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In the end, then, BioShock 2’s single-player campaign finds a rapturous redemption. What’s more surprising is that the all-new multiplayer option doesn’t let the side down. I expected a lazy, half-assed effort, but instead we get a selection of all-against-all and team competitive modes which work hard to fit in with BioShock’s setting, atmosphere and core mechanics. This goes beyond adding plasmids to the armoury or using Little Sisters instead of flags or control points.
It extends to the ways in which you can use all the tools at your disposal – from hacking turrets to analysing fallen foes for a damage bonus – to get a vital edge on your rivals. It still feels like BioShock, and the decision to centre the multiplayer mode on a persistent character with an experience-based plasmid and weapon upgrade system works wonders. The more you play, the better you’ll get and the more fun you’ll have.
So, BioShock 2 isn’t as good as BioShock, but what matters is that it’s still great. Taken mechanically, stripped down point by point as an FPS it still falls victim to the gripes that so many whingers and moaners had about BioShock, but then the appeal of BioShock was never just about the gameplay: it was about the atmosphere, the emotions, the experience. The sequel improves the gameplay, and if it takes a long time to reach the same heights with the narrative, then at least it gets there in the end. Prepare for some early disappointment, but if you loved BioShock, you really don’t want to miss this.
The return to Rapture in BioShock 2 suffers slightly from ‘second time’ syndrome, but give it a few hours and an outstanding game shines through. The single-player campaign is so much more than a retread, and the multiplayer mode works better than you might expect. Rich, emotive, and ultimately very rewarding.