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Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
I might as well just come out and say it: the sequel isn’t as good. But how could it be? BioShock excelled because it took us somewhere we had never been, delivering some of us one of the most richly atmospheric, emotional experiences we’ve ever had from a video game. It was only logical that BioShock 2 would return to the undersea city of Rapture; to its magnificent, rusted art-deco style and the lunatic antics of its vicious, gene-splicing population, but it’s left its new developers with an uphill struggle. How do you shock, horrify and amaze an audience with something that has already shocked, horrified and amazed them before? Worse, how do you add to a storyline which the first game pretty much completed? With Ryan and Fontaine dead and Rapture at the point of total collapse, what exactly has the city left to offer us to justify a second visit?
The answer is: a new story, a new nemesis, some intelligent new game mechanics and an experience that – in the end – still manages to affect you in a way that few other games can manage. The only thing you need to understand is that not all of this will be apparent within the first few hours. To get the most from BioShock 2 you’ll need to have a little faith.
Let’s start with what’s changed. As you probably know, BioShock 2 puts you in the hefty steel boots of one of the very first Big Daddies. Some ten years before the fall of Rapture you’re, apparently, slain with your Little Sister charge taken away from you. Now, with Ryan killed and Rapture society in the midst of a final breakdown, you awaken once more. Armed with a huge drill and whatever weapons and plasmids you can carry, it’s up to you to find your Little Sister once again and ensure that no harm befalls her.
Without wanting to say much more about the plot, this puts you directly in the way of the schemes of a certain Dr. Sofia Lamb, who, with her collectivist ideals and pseudo-religious iconography, wants to create a new utopia in the wake of Ryan’s failure. As if your regular splicers aren’t enough, you now have to contend with Lamb’s Rapture cult, the Family, plus new enemies in the shape of the gorilla-sized Brute splicers and BioShock 2’s signature enemy, the Big Sisters.
Up to a point, BioShock 2 is business as usual. You quickly get Big Daddy-sized variants of the machine-gun and shotgun to play with, along with a new, more versatile version of the Rivet Gun. You make your way through previously unseen areas of Rapture – a luxury spa resort, an amusements centre, a poor men’s slum, a red-light district – following the instructions of a new ally, Augustus Sinclair, and battling those standing in your way.