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Bioshock 2: You’re not my real dad!

I heard the announcement that there was going to be a Bioshock 2 with a wince and a fair amount of anxiety, dreading the return to Rapture just as much as I would dread seeing one of those awful Disney made-for-DVD sequels of their classic movies.  Uh, not that I have a soft spot for Disney movies or anything, shut up.  You don’t know me.

It really didn’t add up.  Bioshock ended tied up in a nice little ribbon on top of it, and I don’t know about you, but I got the feeling Rapture wouldn’t last much longer regardless of which ending you saw.  The dream was dead, all that was left was for the rest of the underwater city to realize it.  Plus, Bioshock was the first FPS game I played that really went above and beyond its genre, story wise, gameplay wise, and philosophically.

So when the first clumsy announcements of “Oh you like Big Daddies, huh?  Well now you are one!” came out, I was fully expecting the worst.  It reeked completely of milking a dead cow, beating a dead horse, and uh, eating a dead chicken.  Okay, scratch that last one.  This is getting a little too ‘barnyard’ for me.

Anyway, to get back on track, turns out it wasn’t too bad.

Bioshock 2 offers a big revamp to the combat system, where you can use plasmids in junction with your current weapon, since it turns out whatever freaky version of Big Daddy you are comes fully equipped with two hands.  This change alone makes the game feel smoother in combat, and the new weapons and plasmids will keep you wondering what’s next.  It’s thoroughly satisfying running through some splicers with a drill and riveting the bejesus out of some nosy Big Daddies. (Don’t worry, they’re not your friends, apparently.  Or maybe a rocket spear to the head is the Big Daddy equivalent of a hug?  I dunno.)

Image from www.bioshock2game.com

BROPOUND

As for Rapture, well, it’s Rapture.  Time has passed since our last visit and the underwater city is looking more than a little rough around the edges.  Water is dripping from just about every surface, and most of the dry areas are on fire.  The city offers some new surprises, like new, burly splicers that want to pummel you into next week… for some reason, and the ever dreaded Big Sister, who pops up every now and then to wreck your day.  It’s rapture as it was in our first encounter, with all the charm, audio diaries, and blood that we’ve come to know and love.

But the real thing that had me concerned was the story.  How, exactly, to you top Bioshock’s story?  With something that major looming over your head, how can the story of the second game come anywhere close to topping that, especially since players are now looking for something similar?

To be honest, you can’t.  I went into the game knowing full well the story had no chance of overcoming my expectations, but even then I was…  a little disappointed.  Of course, I was disappointed for other reasons.

Bioshock’s main premise is that you are subject Delta, one of the original Big Daddies who was bonded to a very important Little Sister before the Rapture civil war.  Within the first five minutes of the game, your Sister is taken from you and you’re killed pretty good.  But then you come back, after the events of Bioshock, knowing that you need to find her again or else you’re going to meet your demise.

The main problem with this story was that I really didn’t care about it at all.  It was really just an excuse to romp around Rapture again, shoving a drill into people’s faces willy nilly like a moron.  I didn’t feel connected to the main character, especially since you know he’s a massive, mute, genetically altered freak with no relevant past, and you never actually have any hands on time with your original Little Sister to build up any kind of empathy toward her.  The game’s big reveals seemed hollow, because I just couldn’t bring myself to care one way or another about either the main character, or any of the supporting cast’s, fate.

It felt like something great but without the context to back it up.  Like, the decisions I made during the game might have made me feel regret or remorse, or something, if I could only see a little bit more into what was really going on.  The audio diaries help a little with some of these decisions, but I can’t help but feel that the first level or so should have taken place in Rapture before the civil war, helping you get a feel for these new characters and yourself before you get to make the complicated decision of whether or not you should shove that drill into their necks.

But hey, the mindless violence of Bioshock is still there so it’s definitely worth a play.  Just don’t expect the experience to be on the same level as the first one.

There’s also a multiplayer aspect this time around too, which I know can really make or break purchasing a game for some people.  I haven’t had too much hands on time with the multiplayer, but the ability to run around Rapture wrecking your friends day is appealing to me in some way.

Bioshock 2 is still a solid game, with updated combat, a new way to harvest ADAM with your Little Sister, and some new surprises, but at the end of the day, this Big Daddy isn’t your real dad.

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