Bioshock 2 – The Sophmore Slump

If I were to sum up Bioshock 2 in one word that word would be disappointment. In many ways I feel that this is a game that shouldnt have been made. Bioshock was entirely complete as is. It had a story to tell and a world to tell it in and it conveyed the story and the world to the player through an excellent mixture of graphic spectacle, engaging storytelling and enjoyable gameplay. Needless to say I really enjoyed Bioshock.

Rapture and the sick, crazy fuckers that populated it werent just entertaining. They were compelling. I finished the first game in one sitting because there was simply no place where I felt I could put it down. It also made the decision about whether to save the little sisters or not actually matter. Even though there are three different endings I only saw one because once I finished the game I was done. That had been my exposure to Rapture and I was satisfied with that. I also dont think I could bring myself to harvest the little sisters.

So while I was looking forward to a similar experience with Bioshock 2 I was leery that it might not live up to the first game. Oh, how terribly right I was. Bioshock 2 lacks all of the first games unique appeal. On the surface they appear quite similar but Bioshock 2 is like a paint by numbers version of Bioshocks authentic art. It lacks, for want of a better word, any kind of soul. None of the characters (apart from Eleanor who I really liked) posess anything near the appeal of the first games cast. Unfortunately the most lacking in character is our humble protagonist. The game simply failed to make me care about his fate in any way. Largely because he is about as exciting as a blank wall.

This dullness isnt helped at all by the terribly unoriginal tedium of the games storyline. It lacks any of the twists and turns in plot or even sense of mystery that the originals story had. Its a terribly tedious A->B rescue the girl piece of rubbish. Its also delivered extremely poorly, coming in stops and starts without any kind of flow or sense of pacing. You basically wander through the game ignorant until towards the end when huge exposition suppositories are shoved up where the sun dont shine.

This spasmodic plotting is mirrored in the gameplay mechanics. While youre nominally a Big Daddy you very, very seldom feel like one. For the first level or two you are easily (and frequently) downed by ordinary splicers, adversaries you easily dispatched as a “normal” uguy in Bioshock. However once you get a big of Adam and upgrade yourself you quickly move from shite to dominant to unstoppable in combat. Which makes the game a dull exercise in button bashing. You could of course purposefully hamstring yourself by picking subpar upgrades but that seems rather foolish. Oh, did I mention that the majority of the powers and gene-splices are identical to those in the first game? As are the weapons and other gameplay systems.

So what you have is the first game again, looking its age in the graphics department, populated by less interesting characters, using a near identical array of powers and weapons against the same enemies in a setting that youve thoroughly explored before (sadly as nothing interesting is introduced Rapture loses a lot of its appeal the second time around). Tragically the only original elements of gameplay are in the penultimate level of the game (and last only a few minutes). This game is a perfect example of wasted potential. Even the underwater parts are short and involve exactly zero interaction with the environment. Tha game is also disappointinly short clocking in at the 8-9 hour mark, with a sad amount of that time made up of make work “quests” which are used to pretty transparently extend the last level of the game.

Even the harsh choices of the first game fade into pointless unimportance in Bioshock 2. Rescuing or harvesting the sisters strikes me as a foolish choice on a narrative level. Youre a Big Daddy, killing the little sisters violates both your character and the setting itself. It also lacks any kind of mechanical benefit. I finished the game with well over 1000 Adam left to spend and that was with rescuing all the sisters. The game also suffers from some fairly annoying technical issues, levels take literally minutes to load. Which is largely inexcusable as the game doesnt look good enough to excuse it.

The highpoint of the game, and I mean this non-sarcastically, is the end. The ending promises that the third game could be very cool and also is pretty Eleanor heavy. So yeah I’d strongly suggest avoiding it.

Listening to: The National - Gospel

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