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Bioshock 2 — Bloody Pearl

My head hurts. For a while I’m staring at an image in a puddle, and I slowly realize the thing I see is myself. If there is still any “me” behind the helmet. In the background soft jazz is playing from a crackling radio, makes eerie contrast with the ravaged scene.

Pics on the wallRapture. I remember. The pieces of my broken life slowly come back. There are web-like crazes in the glass dome, litter covers the ground, the walls are wet and mouldy. The music dies away. A whale passes by. The sound of its bitter song filters through the glass wall and rides away on the streets of this New-Dead-Atlantis. Silence sets and raises an unmappable feeling in me. The ocean around me is just like my mind – I see only a small part of it, and the remainder is scrammed by doubt and darkness.

Eleanor! Beastly anger gushes forth in my soul when I see her face in my mind’s eye. It is followed by the beautiful eyes of Doctor Lamb, a handgun, then the cold barrel on my temple…

This is the feeling of Bioshock 2‘s (BS2) first moments. The sequel of one of the most unique games in the last 5 years is advanced and conservative in the same time – or a bit stuck-in-the-mud, to tell it rougher. Rapture is the same as we got to know it, only the story and the characters changed.

The first and most important thing to know is that our main hero is a Big Daddy. Aired news, previews and trailers uncovered this early, so there was no surprise when I got behind the thick helmet of a deep-sea diving suit. After the intro and the first minutes you probably will find your chin on the floor, but even at this point I must mention a little flaw that is nothing else than being a Big Daddy. Although our basic weapon is that certain scary driller that made the hair on our neck stand in Bioshock (BS), regarding gameplay it brings no significant changes.

Holy SisHonestly: Being a Big Daddy gives you no different experience than taking the role of Rapture’s lost savior in the first installment. Of course, there are improvements, but these mostly show themselves in the efficiency of killing your enemies. Namely, our main hero can use weapons and Plasmids in the same time, so he is a more efficient tool of destruction, and combat is faster, more dynamic. It’s relevant to ask if this was really needed for BS2; but the answer, I think, is subjective. In my opinion the developers a bit overshot the mark, they throw the player into deep water too fast and too much times, and this resulted in a lower scare-level. The game is still capable of causing some chill moments by shadows, music and locations, but the emphasis slid toward action.

However, the atmosphere is still thick as Rapture’s walls that stand firm against the never ending attacks of the ocean, even if ten years passed and a civil war broke after the first installment. If you saw or played the first BS, walking in the city again can make you feel a heartwarming – or fearful – excitement. But if this is your first visit, you may find strong atmosphere, and may have a good chance to get lost in this unique world. No doubt, in spite of all the new ideas Bioshock 2 won’t be a classic only because its prequel became one. The characteristic music of the 50s and 60s makes unforgettable contrast with the dark scenes and the grandiose, bloody fights. It was true for the prequel and it is still the truth; Bioshock games almost have a scent, and the experience is longlasting.

The story changed a few times during development, what’s more, according to the news a main element – the chronological placement of the story – was changed in the last minutes. Hearing such news and rumors I had strong doubt about the quality of the story, but fortunately I was not disappointed. Okay, it doesn’t beat the level of the prequel’s story, but it is still high above the FPS standards.

Holy LambAs I mentioned, the main hero (Subject Delta, or just Delta, as they call him) is a Big Daddy. In the prequel we got to know his kind as silent, simple but very aggressive giants whose only life goal is the protection of the Little Sisters. The main message of he second BS game is just that Big Daddies are human beings too, or at least they definitely were humans. It’s not much of a topic, and it turns out from he intro, which gives such a strong kickstart as the first Bioshock did. The story begins in 1958, but after a decade-long coma it really plays in 1968. But what had changed in Rapture during ten long years? Not much, but the changes turn upside down everything we knew about the city. There are more, stronger and new enemies, and we find crazier locations and characters than before, if possible. The main question is ‘Who are you?’, ‘Who is this Subject Delta?’ The past is concealed in dark mist and we know very little. The name is Delta, and our Little Sis, Eleanor is kidnapped. There is a strange mark on Delta’s hand, and there is something else… Oh, yes, he came back from death.

Our chief enemy will be a woman named Sofia Lamb, whose pretty look hides a very dangerous soul. Behind the blue eyes there lives a megalomaniac woman, a mad scientist type of character full of pain, anger and hatred. Furthermore, there is a strange bond between her and Delta.

After the events in BS, a civil war swept through Rapture, and it almost completely ruined the city. This is the primal change in the spectacle; litter, ruins and leaking water rule every location. The war turned Rapture an even darker place, there are only a few sensible survivor, most people became demented by using Plasmids and drugs (Gene Tonics) without restraint. (They are the Splicers, our basic enemies.)

RisingsunDoctor Sofia Lamb gained the upper hand over the chaotic situation and conquered Rapture. Her followers are working toward her ends with fanatic religious zeal. There are almost no sane survivors, so the resistance counts only a few members – and Delta, of course. However, the lady doctor and her gene-manipulated henchmen are everywhere, so if you hear her voice from a loudspeaker, just grab a gun, because bloodshed follows. Beside hunting for the angry doctor, we have a much higher and doubtlessly more important goal; to find Eleanor. Although a Big Daddy can adopt any Little Sister, he can make a tight and unbreakable bond only with one of them. The complications are about our “daughter”, whose person is but as important as ours. Eleanor regularly sends messages via telepathy, she helps us where she can, and her exaltation toward us paled not a little during these ten years.

However, Dr. Lamb has more tools than I listed above. It’s not impossible that the Big Sister from BS2 will become such iconic figure as the Big Daddy from the first installment. Originally, the developers wanted to make only one such beast as an unbeatable returning nemesis – but they thought that players fire up on returning enemies, so they put more Big Sisters into he game. In my opinion this reasoning is bullshit, but BS2 seems better this way. If I would want to describe the ominous with a few words, I would tell she is fast, deadly and creepy. In contrast with the big boys the girls can leap huge, use Plasmids and are terribly quick, so they have serious advantages. The first meeting can cause shaking hands and heart throbbing in the throat, but after killing her (it won’t be easy) this little “sickness” will go.

Big sis elIn my opinion the idea of the big sisters is a bit artificial, but it fits into the story and gives some creepy feeling as well. As I mentioned above, the girls may go classic, even if they are not so characteristic as the big boys in the prequel.

HUD, menu, weapon an Plasmid systems are the same that we know from Bioshock. We can boost up our weapons freely at given locations (at Power to the People machines), and ourselves too by new abilities. There are only two things that move Rapture: money and ADAM!

The first one is already known by everyone, but the second needs some explanation. The city of Rapture is special not just because it sits under the ocean, but because of ts inhabitants. The chemical named ADAM originates from a sea slug and is an excellent subject to genetic manipulation. It is hyper reactive, so it builds into the body instantly; it destroys and replaces cells in the body. Sometimes this means destroying and replacing brain cells, and the city leaders didn’t restrained its use, no wonder if the physically supernatural citizens of Rapture went totally nuts.

During the ADAM-related experiments it turned out that by breeding them in human stomach, these sea slugs produce several times more from this wonderful substance, and we arrived to the idea of Little Sisters. Originally these girls were “breeding tanks” for the slugs.

PlasmidOf course, this ADAM is the pavement on the road of character development. It comes chiefly from the Little Sisters, who we can search, find, defend, and save or harvest – having no other job beside the main story line. When there is an ADAM-leaking corpse in the way, our main Big Daddy function switches on and we can protect our little companion from the mobs gathering for the scent of the narcotic energies while she extracts the valuable material with a huge syringe. The game warns about having serious weaponry and defense, because sometimes there can be twenty to thirty attackers coming in rows and groups. As in the prequel, we can decide the fate of the little girls by either saving them from the stomach-breeding sea slugs or harvesting them all the energy – and that means their life energy too. This has a great influence on the endgame being good or bad, as well as the number of killed important characters.

So, the ADAM is given, we just have to use it. If you know BS, you don’t need to know more; at certain gene-terminals we can buy fine Plasmids and improvements for the collected ADAM.

Then we can continue our journey, which is – as a matter of fact – linear, but it cannot be overly felt, because the main road leads through relatively wide areas. It’s worth to look around fairly, because there are numerous hidden rooms and corridors where we can find extras, boosts, money or audio logs. Audio logs; just like in the case of the great prequel, these diary notes can keep down the boredom that may rise between the active events. These logs uncover lots of interesting things about this strange undersea city called Rapture. These commentaries are excellent, and the voice actors deserved a big compliment.

UnderseaThe cutscenes are specially worth to mention. Ma favorite is that in which a Big Sis breaks a glass wall to deluge us. To tell the truth, I waited for this move in the first installment, but the developers kept it for BS2 (it is understandable; a deep sea diving suit is more appropriate for being deep in the sea – Garcius).

The world in the depths of the ocean is gorgeous and eerie in the same time. Tables, chairs and corpses are floating in the crystal clear water and between corals, practically everything that stood or laid on the ground before. The animation of the water and the undersea world is awesome, the chill almost made a shudder pass over me. It’s a nice move, and at first time it is one of the most memorable moments of Bioshock 2. However, during the first hour of the game we have to realize that there is not too much invention in his second installment – what you can find is good enough, after all.

Like, for example, the simultaneous use of weapons and Plasmids, which also means some opportunity for combining them. For example, if you draw a barrel full of gasoline to yourself by telepathy, and throw it toward a group of Splicers, then shoot at it, I don’t have to tell you what happens. There are combinations like freeze + shatter by bullets, or like shock + smite enemies, which can become a routine move. I think the true value of these combinations turns out in the fights against the Big Sisters.

Save herThey renewed the hacking of cameras, mounted guns and electric locks by a clever little gun that shoots hacking darts. So we can hack things at a distance. The process needs only reflexes, and it can be made a lot more easier by boosting up the skill. Of course, every important element of the game has a skill or ability, which is more or less improvable.

I have to mention the enemy-related changes. The basic enemies are the Splicers, the mad followers of Dr. Lamb. Just as in Bioshock, they attack with melee and ranged weapons, their repertoire includes both the wrench and the Tommy-gun. A new and very convincing phenomenon is the Brute that looks like a white Hulk. This huge mutant can throw almost any item at us, and I didn’t find any weak point. Occasionally, I had to put tons of lead into this fellow (two spears into the head and goodbye – Garcius). This kind of enemy is a little bit too arcade for me, but it fits into the atmosphere, so I don’t give any bad points to the fellows at 2K.

Only one type of enemy remained to mention; Big Daddy. It is good to know that the Daddies are attacking only from the purpose of self-defense, because theoretically we belong to them. They didn’t changed in the last ten years, or became harder at best, and we have to defeat them, because they have something that we need: ADAM-collecting Little Sisters.

EleanorRegarding visuals I can tell BS2 is a fine game, even if it is not the most beautiful one – however, it would not be bad if it, as a sequel, would have given a little bit more. Its visuals are almost exactly the same as of BS, excluding the different locations and the ruins. While the graphix of BS was balanced and almost perfect, BS2 is marked by extremities. Some places make you faint, but sometimes there are neglected items and terrains. For example, in the sea beyond the windows we can often see rough-looking, “objects” made from too less polygons, or the textures of it are raw. Anyway, the general impression is awesome, and there are not much bugs, so I stop straining at a gnat. The light and shadow effects are strong, but personally I got frightened more times when I played BS. Of course, it’s a matter of taste. Anyway, fire is fine and the water animation is unparalleled, especially the water leaking through the ceiling or flowing down on stairs. And it can be used to Plasmid-jolt enemies standing in it.

Sounds bring another good point for the game, because the developers payed much attention to them as important elements of the overall atmosphere. The music includes merry jazz as well as creepy horror symphonies, and this duality has a serious effect on the whole atmosphere. Also, the sound effects are well-wrought, at first I was surprised when the drops of water knocked on my helmet.

In effect, Bioshock 2 is still a black lamb. It is far from perfection and not in the league of the classic prequel, but the unparalleled world of Rapture and its atmosphere still raise BS2 up to the best games. As a sequel, it uncovers numerous new details from the history and inner relationships of Rapture. It is an excellent shooter that is a bit average in the horror genre, but the story has enough twists relatively to the average quality of the FPS games. Although sales underachieved, I humbly reassure everyone to merge deep into the world of Bioshock once more, because among numberless dumb action game it is really a shiny pearl. You only have to bring it up from the ocean depths.

We are waiting for the next one, and for the movie too.


Bioshock_2_boxDeveloper: 2K
Publisher: 2K Games
Style: FPS

What I liked:
interesting (and useful) inventions
underwater scenes
Big Sister
multiplayer (tough its necessity is doubtful)

What I didn’t like:
I expected more inventions
some scruffy textures
too much shooting makes it stale sometimes


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