Enchantment Under the Sea
When I first started playing Bioshock 2 I felt it wasn’t going to be good. I can’t really place why to be honest. The original Bioshock had a great way of delivering story and atmosphere, but I didn’t care much for the combat which was a large portion of Bioshock. Perhaps that was it, maybe I dreaded the combat. In any case, I came away pleasantly surprised by the end product. Bioshock 2 builds upon what the original did, making a game that plays better than the original.
You play as a Big Daddy, Delta is what you go by, which is pretty rad and has the added bonus of getting a drill to jack some fools with which is way cool and destructive than a wrench. With the help of Augustus Sinclair and Eleanor Lamb, who at one point was a little sister and at all points the daughter of Sofia Lamb (the antagonist), you’ll fight your way through the denizens of Rapture. Delta and Eleanor were paired together, as was common with early Big Daddies. They thought of each other as father and daughter, and to incentivize his staying with his assigned little sister, paired Big Daddies would go into a coma if they were separated from their “daughter” for too long. So Delta’s goal is to find Eleanor and, as he will soon find out, save Eleanor from her mother. Sofia Lamb wants experiment on her daughter to further the “Rapture family”. So naturally she’s going to get all up in your business when you awaken because of the bond you share with Eleanor.
There’s actually a fair bit of player choice in the story as well, a few characters lives are in your hands and it affects different things depending on whether you let them live or die. One character will help you out a bit if you don’t kill them, while another choice will just affect things at the end of the game, but ultimately it won’t affect your course or the main arcs of the plot. There are also, some really neat things that happen towards the end of the game that I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re interested in the world of Rapture you should definitely play this game if you still haven’t picked it up.
Onto the gameplay, you wouldn’t think that dual-wielding would add so much to the game, but freezing a splicer and then busting him open with a drill dash is very satisfying and wouldn’t be nearly so if I had to wait to switch to hands. Bioshock 2 has plenty of weapons (with upgrades for each), plasmids, and tonics for you to play with. With all these tools at your disposal you can really put the hurt on your enemies successful while experimenting with different plasmids and weapons and the game encourages you to do so with the research camera.
The research camera let's you record a subject (an enemy) and learn his weaknesses and whatnot. When you reach a research milestone you get a reward, such as increased damage against that enemy type or a tonic. You can increase how much your research yields by switching up your method of attack on the enemy. Unfortunately, you don't get this camera right away and the enemies can be a bit too tough without the benefits of research resulting in the first few hours of Bioshock 2 being a pain in the ass. When faced with a Big Daddy I would generally end up dying in the beginning. In Bioshock, you respawn at a set point and you don't lose any progress. This can be abused to take out tougher enemies, such as Big Daddies, and is not the most rewarding way to play Bioshock. I didn't feel like there was any other way to take care of them before researching and my enjoyment suffered because of this.
Little sisters are still a game mechanic, but there are more steps to the process. Instead of just rescuing them or harvesting them, you adopt them and may let them harvest ADAM from up to two corpses. At any point you can choose to rescue or harvest the little sister at any point, but you’ll get more ADAM for upgrades if you let her harvest corpses. Whenever you decide to let your little sister collect ADAM from a body the game turns into a defend this point mode, which can be frustrating in the beginning before you have the research camera or a large amount of upgrades because splicers will swarm you while doing this. Towards the end of the game it isn't that big of a deal, you're given plenty of defense tools and you are pretty powerful from the upgrades, so splicers are pretty trivial once you hit your stride. After dealing with all the little sisters in an area, you’ll be visited by a Big Sister. She isn't visiting you because she want to catch up with an old friend, it's because she is pissed and wants to let you know that through kicking your teeth in. Just like any other big sister, these are an annoyance. Like the Big Daddies before they are way too powerful for the player before getting any kinds of upgrades, but once you receive said upgrades they aren't much trouble.
Being a Big Daddy, you can breathe underwater, so of course there are underwater sections. These parts are just walking (no combat) and pretty uneventful. Sometimes you can find a few items, but that’s about it. You can tell you won’t be in danger because you lower your weapon and plasmid, so there’s no tension, which is odd because most underwater levels add to tension. Fortunately, these sections don’t last long and only serve as bits of scenery to take you to the next section of Rapture, so overall I’m not offended by their presence.
Speaking of scenery, Bioshock keeps up the tradition of being pretty and creepy all at the same time. The debris strewn across the world, the writing of lunatics across the walls, and the lighting go a long way to set up the atmosphere of Rapture making it feel very dangerous. I always feel on edge when I play the game, like at any moment someone or something could jump out at me and attempt to ruin my day. Even at the end of the game, after getting a bunch upgrades and research and I feel like a badass, I treat every new room and hallway cautiously thanks to Rapture’s ability to creep my out. There are few games out there that capture atmosphere as well as Bioshock.
Playing through Bioshock 2 can kind of feel like a chore at first, but once you progress enough it becomes very satisfying. The amount of choice you’re given when it comes to disposing of enemies is pretty incredible and the tools give to you are fun to use, which makes experimenting natural and something the game doesn’t even need to incentivize. If you were one of those people, like me, who doubted Bioshock 2 would be any good, you might want to rethink that and pick up this under appreciated sequel. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.