Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BlogoShock 2: Bigger and Daddier [BioShock 2 Review]

Also, More Morally Choicier

Oh, the ways you can kill people in this fucking game. It doesn't take long to pick up the One-Two: shock an enemy, then clock 'em with your drill. Pretty soon you'll be igniting squads of Splicers and electrocuting them when they try to douse themselves in a nearby pool. And then, later on, yes, you will subdue a room of Splicers with Rocket Spears and Insect Swarm, pick up one of the infested corpses with Telekinesis, fling it at an unsuspecting Brute, as the insects burst out and swarm, unload a headshot of Solid Slug on the poor sap, triggering the shotgun's Tesla shock, at which point he is a sitting duck for a fatal Drill Dash.

And that's a relatively ordinary enemy encounter.

I obv have a hard on for BioShock 2. So, what wasn't as good as the first BioShock?

The story, for one. It just doesn't quite have the punch, although the sequel wisely avoided following too closely in the mold of the first. In some aspects, it was a more focused and cohesive story; while many elements are initially unclear, they all ultimately follow a path to a singular point. **SPOILER WARNING** It lacks the dramatic mid-game twist of the first, though that would have been too predictable this time through. You do slowly uncover information about your protagonist's true identity in this game, but it is not a central plot device. Also, after the Big Boss-esque betrayal by your guide in the first game, having a shady, all-too-charismatic ally who eventually redeems himself (instead of stabbing you in the back) is a welcome change. **SPOILERS OVER** It may not have been quite as forceful a tale, but it is the right story for this game, and the writing continued the unfaltering quality of the first.

The other thing, that has been widely reported, is that the awe of the undersea distopia Rapture is deadened by the first game's exposure. Sure, you're seeing new parts of the aquatic metropolis, and you are seeing much of it in a new way, but it doesn't quite have the jaw drop effect. This is to be expected, and cannot rightfully be considered a shortcoming. There is discussion about whether or not Rapture would hold up for a third installment. Highly debatable, though a return would not be a dealbreaker by any means (for this reviewer, anyways.)

While there are a number of improvements, the implementation of moral choice by the player is more comprehensive and more impactful. The method by which these choices affect the gameplay is not so different, but the consequences of the player's decisions are far more profound. In BioShock, you could either rescue or harvest the Little Sisters, resulting in the Good or Evil ending, or you could resuce at least one and harvest at least one, resulting in a Less Evil ending. This time, though, the resultant fate of the Sisters is modified by how you dealt with some of the survivors with whom you interacted, and this plays out in a much more meaningful way than just, 'Hey, you spared my life, here's an EVE Hypo,' or 'Hey, you killed all the Little Sisters, what gives?'

The length of the game was just about perfect; long enough to have felt substantial, but tight enough to make me hunger for a second, immediate playthrough. They've kept the bar high for level design, and have really expanded the activities one can partake in. Besides clearing an area, hacking all security, and exploring for items, audio diaries, and your current objective, you then have to find time to kill the Big Daddies and take their Sisters. But once you've done that, have your new Lil Sis show you where the angels are, so you can defend her against a Splicer assault while she gathers ADAM. Once you've decided the fate of enough Little Sisters, Big Sis drops in for a ferocious encounter.

What's really fucking cool is that all of these activities can take place in the same area. If you know an area well, and you think you'll have an advantage, then do as much as you can in that area. The trade off being that you can deplete the resources of an area (and your own) if you dwell there too long; There are only so many explosive cannisters, turrets only have so much health, and scrounged EVE Hypos and First Aid Kits only last so long. As you play, you'll learn the pacing, and 2K Marin has really put in a lot of effort to ensure you that you can accomplish all of these things while you are progressing the storyline in an area.

Oh, sorry, forgot to mention, I've got a lot more specific reaction to plasmids, weapons, hacking, enemies, and research. I'll post that tomorrow. Don't want to overload you.

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