Does the smoking ban still apply in Rapture? Time to find out…
Rapture; a haven for the driven, a spectacle for the masses and a prison for the now drug dependent inhabitants. Three years ago Bioshock threw us into the twisted underwater brainchild of Andrew Ryan as a naive outsider, an unwelcome visitor to a hypocrites utopia, and despite inevitable escape, peace never found its way into the city. Now with little girls around the world disappearing into the sea, it’s time to step out of a newcomer’s eyes, and see the underwater utopia from a new visor’s perspective. 10 years have passed since the events of the previous game and you are now placed in the over-sized boots of one of the prototypes of Rapture’s groaning guardians; the Big Daddies. Waking up from a coma slightly dazed from a bullet lodged in the old cranium, the Delta model Big Daddy (now void of a Little Sister) must confront the city’s new ruler Sofia Lamb, to be re-united with his corpse draining little ‘un. The plot follows a much more emotionally draining narrative this time around, which although may not satisfy the hunger of the curious, still remains the driving force of your journey and the backbone to your moral decisions. The first steps taken into Rapture as a Big Daddy feel somewhat slow and scarce of adventure. You can’t go 5 seconds without being prompted by a tutorial command. The fear of being thwacked by an edgy uber-druggie was eliminated by the dread of over-hype as the opening seemed to cautiously hold my hand. Every part of me wanted to break out of this tourist facade that had been placed upon my person and tear away from the scenic route. Then one of the city’s new guardians – a ‘Big Sister’ – smashed some rather important glass and left me to be sucked into the mouth of the ocean.
Bioshock 2 is an immersive adventure which is all too easy to get submerged in.
Now that you’re a heavily armoured mechanical monstrosity, voyages out in the open aren’t quite as drown worthy as they would be were you not encased in the safety of your Big Daddy suit. With no fears of a mouth full of plankton and corrosion in salt water, you can freely explore the surface and gaze dumbfounded at glistening coral reefs. Hell, you can even jump up and try to punch a shark in the belly if you feel like it. Ultra scubaness isn’t the only mega power you now behold – you now have the ability to dual wield a science defying plasmid in one hand and firearm in the other. Combine this with minor changes which make hacking and researching enemies a lot more fluid with no pauses or breaks, and you have a combat system which prides itself on some extremely hectic firefights that can be tackled with tactical guile and brute force. The crazed citizens aren’t simply going to crumble at the sight of your collosal drill and miniature hurricane inducing superpowers, however. A decades’ worth of drug use has turned some victims into hulking monstrosities of muscle mass whilst leaving all of them edgier than Timmy Mallett after uncovering where Nestle hid all the old blue Smarties. Technological advances have also left opposing Big Daddies more powerful and the new Big Sisters incredibly nimble, making it all too easy for you to feel somewhat obsolete. A stronger emphasis on survival is further heightened by the fact that the city seems to have been drained of vital supplies. It can be genuinely unerving to find yourself desperately trying to hack a vending machine in vain attempt to gain a much needed medi-pack, knowing that you’re one electrc shock, or one wrench to the back of the head away from death. It also doesn’t help when you’re left with 5 bottles of whiskey for health supplies and are forced to man up and drown your sorrows for health, knowing that such actions may will have severe effects on the next few gunfights and the morning after. Although many aspects have seen evolution, the majority of Rapture’s design remains as equally mesmerising and eerie as ever. Environments are a lot less linear than before, leaving every nook and cranny to plead for exploration, and the atmosphere is aided even further by realistic sound effects, an emotionally charged soundtrack and ever-present audio diaries helping to flesh out the stories of all those ever to grace the presence of the city. All of these elements are to be expected somewhat, as they’re what drove Bioshock to the top of it’s game, and although all stand out as exceptional attentions to detail, they also feel very familiar. When not ploughing through Splicers, Rapture can easily become a comfort zone through exploration. It in no way ever feels repetative, yet we’re not treated enough to Rapture’s more sinister elements. Manic preachers scribble Lamb’s words of religion across the walls, confined areas coated with blue sheets and painted butterflies create a haven for bizarre rituals and one fantastic set piece detailing Andrew Ryan’s use of propaganda to keep the children of the city quiet about the surface. These moments seperate ‘Entertainment’ from ‘Experience’, and although enjoyable are too few and far between to allow Bioshock 2 to be the emotional roller-coaster it could be. For a series that imbeds its roots into a haven for hermits, the concept of multi-player seems like a rather trecherous field to tread. No matter how immersively a desolate and whimsical crackhouse of displeasure draws you in, it can always be spoilt by a shower of bullets and a rabble of ‘pro’ gamers swearing profusely and obnoxiously screaming Kid Rock lyrics through your ears. Still, a standard ‘mute’ feature always works wonders on that front, but a lot of effort has gone into giving multi-player more substance than a basic list of copy and paste game modes. Set before the events of the original Bioshock, online players are offered the position to fight as a splicer in the civil war that brought Rapture to its knees. In true Splicer fashion, players are fighting it out for sweet, sweet Adam, and you don’t have to be a master assassin in order to gain it. Hacking machines, researching your enemies and even simply donning a Big Daddy suit can earn you the valuble life source, all of which will be banked towards new weapons, upgrades, plasmids and audio logs to both evolve the player and further the narrative. Although everything seems evenly matched as you enter player lobbies, the need to adapt and progress strikes soon and leaves players curious as to what rewards lie just around the corner that can surprise an unsuspecting lower ranked player, and adds more playability to a mode already flooded with addictive gunplay. Players entering Bioshock 2 with no knowledge of its predeccessor will be left with an undoubtedly brilliant FPS, yet will be left in the dark and unable to fully appreciate the level of detail tha
t has gone into the title. Whether you consider this any better than the original, on the other hand, depends on if you see the series as either an impressive gameplay feat or a piece of art. Either way, with improved gameplay and the staples that made the original so great firmly in place, Bioshock 2 is an immersive adventure which is all too easy to get submerged in.
The Bad: Story isn’t quite on par with the first, More characters are needed for multi-player, Familiarity can break the tension it creates
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