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Review: BioShock 2

BioShock 2 dives under the surface
By MITCH KRPATA  |  February 24, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars


BioShock 2 | For Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, And PC | Rated M for Mature | Developed by 2K Marin | Published by 2K Games
"A man chooses; a slave obeys." When Andrew Ryan said this to your player in BioShock, it was part of a plot twist of surprising power — about halfway through the game, you realized you'd been taking orders from your antagonist. An incisive comment on video games, and on the people who play them, that moment crystallized BioShock, one of the classics of this console generation. You are a slave, it said — and we nodded our heads and kept right on going.

BioShock 2, a wonderful game in its own right, has a more optimistic take on human nature. In this incarnation, your life is more than the sum of your own choices, because that's true of your children, as well. Demonstrate fairness, justice, and virtue and the next generation will follow. Show them avarice and greed and they will respond in kind. We are more than purely self-interested, as Andrew Ryan believed. We have a duty to leave a better world than the one we found.

You may remember from the original game the lumbering monsters called Big Daddies. Each was genetically engineered and brainwashed to protect young girls called Little Sisters. Clad in pressurized diving suits, they wandered the halls of the undersea city of Rapture in peace until provoked, and then they unleashed hell. In BioShock 2, you play as a Big Daddy — the original Big Daddy, in fact. A short introductory sequence depicts your forceful separation from your Little Sister at the hands of a collectivist named Lamb, who forces you to commit suicide as your horrified Little Sister looks on.

Cut to 10 years later, when you awaken in a desolate, destroyed Rapture, well after the events of the first game. Your Little Sister still lives, now fully grown, and still under Lamb's control. Of course, you set out to rescue her, and it's here that BioShock 2 really begins.

For the first couple of hours, it feels a little too much like the original. Rapture is still an extraordinary setting, at once triumphant and tragic, neon lights burning for the few depraved inhabitants who remain. Levels are designed in a non-linear fashion, and that encourages back-and-forth journeys, as well as fruitful side trips to scrounge for power-ups. As in the original, Rapture feels like a place where people really lived and worked — and died.

But BioShock 2 diverges from its predecessor in ways both subtle and significant. It's more consistent from start to finish, lacking anything as potent as Andrew Ryan's death scene, but also not tripping up with incongruous elements like escort missions or boss battles. Hacking Rapture's security systems makes more sense this time around, since the maneuver has changed from a pipe-laying mini-game to a timing-based button pressing challenge. The sequel retains the open-ended combat mechanics of the original, giving you latitude to customize your playing style.

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