Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Bioshock 2 Review

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Genre: FPS
Developer: 2K - Irrational Games, Various 2K branches, Digital Extremes
Publisher: 2K Games

Feb 9th 2010 Euro Release

Rapture, the fruit of Ryan's labour, has survived.

I've been looking forward to Bioshock 2, the first was simply awesome.  The storyline, music, art design and theme all worked amazingly well together.  However, after hearing Ken Levine was going to be taking a backseat on this project, I was slightly concerned.  His input and direction on Bioshock definitely pushed the development team in the right direction and put the story at the forefront of the experience.  Would this happen without his direct influence?  Have I been humbled?  

Would you kindly read on....

The long awaited sequel finally arrived this year.  Set ten years after the events of the first game, you take on the role as 'Delta', a unique Big Daddy, instead of the previous amnesia sufferer.

Your back in Rapture, and boy, it ain't no prettier.  The Splicers are as vicious and hideous as ever, it seems they've been busy over the years splicing up and generally creating a nuisance of themselves against the Big Daddy's.

So with Bioshock 2, I was expecting more of the same.  I wasn't wrong.  The same great art and level design is evident from the get go. All the previous Hacking, Plasmids and Tonics are back, but somewhat improved.  The weapons are interestingly upgraded and altered, the original weapons weren't bad, but using them again would have seemed a lazy move from the developers.  I'm impressed they brought some new guns to the fight.

However, the graphical quality doesn't seem to have improved in the Xbox 360 version as much as I would have expected, which is annoying.  Its been just under 3 years since the original was released and with the development of technology I was hoping for some improvements as there are some instances where the framerate decides to take a nose dive and slows the game down, areas where screen tearing is a nuisance and overall graphical splits in certain objects in Rapture.  Despite these issues, this in no way takes away from the immersive environments you explore and the graphics are solid compared to a lot of sequels out there.

Music plays an enormous part in setting the tone and building tension, just like in its predecessor.  I really enjoyed the soundtrack to Bioshock, so much that I downloaded them to my mp3 player to enjoy.  They were so chilling and had such a spooking edge that listening to them would trigger memories of the thrilling set pieces from Bioshock.  Again, the score in Bioshock 2 has the same desired effect.  The sounds and music in Rapture sets the tone and amplifies the adrenalin pumping set pieces exceptionally.

There are some interesting new gameplay mechanics.  You again have the battles with Big Daddy's to get to the Little Sisters and their Adam (the currency used to purchase Plasmids), but this time you can Adopt or Harvest them.  If you Harvest them, that's it, over and done with, but if you chose to Adopt them, well thats another story.  You can now Gather Adam.  Holding the X button points you towards an Angel, a dead Splicer containing valuable Adam, but its not all plain sailing.  As you quickly get surrounded by Splicers, including new 'Hulk-like' enemies, and have to keep them at bay while your Little Sister 'Gathers' the Adam..  These new guys are big, fast and unrelenting, a very well designed opponent for the sequel, seeing as you are now a Big, Bad, Daddy yourself.  Its refreshing not to keep killing the same baddies over two separate games.

The other new addition to gameplay is ability to leave the confines of Rapture.  Mainly used as a set piece to transfer the player between levels, the undersea world engulfing Rapture looks beautiful.  Looking up, you can see various species of sealife traversing the complex skyline (sealine?) of Rapture.  It does look stunning, but I would have enjoyed some kind of threat from the sealife, so that I would be under pressure to get through this section due to dangers of Sharks/Squid.

At the moment, I have a temperamental Xbox 360.  It seems to enjoy stalling at the most inconvenient times.  With Bioshock 2 this has caused huge frustration due to the lack of frequent autosave checkpoints.  This has happened twice so far, losing a total of 7 hours of game time.  Now the stalling of the 360 has nothing to do with the game, it happens with about 5 different games over the last month, it is nonetheless taking all my strength not to throw the controller at the wall.  I can't help but think this wouldn't be as much of an issue if there were more checkpoints.  The only checkpoints that occur seem to be when transitioning between levels, which is fine, but the level time can be an hour, shooting up to 7 hours till checkpoints.  Even though you don't really die, due to the Vita-Chambers, I feel that the increase in autosaves would hugely improve the game.  For example when you use the Gatherers Gardens and get new Plasmids, why not have an autosave?  Or after Big Daddy battles?  I don't really know if its causing other gamers in the community as much of a problem as it has with me, but its a problem that's bit me twice, and hard.  This should really be taken into account by developers in general, because I can guarantee I'm not the only gamer who has a console that wants to stall at the worst time, now and again.

Lets talk about the multiplayer.

Bioshock 2 has a multiplayer experience that is packed full of features and is an interesting take on multiplayer games by the team at Digital Extremes.  The experience is called Fall of Rapture, its set before the events of the original Bioshock take place and will showcase the events of the Rapture Civil War.  Including 7 different game modes, the multiplayer is no mere rush job.  Playing online, is a very rewarding experience.  Ranking up unlocks various Weapons, Plasmids and Tonics to extend the lifetime of the multiplayer.  They have definitely spent considerable time developing a well rounded online component, including a story element showing the fall of Rapture, is a master stroke.  A unique take on multiplayer thats refreshing and surprising in a time where all the multiplayer components take no risks.

Despite the issues with a sickly 360, playing Bioshock 2 is a positive experience.  I get the same feeling of immersion that the original Bioshock gave me.  The team have done a good job creating a more degraded Rapture, it feels like an extension of the original.   There are, as always with me, certain things I feel could have been improved, or included, in development, but I really cant complain too much about Bioshock 2.  It does its job, and does it well.

Bioshock 2 gets 7/10.

Lets hope the next one gets better too.

No comments: