A welcome trip back to Rapture.
When I first heard 2K was developing a sequel to Bioshock, it sounded like a sad, unnecessary money grab. Even worse, the original development lead, Ken Levine, wasn’t involved with the project. All signs pointed to a desperate cash-in, so I was pretty baffled by how favorable initial reviews were.
After finally playing through Bioshock 2, I really wish I wasn’t so pessimistic. 2K Marin did a fantastic job building a new adventure in Rapture. While it’s no match for the original, Bioshock 2 is a joy to play and to revisit one of the most fascinating game environments ever made, in Rapture.
It’s clear the development team took their responsibility to the original’s success seriously. The commitment to developing a story and characters is clearly noticeable. While the overall storyline gets a little muddled and the new characters aren’t as magnetic as the original’s feud between Andrew Ryan and Atlas, Bioshock 2 still has an engaging story to tell. The underlying philosophic battle between the lead antagonists feels a little forced. It’s basically a war between individualism and collectivism, but those ideas aren’t as smoothly integrated into the storyline like how Bioshock 1 handled objectivism and idealistic individualism. Your personal story, however, as a Big Daddy fighting to save the life of your “daughter” / Little Sister I found to be extremely well-written and -developed. It’s hard not to feel a bond with your Little Sister, Eleanor, and that emotional tie amplifies the action you endure to great effect.
Mechanically, Bioshock 2 plays great. Using plasmids and guns has been polished to a tee, and the game is a thrill to play from start to finish. Again, set-pieces aren’t quite as distinguished as Bioshock, but there are still some wonderful levels to explore, including hilarious dioramas on Rapture’s history and animatronic theme-park rides inspired by Ryan’s philosophy. Overall, the levels definitely feel more “game-y” this time around and you won’t consistently feel immersed in Rapture as a believeable city. Ocean-floor walking sections are a great idea, but don’t really fulfill the potential.
If you loved the original, you really shouldn’t miss Bioshock 2.