Friday, February 26, 2010

Would You Kindly Return To Rapture?

After I finished beating Mass Effect 2 (twice), I was ready to take another trip under the sea to the beautiful, Ayn Rand inspired city of Rapture. Another fantastic sequel, Bioshock 2 continues the story of the first game but with a pretty big (daddy) twist. This time, instead of fighting these guys until your health bar is at just a sliver, you actually are a Big Daddy. You are Delta, the first of the Big Daddy experiment/program and at the beginning of the game you are rendered unconscious by a fairly nefarious person who, besides not knowing the order of the Greek alphabet, is a bad, bad lady.
You wake up ten years later (having missed all of the events of the first game) to find your beloved city in ruin. A war between the powers that be, and the cracked out splicers (citizens of the underwater city of Rapture who have undergone genetic modification one too many times) has left entire sections of the city flooded or otherwise uninhabitable, and the people that are left have to constantly avoid the remaining splicers, the creepy little sisters, and the ubiquitous leaks that could lead to immediate and fatal flooding of their neighboorhood.

You communicate with friend and foe alike via a radio system nearly identical to that of the first game, except that instead of having to pick up a radio and carry it around with you all of the time, this one is built into the suit you're wearing. As well as a built in two-way radio, your helmet also features a video camera so that your friend and foes can also watch what you're doing. Missions are given via the helmet radio, and things progress much the same as the first game (video sequence, tutorial, creepy radio transmission, thrown headlong into the game, repeat).

Once again we have a research tool in the game that allows us to better defeat the splicers that are thrown our way except, being that this is a sequel after all, it isn't a genetic Instamatic, it's a genetic Super-8!. This time around your camera work depends not just on how well you frame a subject, but also how you defeat it. This includes security cameras, those little flying drones, as well as splicers, Big Daddies, Rosies, and the new enemy: Big Sister.

The combat in this game is a far sight better than the first game. In Bioshock you were forced to choose between wielding your plasmids (genetically enhanced superpowers that allow you to freeze things, burn things, electrocute things, etc.), or using a traditional weapon like a gun or melee device. In the sequel that decision has been rendered moot by the ability to shoot a gun while at the same time giving your enemies a healthy dose of genetically powered fire. Also of great improvement to the combat system is the game's ability to recognize that different areas of the body have been hurt and react accordingly (i.e. someone who has been shot in the leg limps and moves more slowly while someone who take two barrells of shotgun love to the face just dies).

All in all I have been fairly pleased with this game. The new online modes are interesting and really add some legs to an otherwise one or two playthrough game. Heavily influenced by Call of Duty, the online matches of Bioshock 2 have just what you'd expect from this game: stunning visuals, fast paced action, plenty of explosions and, because it's XBox Live (for me anyway), lots of pre- and post-pubescent kids screaming racial and sexual slurs. If you can ignore that last part the game is immensely enjoyable online.

8 out of 10 stars.

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