I think everyone’s a bit skeptical when it comes to sequels now-a-days. We’ve all been fooled so many times by promise and fancy-pants marketing schemes that we are reluctant to believe part II can be any good. This is the way I saw Bioshock 2 being developed. You want more Bioshock? Let’s cram in an alternative antagonist, add Modern Warfare-esque multiplayer system and replace Big Daddies with Big Sisters . Why 2K Marin thought the name Big Sister sounded as ambiguously imposing as Big Daddy once did is beyond me. For that matter, how Bioshock 2 turned out to be pretty darn good also escapes me.
Bioshock 2 puts you in the helmet of a Big Daddy. The once feared and seemingly indestructible mystery of Rapture is now at your fingertips. That sounds good, except I found it hard to discern what difference, if any, the new ‘Daddy status afforded me over my previous romp through the city as a human. It offers very little in fact. Being a Daddy changes your relationship to the Little Sisters of whom you are out to rescue again but balance against foes feels the same. You can now dual wield sure, but it does very little to change the combat. Instead of Andrew Ryan testing your mettle this time you’re challenged by Sophia Lamb and her cult. Rapture’s message of individual reward has been warped after the Ryan era to a far scarier social disease.
Visually and sonic-wise the city is still something to behold. Bioshock 2 stands up to its predecessor in every bit of presentation. It’s just the innate sense of déjà vu that will take a while to get over. Rapture seems more nuanced this time. Its strange but being familiar in this case gave me more time to appreciate the details. However, I still wanted something strikingly new and Bioshock 2 seems to look and feel very much the same. The underwater sequences teased at what might have been an exciting new way to play the game but never fully shakes things up. There is a new hack mechanic now and for each Little Sister you adopt there is a Bioshock version of Search & Destroy which is fun and different but not bold enough to push the Bioshock series beyond what it had already achieved.
When it comes down to it, Bioshock 2 is fun, well constructed and worth playing. Where it succeeds is being tried and true and where it fails at is being new and innovative. Nobody really needed a multiplayer Bioshock. But I don’t think anybody can complain. Bioshock 2 is still smart in many senses. Its identity may be lost in its sunken city, but the Rapture is no place to forget . Without that intense presence the Bioshock series runs the risk of becoming as vapid and stale as the air left in Rapture and its fans like its inhabitants within. Starved of any true nourishment they hang on to what they once thought was a good idea.