10
Feb
10

BioShock 2, I want to love you.

*SPOILERS* (Not too bad, since I’m only up to the third stage of BioShock 2. If you’re picky about such things, or can’t handle a mild OG BioShock spoiler, stay away.)

So far, I’m disappointed with BioShock 2. It’s not a bad game; it’s actually a beautiful, fun-to-play, mostly excellent game. Problem is, it’s (so far) a clone of its predecessor.

BioShock is a masterpiece. Set in the once glorious underwater city of Rapture, it is a visual feast. The juxtaposition of the remains of beautiful art deco architecture with gruesomely distorted Splicers, ghoulish Little Sisters, and bloody corpses is stunning. The protagonist, Jack, is thrown into Rapture blindly after a plane crash. There he (and the player) find a bitter war of personalities with different philosophies who have driven the city to ruin.

One of the things I found most interesting about BioShock was that, other than the possible exception of Jack, every major character in the game was reprehensible. Each of the major players left in the city is a stubborn, power-mad individual focused entirely on his or her own goals. Having played many, many games in which the protagonist I direct works with allies or has a mentor on the side of good, it was unsettling to be left entirely alone in such a depraved world.

I was immediately sucked into BioShock and barely stopped playing to sleep. I couldn’t wait to see what the next area looked like, I felt entirely responsible for the fate of the city and its (few) innocent inhabitants, and I craved the adrenaline rush that comes with having the shit scared out of you every few minutes. Oh, and I loved the hacking mini-game. I’ve had BioShock dreams in which I run around and fight Splicers, then stop and do the pipe section-swapping hacking game in my dream before continuing on.

Teaser materials for BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams looked incredible. This time around, you play as a Big Daddy, one of the giant, near-indestructible protectors of Adam-harvesting Little Sisters. (It all makes sense if you play it, I swear.) In a very early release, it was hinted that the main antagonist would be the Big Sister, a heretofore unseen female variant on the Big Daddy: slender, spider-ish, and quick to the Big Daddy’s lumbering bulk. I recall reading a Game Informer article which stated the Big Sister would be well-nigh invincible to your Big Daddy’s efforts to harm her; the player would spend time in-game trying to avoid her attention, and battles with Big Sister would be a terrifying fight for survival rather than victory. I was elated! Such an approach would give me an entirely new view of Rapture, one in which my former enemies (Splicers) would cower from my character, but I would be challenged at every turn by a brand-new, extremely difficult enemy.

Big Sister looks BAD. ASS.

And….that’s not what I’ve experienced so far. I ignored most of the BioShock 2 teaser material after very early releases, hoping to shield myself from spoilers. Thus far, I’m frustrated. The main antagonist is no longer the mysterious Big Sister. Now my enemy is one (extremely chatty) Sofia Lamb, an Andrew Ryan figure with a different, perhaps even more obnoxious philosophy to back her ambitions. I’ve tangled with a Big Sister, and already killed one. It was tough, but still bummed me out. Splicers run at me with no caution, as if I were a human instead of an intimidating Big Daddy. My beloved hacking game has been replaced by real-time hacking (i.e., doesn’t pause a fight), in which I click a button as a needle passes the green area on a meter.

I look very similar to this guy. Splicers should run for their lives.

I look very similar to this guy. Splicers should run for their lives.

Worst of all (and I didn’t think this would bother me a bit!), the gameplay is almost exactly the same as the first game. My trusty wrench has been replaced by a big-ass drill, but it serves the same function. I have received the same plasmids in the same order as before, with the same instructions on how to use them. “Hit Splicers standing in a pool of water with the Electro Bolt plasmid.” Thanks guys; I got it. My familiarity with the gameplay has taken away a lot of scares, and a lot of the fun. When a Splicer surprises me I don’t jump in terror—I calmly shoot them with my electric plasmid and whack ‘em with my wrench drill, as prescribed by the helpful hints in the game’s beginning.

I long for a different approach to plasmids. What if I’d gotten, say, Insect Swarm first? It would change my initial approach to the game. For the better? I don’t know. But I know I want different. I want to use plasmids in new and unexpected ways. I’m tired of hitting pools of water with electricity and pools of gasoline with fire. Hell, what if I hit a pool of water with Winter Blast and it froze, making a slippery surface for my Splicer enemies? I want a new approach. This is a different game, I’m supposed to be a different character, and I want a different point of view and use of powers to emphasize that.

Additionally, my new Big Daddy character is coming into Rapture as a prior inhabitant. He’s someone who should know the place, should know the rules (at least as they were before he went out of action for a while). Aside from a brief cutscene at the game’s opening, I don’t feel that my character’s history with Rapture has been utilized at all. He’s just as clueless as Jack initially was, dumped into the city from the sky.

Of course, I’m only on the third stage of the game. BioShock 2 could still turn all of my concerns upside down and make me eat these words. I hope it does. I’m looking forward to getting further into the game, and I hope it starts surprising me. Soon.

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5 Responses to “BioShock 2, I want to love you.”


  1. February 10, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    You had me at “art deco.”

    God, I need a gaming system!

  2. February 11, 2010 at 8:08 am

    this is an excellent review! I’m majorly bummed to hear the suspense factor is so heavily impacted – Bioshock was such an amazing storyline to play the first time through that you can’t help but think the sequel will be just as unique. swapping the wrench for the drill seems ‘mehsowhat’, I agree. what about ADAM, do you still need it and how do you get it?

    • February 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      Oh lord. The Adam is a whole ‘nother issue. Now you kill Big Daddies (and they are STILL tougher than Big Sister for me!) and take their Little Sisters. Then you take your newly won Little Sister around and harvest Adam from two corpses while Splicers try to attack you. It’s just like the on-the-way-to-Fontaine-segment of Bioshock, but you’ve got to do it all the time. Then you go stick the Little Sis back in her hole, and it gives you the Adam you harvested. You have the chance to save or harvest Lil’ Sis every time, which made me reload once when I thought I accidentally harvested instead of saved her. Blargh. I might have to do another post on my annoyance with this whole Little Sister/Adam harvesting thing. Just streamline it, 2K! I won’t miss it, I swear!

      • 4 wolfie
        February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

        @ hanestcake
        you can take a littel sister to a vent anytime and harvest or save her, even if you don’t harvest with her but you’ll lose a lot of adam.

      • February 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

        After writing this post, I actually finished playing Bioshock 2 and largely loved the hell out of it. It got much, much more fun around the time I hit Siren’s Alley and started getting powered up.
        I intended to write a follow-up post on it, but my life and writing time were eaten by a new job and boring grown up stuff. Aaah, who gives a damn if it’s outdated? I should write it this weekend. I’ve been itching to replay Bioshock 2, anyway.


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