March 16, 2010
Take 2 Interactive
Windows, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Release Date: February 2010
Why would a Big Daddy need to eat potato chips?
How come, if those walls have been leaking for at least ten years, the whole city isn’t one big fishbowl?
Why does Brigid Tenenbaum trust me with protecting her and the Little Sisters when she considered Big Daddies simply “smelly, disgusting things” the first time around?
And why, in the name of all that is holy, if I’m in my Big Daddy suit, are splicers still kicking my ever-lovin’ ass?
Back from my return to Rapture, my cranium is buzzing with questions and concerns. Don’t misunderstand me; Bioshock 2 is nearly every bit as enjoyable, if not as innovative, as its successor. It just possesses some niggling details I had to overlook during its duration to get the most out of it.
See, in the first title, the player filled the shoes of a plane crash survivor named Jack who must descend into the gameworld via a lighthouse lest he drift out to sea.
Released in 2007, that game garnered positively mammoth critical and commercial success so it was a no-brainer that a sequel was a-brewin’. Not only that but this time, instead of being chased around by those lumbering, drill-wielding behemoths, you are one, a prototype known as Project Delta. It soon becomes apparent, however, that you’re “Big Daddy Lite.” At least for three- fourths of the game.
Megalomaniac Andrew Ryan’s presence can still be seen and heard via voice recordings, statues, displays and other artifacts, but the real antagonist this time around – ten years later -- is Sofia Lamb. Lamb was one of the initial movers and shakers in Rapture, all plying “Health and Happiness Through Genetics” in Ryan’s underwater metropolis before the populace caved under its own conflicting philosophies, politics and grand visions and anarchy ran rampant.
She is dismayed to find you alive (I won’t drop any specific plot points, have no fear) and still trying to connect with your bonded “Little Sister,” her daughter Eleanor, which I guess makes you Sofia’s husband? I didn’t quite follow that thread, because I thought all along that Big Daddies were superhuman beasts tasked only with protecting the Adam harvested by their assigned, individual Little Sisters from corpses.
Anyway, she harps over the public address system so often that her voice grates on the nerves, always calling “The Family” together to thwart your efforts. She chides Subject Delta by letting him know that “out of my pain, paradise was born, and you have no place in paradise.” (For that matter, Andrew Ryan left you a message that there is no place for you on the surface, either.)
Adam and Eve remain the substance by which you survive, supplying ever-increasing abilities such as electrocuting human enemies, cameras and security bots, hypnotizing foes into decimating each other and unleashing a swarm of hornets to sting a fool or three to death.
Despite these superpowers, which are literally at your fingertips (wouldn’t Bill Buckner have appreciated the “freeze” plasmid that day in 1986) the game, at least for me, was considerably more difficult than the original.
Assuming both games are set to “veteran” difficulty (which accesses all of the Xbox Live achievements), steps for obtaining Adam in the first game were A.) Antagonize Big Daddy (which won’t attack until you do, but will growl really loudly if you get too close to the girl) and lure him into a mess of trap rivets or whatever it takes to drop him; B.) Confront distraught Little Sister and either rescue her to collect a little bit of Adam or “harvest” her to net copious amounts of the stuff. ‘Nuff said.
That doesn’t cut it ten years later. Not if you wanna be the Big Daddy. Now it’s A.) Irritate fellow Big Daddy and somehow bring him down; B.) Adopt or harvest the Little Sister; C.) If you adopt her, shield her from the torrent of splicers who swarm when she collects more Adam from corpses – twice; D.) Bring her to one of those vents (or as she calls them, “hidey holes”) so she can go to sleep. You better stock up on health kits, Eve hypos and ammunition because you still aren’t done running for your life. E.) Each time you take a sister off her “route” you alert the “Big Sister,” in essence a female version of yourself, only about 1,000 times quicker and nimbler and possessed of a shriek like a very loose fan belt.
You are introduced to this lovely lass early on and it’s unfortunate that she is reduced to somewhat of a “boss fight” after each little sister endeavor. Like the Big Daddies of various “models,” Big Sisters tote Adam you can collect from their still, prone bodies, however long it takes you to get them to that point.
Besides the aforementioned plasmid powers, which operate from your left arm, a smorgasbord of projectile weapons is on offer, from the rivet gun, shotgun, speargun, grenade-launcher, machine gun and more. All possess three types of ammunition depending on the upcoming encounter.
Got a gaggle of splicers hunkering over a trash can fire up ahead? Line up a rocket spear. Fun every damned time, and it should be, because there is seemingly no end to the denizen roaming the halls of Fontaine Futuristics, Siren Alley, Pauper’s Drop and other environs. And every one, from the run-of-the-mill thug to the transporting, fireball-hurling “Houdini” splicer, is still full of piss and vinegar from overindulging in Adam, and eager to spill your blood. Or, um…motor oil; I still can’t decide if Big Daddies are human or once were or not.
Plus, you always have your handy-dandy drill for chewing through all the tomfoolery. There’s even a plasmid obtained late in the game for those wanting to focus strictly on drill usage for the authentic Big Daddy experience.
The only issue with weapons and plasmids is there’s still no way to cycle backwards so if you skip the one you wanted you have to file through the logjam to get back to it. In the heat of battle, this can be trying.
Perhaps I’m being too demanding of Bioshock 2, with its fantastic, well-realized world with a setting like no other. Memorable scenes and occurrences abound.
In addition to choosing whether to harvest little sisters or be their savior, there are other moral conundrums along the journey.
Grace Holloway, a former matinee star, wanted children of her own but was unable to. Lamb has persuaded her to thus join “the Family” and its rejection of the “self,” which was the centerpiece of Ryan’s designs upon settling Rapture. Holloway joins Lamb in deriding you over the PA, damning your very existence and questioning the validity and righteousness of your search for Eleanor. Upon encountering her in a secret room, you can choose to simply take the key she possesses and let her live out her days in squalor or put her out of her misery.
Stanley Poole, a former newspaperman (and dirtbag, although being a former reporter myself, I found Poole giving the press more of a bad name), has holed himself up in a train terminal room and saddles you with “dealing with” three little sisters. And their respective Big Daddies, of course. Once his true motives are out (courtesy of Lamb) you have the choice of either killing him or walking away, too. Gotta admit I loved watching him writhe with a gutful of phosphorous buckshot.
I enjoyed simply creeping around and hearing a female deranged maniac, apparently another actress in a former life, mutter “A fan?” before dashing at me with blood in her eyes.
I relished the chance to plod around on the other side of the glass, with the fishes and the occasional great white shark (don’t get excited, there’s no battle to be had) despite how few and far between those moments were.
And those who read my review of the first Bioshock know how much I loved the flying security droids, and this time you can keep them in tip-top shape with a snap of your fingers! They are always handy in a firefight, although they tend to block doorways, especially if you employ more than one.
It’s unfortunate that the exact same voices (with little variety) from the first game were utilized, and I can’t tell you enough how tired I got hearing the virtually identical little sisters whimper, “Hurry, Mr. Bubbles, we’ll miss the angels dancing!” or “I’m ready for dreamtime, Mr. B.” The first couple of times were cute, but not eight levels in.
There’s so much more I can say, but it’s better if you stop reading and get to playing. While some may say developer 2K Marin has let Bioshock 2 fall into the dreaded sophomore slump, I don’t necessarily think that’s true. It had to be unnerving to try to top such a runaway bestseller of a new property. Let’s see what the future brings; I seriously doubt with a capital D that after reaching the surface a second time (again, there are several endings depending how much of a maniac you were) this is where the story ends.
Still, I don’t know what the Splicers have been eating for ten years, because there’s a bounty of pep bars, canned ham, bottled water, Chechnya vodka, and yes, potato chips everywhere. Why would a Big Daddy need ‘em, and how would he eat ‘em through that mask anyway?
Final Grade: B+