‘Bioshock 2’ enhances gameplay, not story

Andrew Richardson

When “Bioshock” was released in 2007, it appeared the story of the underwater city of Rapture had come to a close. The sequel, however, still manages to create an experience that rivals the original, though a few problems prevent it from rising to the same level of distinction.

“Bioshock 2” takes place some years after the original. Players take on the role of a prototype Big Daddy, a genetically modified protector charged with guarding the Little Sisters. Little Sisters are young girls who have been conditioned to wander Rapture and search for ADAM, the drug that allows citizens to modify their genetic code.

The main character, labeled only as “Delta,” suddenly finds himself alive after being forced to kill himself 10 years prior. Delta immediately attempts to find his Little Sister, Eleanor, who is being held captive by her mother and the main antagonist, Dr. Sophia Lamb. The insane psychiatrist has kidnapped Eleanor and put her into a coma. Delta’s journey takes him through nine different areas of the city, and Dr. Lamb has set up roadblocks and traps in order to stop the Big Daddy.

The game feels less like a proper sequel and more like a side story. It pulls elements from the original that feel forced and not especially relevant. It is as though the game is trying to remind players how interesting the plot of the first game was. While there are certainly some interesting characters along the way, the overall narrative can become dull and mundane for long stretches of time.

Despite these issues, the game play manages to feel much better. Players can now use both weapons and plasmids at the same time, and the controls for both are tighter and more responsive.

Plasmids are the genetic modifications that allow citizens of Rapture to use what amounts to super powers. Most of the powers from the first game make a return, along with some new ones such as traps and decoys. Plasmids are upgradeable this time, adding more diversity to enemy encounters.

Weapons are also improved, with multiple upgrades for each and a wide array of ammo types suited for a variety of enemies.

Big Sisters are the new bosses introduced in this game, and they appear about once per level. Sporting heavy weaponry, hanging from the ceiling, and jumping quickly from wall to wall, the Big Sisters are easily the most challenging enemies in the game. Dealing with them takes a bit of planning, as only certain ammo types and plasmids will do any real damage to them.

Multiplayer has also been added this time around. Set up with its own fiction, a number of game modes allow players to go online and battle each other using both plasmids and weapons. With a leveling and upgrade system similar to that of most modern shooters, the multiplayer works well enough, but it doesn’t bring that much new to the table.

While “Bioshock 2” retains much of the great atmosphere created in the original, the fact that it was created second limits its effectiveness. The city of Rapture looks as good as it ever has, but it’s been seen before. The characters lack the personality seen in “Bioshock,” and Dr. Lamb is hardly an effective antagonist.

Moment-to-moment gameplay is much smoother, however, and the addition and changes made to the combat make the game feel much more refined. The creepy atmosphere of the underwater city remains intact, and the back history of Rapture is still pretty intriguing.

This is a game made for fans of the original, though most will likely find it an enticing adventure.

Bottom Line: “Bioshock 2” doesn’t live up to the expectations created by its precursor, but that doesn’t make it a bad game. Plot disappointments and stunted characters are overshadowed by satisfying gun and plasmid mechanics, and the new additions to the franchise are more than welcome.

3 and ½ out of 4 stars