The rest of the year has some serious competition with the handful of amazing games we’ve already received only two months into 2010. Without a doubt, one of the most anticipated releases this year is BioShock 2, so does it live up to the hype?
Or more importantly, our expectations? We’ve just returned from our dive back into the underwater utopia of Rapture and here’s what we found. The Good:
TJ: Most of my friends we’re very skeptical when BioShock 2 was announced. When they heard you would be a Big Daddy, or when the online multiplayer was announced. There was a fear it would take away from the campaign. Which has definitely happened in many other games. But I remained hopeful, and well I’m glad I did.
Adam: I don’t necessarily consider myself a pessimistic person, but I was one of those people. When a game like BioShock comes out, revolutionizes storytelling in gaming and blows our minds, the sequel has a lot to live up to. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t, and BioShock 2 is an example of the former. This game has a lot of the little things like the hidden stories of Rapture’s past you can glean from exploring the environments. This is a game that rewards you for being a curious soul, searching out every nook and cranny of this beautifully realized world.
TJ: This is so true. I spend countless extra hours in games like this staring at things, double checking file cabinets, shelves, in dark corners, under couches, just to make sure I don’t miss a thing. Like the exploration, I like that they kept a lot of my favorite things the same, like the the sounds. The sound you get when you pick up an item, or shooting guns and plasmids, or even the vending machines. They’re all familiar to me and make me feel at home when I jump back into a sequel. I love that they got most if not all of the same voice actors for the splicers and other characters. That really makes me happy.
Adam: I really liked the tapping of water against metal when you walk under a leak in a ceiling.
TJ: I thought that was a really cool effect. It’s little things like that that really make a game stand out you know?
Adam: Definitely. I didn’t think it was possible, but Rapture looks and sounds better than it did in the original. The music and sounds effects are always eerie and haunting, providing the perfect backdrop to a crumbling underwater utopia, but they can also occasionally leap into your face when you least expect it. And while we’re on the subject of great sounds, I loved traversing the sea floor because it reminded me of Dead Space (another game with exceptional sound design) when you get your first taste of the black void that is space. The muted sounds, slow, careful movement, and not knowing what’s around the corner. Walking across the sea floor in BioShock is very similar. That said, I wish my adventures outside of Rapture’s walls weren’t so linear. In this game they’re simply a vehicle to bring you from one area of the city to the next and I feel these sections could have been fleshed out a little better.
TJ: Though there never ended up being many items out there, I still searched as if my life depended on it and did end up going in circles a lot.
Adam: Early on I spent a healthy amount of time roaming the sea floor but as soon as they introduced those ADAM fish that you can pick up for extra ADAM I immediately began spending way too much time down there so I didn’t miss any of them.
TJ: Oh absolutely! Those things are so gross looking up close. On the subject of ADAM, I love the gathering sections, when you carry a Little Sister with you because you know what’s going to happen when you set her down. I also love how they made it a bit easier for you early on by giving you ways to prepare, like the Trap Rivets. You can set up trap rivets, mini turrets, trap spears, proxy mines, and hold tight in a corner and brace yourself for a fight.
Adam: They had a little of that type of strategy in the original, where you could hack machines and set up traps for enemies and the gathering perfects on it. Those mini turrets were by far the most useful addition, just throw four of those babies into a room and nothing will get within ten feet of your Little Sister. And just like the first game choosing to save or harvest your Little Sister once she’s done gathering makes a huge impact on the game’s story, in some surprising ways.
TJ: The story definitely grabs you from the beginning so you want to know exactly what the hell is going on all the way until the end.
Adam: Yeah, I didn’t want to put down the controller because of that urge to find out what’s happening and who’s going to be my new enemy; it’s a rush. And playing in a world that looks like it could implode in on itself at any moment is a rush in itself. Leaks on the walls, cracked windows, water coming out of drains on the floor; despite being one of the iconic Big Daddies you never quite feel safe.
TJ: And every time Big Daddy is walking by, the controller and the whole room is shaking, and you’re sure this is it. When the glass breaks and the walls cave in. I also thought the edition of the Big Sister was a welcome change to the game. I mean, fighting the Big Daddies now seems like nothing compared to the Big Sister. She is a maniac. I got my ass whooped a good ten times the first time I fought her. I wasn’t paying attention and she starting screaming in my face and kicked my ass. To top it off I was playing to get the achievement for not using Vita Chambers, so I had been saving non stop. So every time she destroyed me I had to go back to my last save and start the fight from scratch. This taught me a very important lesson. Test all of your plasmids and guns on everything. The first game I stuck with what I liked and what was familiar to me. But when you can freeze someone into an ice cube and rage them with the drill free of being attacked, it tends to help your situation.
Adam: I’ll admit the first time I fought a Big Sister she definitely made me her bitch, it was embarrassing. It doesn’t help when she tries to scare the crap out of you by screaming like a banshee, I almost wanted to keep my Little Sister on my shoulder just so I wouldn’t have to get my ass kicked (again). Mean Big Sisters aside, the game also improved on some things from the first game, like the slightly improved level design that masks the game’s obvious linearity by providing players with several routes through an area. The original did this successfully but it seems BioShock 2 has done it even better.
TJ: I especially liked the new tonic system where they are all together in one category rather than separating them like they did in BioShock 1. The new tonics are very cool, like standing in water to heal, and being able to fix a bot with Eve. The first game didn’t have a terribly diverse selection of enemies, so the addition of the Brute splicer, or “Mini Tank” from Left 4 Dead I thought was cool. I like him even more than his bigger brother in Left 4 Dead because he doesn’t come up with an imaginary piece of concrete in a swamp to throw at you.
Adam: I think you just ruined Left 4 Dead 2 for me.
TJ: TJ FTW?
The Not So Good:
TJ: There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this game. I loved the first and I felt really comfortable coming back to Rapture again. But maybe once you throw your dislikes at me you’ll change my mind a bit haha.
Adam: Alright, than I’ll make it my goal to point the game’s every blemish. My major issue is that a lot of it is scripted, making some of the areas predictable. There aren’t too many surprises. For example, when you find a gun or a substantial supply cache, that means you’re about to fight quite a few enemies. Granted, many games suffer from this level of predictability, but it expands beyond that even to the Big Sister encounters. Because they’re scripted, once you’ve played through the game you’ll know when and where the Big Sisters will strike.
TJ: Very true, though it also seems like no matter how prepared I am to fight a Big Sister, during the fight I feel way under prepared. Like she knows I have traps set so she completely dodges them.
Adam: The unfamiliarity and newness of Rapture is gone. This isn’t the game’s fault, it’s natural that after two games in very similar environments Rapture, while beautiful and haunting, would be getting stale. This is more of an issue for BioShock 3, should it see the light of day (and my guess is it will).
TJ: I guess that’s the thing about Rapture. Technically, given the scale size of the city, they could make plenty more games just roaming you around in different sections of the city. Which still leaves many places unexplored.
Adam: Before the game’s release the multiplayer was without a doubt the biggest change for the series, and also one of my biggest worries. Would they really take the time to seamlessly weave it into the game’s world making it something both fun and new or would it be generic, an obvious add on that didn’t really mix with what BioShock is all about? I’ve spent a good deal of time with the game’s multiplayer and while I don’t feel that it deserves any accolades for innovation, it certainly wasn’t added in as an afterthought. A great amount of time, effort, and creativity went into making the online support something that was both fun and part of the game world. However, as are most first forays into new features, there are things that could’ve been done better.
TJ: When I first heard about the multiplayer I thought, well yeah it could work. But do I want it to? Do I need another online multiplayer game? I mean I have a handful with Halo 3, Firefight, Left 4 Dead 2, Gears Of War, and Horde mode (no I have not been sucked into Modern Warfare 2). After the Aliens Vs Predator multiplayer I’m thinking, “oh great this is pretty awesome and different, I’m going to want to play this a lot.” But BioShock? I didn’t see it coming and it hit me like a telekinesis launched rock. It’s awesome. The game is fast paced and plays like Halo, Modern Warfare, and Team Fortress 2 all mashed together into one spliced up baby.
Adam: Agreed, and while the character customization isn’t deep enough to make you feel particularly proud of the customized character you control, the ability to choose both your character, their melee weapon, and mask keeps the chances of running into an identical player very low.
TJ: I’m a total nerd for character customizing, hopefully they’ll release some kind of update that will allow you to do more. (Are you listening 2K? This is what we want in the next BioShock!)
Adam: The game modes will be familiar to anyone who’s played another shooter’s multiplayer, just with minor twists to make them fit in the game’s lore. For example, Capture the Sister is basically Capture the Flag where the flags have been replaced with sisters. Like any good multiplayer, there’s an experience system (experience being replaced by ADAM) that lets you unlock new plasmids, tonics, weapons, and weapon upgrades as you play. This worried me somewhat as many games have done this before making it unbalanced (how’s a level 2 character supposed to stand up against a level 30 who has unlocked everything?). Luckily, this doesn’t seem to matter as I, a level 3 character, whooped the ass of another character, level 28 and I’ve never been overly accused of being terribly good at multiplayer shooters (particularly those with ‘Modern Warfare’ in their title).
TJ: I always go into a multiplayer game going “Oh crap, that dude is a 30, I’m raped”. And a lot of time to my surprise I ended up doing better than him. Which is good. I feel like this multiplayer is a lot more balanced, even with the upgrades and perks. I love Capture the Sister. The thing that really turns it around is once you get the sister to a vent, it takes a little time to help her into it. Which you are completely vulnerable to get destroyed.
Adam: While most of it may seem uninspired, there are a handful of clever ideas the game can call its own like the randomly spawned Big Daddy suit that can turn even the worst of players into the baddest of badasses and hacking turrets so you can let it do all the work for you. The ability to take pictures of the fallen netting you a damage boost is also a welcome addition, as well as the only reason I managed to kill some of the more experienced players out there. There’s even a reward for exploring the levels, as you can find vials of ADAM lying around so if you’re getting your butt handed to you at least you can leave with some bonus experience.
TJ: This game pretty much rocked my world from start to finish. While I wouldn’t say it was perfect, I can definitely proudly put it up on a shelf with the original. And as of right now the multiplayer is something I can really get into, especially playing with a bunch of friends. I give the game 4.5 out of 5 Skulls.
Adam: Yeah, what he said. 4.5/5 barnacle encrusted skulls.