Monday, March 08, 2010

Bioshock 2

Let's go back to Rapture, shall we?

Last night, I completed my first play-through of Bioshock 2, the sequel to a pretty phenomenal game. I loved the originals deep philosophical foundation and the story had a killer twist (pun sort of intended?). So when I heard that we would get another chance to visit Andrew Ryan's dystopian fallen paradise, I couldn't wait to see what was in store.

Things have certainly changed. For starters, it's ten years after the first game and Rapture is still falling to pieces. Why that is, I'm not too sure, because there's a new despotic leader in town, Sofia Lamb, who is basically the polar opposite of Andrew Ryan in terms of governing philosophy. Where Ryan placed value on individual freedom (a concept that the developers skewered with considerable glee in the first game), Lamb emphasizes the collective over all else. So it makes me wonder, if Lamb got everyone on the same page, why is Rapture still a dump ten years later? She's waiting for Extreme Underwater City Makeover to call?

At any rate, this time around, you play a Big Daddy named Delta, one who could use plasmids and weapons at the same time, a definite improvement over the original. I did fumble a bit with my offensive abilities. The original key-bindings seem counter-intuitive: you fire plasmids with your left hand and shoot your weaponry with your right, yet to shoot the guns, you left click and use plasmids with a right click. At the suggestion of the folks at the PC Gamer Podcast, I reversed that, only to remember that most games are shooting guns with a left click. It took a level or two for me to get used to it, but once I did, it worked out okay.

Another interesting twist is how you relate to the Little Sisters. In the original game, once you took down a Big Daddy, you could either "rescue" or "harvest" them (the latter a colorful euphemism for killing them). You still have that choice in this game, but before that, you can "adopt" them, going out with her to harvest the all-important adam from two corpses. This leads to a mini-tower defense game. You have to set up traps and be ready to protect her from all the baddies that will quickly swarm over you to try to get her.

The new sequel also features some fun new plasmids such as "Scout" and new twists on the established ones. They also revamped the hacking mini-game, making it more logical. That, plus a raft of new weapons, and you've got a pretty worthy sequel.

The one place where it seemed to be lacking was in terms of story. Simply put, it doesn't quite measure up to that of the original. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't think the developers set out to top the story from the first game. But there are some seeming plotholes in it. They do attempt something of a twist, a small one, but they gave it away in the middle after one comment, so that when I hit the actual "twist," I just nodded and said, "Well, duh." There's also something of a muddled chronology to the story as well; when I first started playing, I assumed some of the events happened after the first game, only to learn that they actually happened before it, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

I did have a few gut-wrenching moments in terms of plot, though. The developers took care to really work out a more complex morality feature to this game. In the original, there were two endings. Which one you got was based on how you treated the majority of the Little Sisters. In this case, though, there are six possible endings, all based on certain moral decisions you make throughout the game. I, apparently, messed up. I was a bit too bloodthirsty and clumsy (I accidentally harvested a Little Sister because I hit the wrong button), and so I wound up with a sick feeling through the last levels. Let's just say my moral choices came back to haunt me. It does make me curious to see what would happen if I did better.

There's also an on-line game, set during Rapture's civil war of 1959, but I've only played that once and I'm not too sure I'll be back. Part of the problem was that I got thrown into a match with people who out-gunned me pretty severely. If they did a better job of ensuring complete noobs like me don't get thrown in with the experienced vets, that might be better.

So in terms of replayability, I'd say that I'll be back eventually. I'm not eager to do it right now, but I definitely want to see some of those other endings. And who knows, maybe I'll give the multiplayer another shot. See you in Rapture, folks. Just be sure to bring a towel.

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