. Water drips, walls crack, but unlike before the underwater world outside Rapture is at least nominally explored, and it is beautiful, but sadly littered with the detritus of the once grand city. The decay of the amazing city of Rapture is at once enthralling and disturbing, an emotional range that was demonstrated in BioShock, and is absolutely in full effect here.
To add to the positives Minerva's Den, a small DLC adventure contained within this game, is a wonderful look at how every last person in Rapture was hurt, changed, damaged by the vision of Andrew Ryan. Rapture is a crucible and all it seems to produce is tragedy, and each game with it as it's setting allows us to see something of ourselves in it's tragedy.
With arresting visuals, a story just as dark as it's sibling, and the upgraded combat engine, this game is well worth the time. It is the other side of the coin, the “2” in this case being a quite literal extension of the first, and that is a very good thing indeed.