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Game Review: ‘Bioshock 2’ Xbox 360
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The Movie God   |  @   |  
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Bioshock 2Bioshock 2
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: 2K Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: February 9, 2010

The opening of 2007’s Bioshock is one of the best — if not THE best — introductions to a video game we’ve ever seen. Crashing into the ocean, swimming to a mysterious nearby lighthouse, progressing cautiously as you put yourself into the game and wonder where you are. And then, to have your mini-adventure into the city of Rapture viciously halted by the cruel realization that you are not in a friendly place…it was all just so amazing and unforgettable, and there was still twenty great hours of gameplay to come!

The first game was so good that many fans felt that a Bioshock 2 was completely unnecessary, but we were told that one was on the way nevertheless. For me personally, this was fantastic news, and I’ve been excited and anxiously awaiting its arrival. See, when it comes to video games, they’re a platform of entertainment that is perfect for sequels. Yes, a second, third, or fourth game may not be as good as that original, but that doesn’t matter here; games all have to be their own creature. Whether you love or hate Bioshock 2, the original will still always be there to play; but if you love it, then that’s all the more time you get to hang out in that crazy world of Rapture. For me personally, I loved my second visit to the city hidden under the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and I hope that I get to go there many more times in the future.

Click over for more and to see a trailer. Be careful not to drown.

This time around, you’re inserted into the shoes of one of the hulking Big Daddies. Only instead of being just any Big Daddy, you’re the first ever made — a sort of prototype who was built to be able to wield big weaponry in one hand, and unleash the fury of plasmids in the other hand. The story begins with you and your own Little Sister, Eleanor, with whom you share a great bond and she refers to you as her Daddy. Then comes along Sofia Lamb, a psychologist in Rapture who decides to put you to sleep (so to speak) and take Eleanor with her. It’s not until ten years later that you somehow wake up and set off on a path to discover what’s going on and where Eleanor is.

Along the way, you will have many of your regular objectives, as well as a few new ones. Hidden all over the place are audio recorders, just as they were in the original game. This is where you’ll become more acquainted with enemies like Dr. Sofia Lamb, allies, and perhaps even some old friends. The voice acting is top-notch as usual, but I can’t honestly say that anyone could possibly top that back-and-forth between Andrew Ryan and Atlas in the first game.

A new objective that you have being as that you’re THE Big Daddy, is adopting Little Sisters. Each section of the game has a certain amount of them, and you will have to throw down with another Daddy in order to get to them, of course. Once the Daddy has fallen, you once again will face a choice with each child: adopt her or harvest for Adam. If you adopt her, she will lead you to Angels, where you will have to protect her as she extracts Adam from corpses. This is one of the most insane parts of the game; Splicers come from everywhere when the Sister is harvesting so you have to set up the best perimeter using the traps you possess and fight them all off. These moments were so intense that I often found myself taking little breathers beforehand just to gather my nerves. Once you’ve collected the Adam of two Angels, you must return your Little Sister to a vent, where once again you’re face with the choice to harvest her (of her now much-greater amount of Adam) or save her, which means free her from her curse as you did in the first game.

By no means do you have to deal with this onslaught of Splicers, but if you want to really arm yourself with the best Plasmids and helpful tonics, this the best way to obtain the Adam necessary. And when you do have the best Plasmids and you are heavily protected, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to go into battle with Splicers and others — very few of which will be able to dance toe-to-toe with you.

I can confirm what many have said already: this isn’t better than the first game. The great part is that it doesn’t NEED to be better and they don’t even bother trying to outdo themselves. That’s how you make a great sequel: take what worked so well, add some new things here and there to shake things up, craft a solid storyline, and you will absolutely make most who care about the integrity of the game happy.

I could immediately tell that I would like Bioshock 2, but now having played it, I can say that it was so much better than even my positive expectations assumed it would be. The three most important elements of a Bioshock game in my opinion, is the visuals, the sound effects, and the superior voice acting talents that they find. All three are alive and accounted for here. The settings and visuals were haunting and horrific while still having some semblance of beauty to them, and all of the audio dialogue that you listen to was masterfully performed by the cast, once again.

This time around, it was the sound effects specifically that blew me away. Everyone knows the best way to make anything in the realms of the Horror genre, is to perfect the lights and sounds that create that incredible suspense and tenseness. Maybe they were just as good as the first game — it’s been a while since I’ve played that one straight through — but all of the sounds were crucial to the tone of the game. I especially dug when you’re standing under dripping water and you can hear the sounds of the drops of water splashing onto your metal helmet. Little details like that are what allow you to completely submerge yourself in a great game.

The design team was able to expand the visuals even more in Bioshock 2 thanks to yet another new addition to the game that allows you to explore the ocean floors. Being as how you’re a Big Daddy and wearing an old school diving suit, there are multiple occasions when you will find yourself out in the open ocean — sometimes forced, and sometimes just along the way. These sections are unfortunately not open world and don’t allow you to venture wherever you wish, but the ability to take a break and look around at Rapture from the outside is a very cool thing to do. While in the ocean, there is no combat, so these are the times when you can relax and not have to constantly watch your back for once, which in a game like Bioshock is so very helpful to creating a wholly entertaining game experience. Don’t get too comfy, though, there are still plenty of sights and sounds out there that will cause your hair to stand on end.

People who loathed the method of hacking in the first game will be happy to know that pipe-twisting days are long gone. The new hacking system is a basic meter with red, green, and blue sections. Stop the needle in the green to hack, stop it in blue for bonuses, and set off an alarm if you hit the red. I actually set off more alarms with this type of hack than I did in the first game, even though it is easier overall. And worst case scenario, setting off the alarm allows you to pick up a couple of flying bots as added protection!

There were only a few issues that I had with this game, and they are by no means big enough to damage its success at becoming another awesome installment in the world of Bioshock. Even so, they should be noted to you the consumers.

The biggest problem I had with the game was the now infamous fonts of new games. This isn’t just a Bioshock 2 flaw, but a general flaw to many of today’s games. For some reason, developers are making the font so infuriatingly small, that people who play them on a regular TV have to literally squint to read, and even then it’s not easy. Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed II, and this game are all recent titles with this issue. I’m sure there’s probably more as well, but these are the ones I know of for sure. I threw the first Bioshock in just to be sure and it was the greatest font size my eyes had ever seen, if that tells you anything.

I can understand that a lot of people have high definition televisions these days, but there are still a hell of a lot who do not have them. Then there’s places like where I live, where there is an HD TV, but it’s not the one I play my Xbox 360 games on, and so I had to suffer through this issue as well. Multiple times did I go to find a saved game to reload and I couldn’t read the dates, or had trouble with other item descriptions. Usually I would play a game with subtitles on just to be safe and make sure I catch every word, but the lack of legibility was too unbearable to bother with, and I shut them off. To be fairly honest, I don’t even care if it’s a proven fact that every TV on the planet is in HD, it’s not that complicated to make the font a little bit bigger and ensure that anyone who buys your game will have no issues reading what needs to be read. This type of error is mind-boggling to many gamers lately, and we can only hope that whoever decided to drop the font size a couple notches will remedy that quickly.

The other much smaller issue that I did have came toward the end of the game, and it doesn’t appear that I’m alone. There may be a reason for it that I’m unaware of, but it wasn’t explained. In the game, you have your own video camera — much like the camera you use in the first game — which allows you to research different splicers and enemies. The more you research, the more little goodies you can get in return.

At one point, I received a special tonic for my research, which allowed me to become invisible while standing still. It was a little annoying at first due to the fact that every time that you stopped the whooshing sound of you turning invisible would ring out, which is more often than you’d think. Eventually I realized that aside from the annoying sound, this was a majorly effective tool in getting the upper hand on your enemies.

The issue in all of this is that for some reason, this invisibility tonic stopped working for me. No matter how many times I removed it, replaced it with another tonic, re-equipped it, or even reloaded my game and entire system, this thing wasn’t working anymore. Eventually, it started working again in the next section of the game, so I don’t know if 2K had it deactivated for a certain part of the game or what. Either way, something wasn’t right about the way it was done.

While we’re on the subject of research cameras, I personally think they should do away with it in the third game, if we’re so lucky as to get one. It’s just far too aggravating to have to set up a weapon, and then pull out your camera like a Big Daddy from Canada who’s vacationing in Rapture and try and get all of this research. The overall game experience would have been a hell lot better if you could just concentrate on the combat you’re facing and not worry about anything else.

Again, these are by no means problematic enough to negative effect the game’s fun-factor, they’re just a tiny handful of cons in this vast ocean of pros.

Jumping back to the good stuff — Bioshock 2 partially made a video game dream of mine come true. Ever since playing the first game, I’ve wanted so badly to see and walk around Rapture before everything went straight to the core of Hell, and I was semi-able to do that here. I’m not sure if it’s just some sort of Titanic fetish or what, but they could make a game just walking around and exploring pre-apocalyptic Rapture and I’d be first in line to buy it. This part of the game was very short, and not exactly what I was hoping for, but it was enough to be happy…for now. I want a major Rapture flashback level in the third game that is all about investigation, not combat! I do hear there is something like this available in the multiplayer options as well, but sadly, I don’t play on Live.

I won’t get into details about the ending as to avoid spoilers, but I will say that I was quite satisfied with how it closed out. With the first game, the part that we thought was the end — when you’re walking up to the office of Andrew Ryan — gave us some of the most insane moments in a video game to date, but as we all know, that game kept right on going after that. The rest of the game was still awesome, but the final battle with Fontaine never really sat well with me. Even the cinematic after you beat him is touching and great (depending on how you played; I went good), but the fight itself felt too much like fighting Dr. Manhattan and I’d much rather they just had a psychotic-but-normal-ish plasmid-ridden Fontaine come at you.

The ending hours of Bioshock 2 were also a little misleading; I thought for sure I had reached the end, but in fact found myself playing much more game. And though I didn’t expect the game to go on that much further, it was this additional time playing where this game solidified itself for me. The compelling storyline with Lamb, Sinclaire, and Eleanor, all finally coming together in those last few hours was truly amazing…and the final battle was just flat out absurd.

And as for the game overall? No, it isn’t better than the first game as I did say before. However, if you can believe it, I do think that it could be considered by many players to be equally as good! It really just will depend on who you are and your own game experience. Personally, I think I still have to pick the original based only on how mesmerizing it was to first lay eyes on Rapture and the Andrew Ryan and Atlas characters, but I also really have to praise 2K Games and all who helped develop it for their job in following up an insurmountable game with an equally worthy adventure. This game far surpassed my hopes and expectations, and I really hope they have more stories up their sleeves sometime soon.

Well THAT ran a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would. If you’re still here, many props to you my friends.

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