Eight years have passed since the initial events of Bioshock, Rapture the massive underwater metropolis has now fallen into ruins. Andrew Ryan, the city’s founder was killed by his own son’s hands. The city is now under control of a former psychiatrist named Sofia Lamb who was an opponent to Ryan’s ideas of human progression, whom runs the city based on her own ideals away from Ryan’s vision.
You play as Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy to successfully bond with a little sister. In 1968, you were killed and the little sister bonded to you for protection is taken away. Ten years have passed since your death, you are mysteriously revived and are now on a quest to find and reunite with your missing sister, who turns out to be Sofia’s long-lost /missing daughter, Eleanor Lamb.
Unlike Bioshock, Bioshock 2 is split into both single-player and multi-player mode. In single-player, the game focuses on Subject Delta and his mission to reunite with his little sister, as well how Rapture has changed under the new leadership of Sofia Lamb and her ‘family of Rapture’. The multi-player focuses on the events that occur a year before the events of Bioshock occur prior to the Rapture Civil War. In multi-player, the players are split into two teams representing the two key players in the civil war, Atlas and Andrew Ryan. Each team has their own narrator providing voice overs for the events, as both teams fight competitively in matches to gain the upper hand.
In Bioshock 2, not only does it introduce new settings and characters, but also brings back locations and characters already established in Bioshock. I always love seeing games continuing with the lore established in a previous game, not only sticking to it but as well enhancing it with new additions or adding more details. Bioshock 2 took chances and made changes that improved the gameplay and experience. By allowing the player to take control of a Big Daddy who is the star and icon of the Bioshock series, you are given new powers and weapons, some of the weapons will pay homage to the weapons used in Bioshock. Therefore you have the devastating power and strength of the Big Daddies, but you also gain their greatest weakness.
Bioshock 2 fully immerses you into being Subject Delta, the towering and stomping Big Daddy. Every action you do reminds you of who you are playing as. Every step you take echoes around you. Every turn of the head brings the edges of your diving helmet into view. Each successful hit from the enemy causes an unworldly cry of pain to be unleashed from within. On occasion you will even see your shadow, and even rarely be allowed to see your own reflection. Nevertheless, you are constantly reminded of the strange being you play as.
Like Bioshock 1, you have plasmids which are the equivalent of genetic superpowers that can be leveled up. Plasmids are improved vastly in Bioshock 2 as leveling the plasmids up causes them to act differently. Telekinesis in Bioshock only allowed you to throw objects and projectiles at enemies; however in Bioshock 2 after leveling the telekinesis plasmid to level 3 allows you to pick up enemies and throw them. Incinerate allowed you to only burn a single enemy at a time, now imagine leveling up that plasmid to level 3. Your hand has now become a mini flamethrower spewing flames at whichever direction you face. You also have gene tonics, another form of plasmids that offer passive bonuses that are constantly active. Unlike Bioshock 1, the gene tonics are not split into groups (physical, combat and engineering), however like its predecessor, you are able to equip up to 18 gene tonics at a time.
You would think that there is nothing to fear in Bioshock 2 given you play as a Big Daddy who has access to superior plasmids, tonics and weapons. Wrong. There is still plenty to fear in Rapture. Splicers, who are people driven insane by uncontrolled genetic manipulation and only care about getting their next fix of ADAM, have had the last several years to gather supplies and further evolve their genetic makeup. They are more likely to use their own variation of plasmids against you, carry weapons and gang up on you. There is even a new variation of splicers who have become supersized. Even the Big Daddies have evolved but none of these will strike more fear into you than one foe in particular. There is only one enemy that like many others, I came to fear and dread encountering above any other – the Big Sister. The dangerous and unpredictable counterpart of the Big Daddy.
The story focuses more on who/what Subject Delta is and why you do the things you do, and not why the city failed in its purpose of being a utopia or what a splicer is. The approach works well, driving the action with a clear purpose and momentum. You can even find scattered audio diaries throughout Rapture, each diary entry adds more detail to the happenings of Rapture and the people involved.
Bioshock 2 even introduces moral choices, similar to Bioshock 1 but with a clearer approach. These often usually involve the fate of the little sisters, whether to harvest them for ADAM or to save them. However, you will meet a few people who you can decide whether to kill them or spare them despite their actions towards you. Your choices will influence the ending of the game and Eleanor’s personality.
For those who have played Bioshock 1, the game is going to be a very familiar experience. Bioshock 2 has a more focused story-line with many improvements to the game that make it easier to understand and playable. The major feeling of mystery and awe from Bioshock 1 while not completely lost, suffered a bit in transition but the addition of a moral choice and Rapture’s strength of being the key setting makes the experience playing the game extremely rewarding. It has great lasting appeal with great gameplay, graphics, sound and presentation making it one of the best gaming experiences I had. I am definitely curious about what happened to Dr. Tenenbaum who plays a major role in Bioshock 1 and a somewhat minor in Bioshock 2. However, more about her fate is explained in the official addon for Bioshock 2 called Minerva’s Den which I do not have nor able to afford. Which is a bummer since I did want to keep going to find out whether she found the redemption she so desperately sought after for her immoral actions many years ago. Maybe one of these days I will be able to save enough money to buy the dlc and revisit Rapture, the fallen underwater utopia to find out her ultimate fate.