Bioshock 2: Same as it ever was

I’m a big fan of  Bioshock.  I loved almost every minute of the first game with the notable exception of what I thought was a relatively lackluster final boss fight. The underwater utopia of Rapture was one of the most wonderfully realized environments I’d ever encountered in a video game and I thoroughly enjoyed the Ayn Rand-ian storyline.  The only other complaint I can lodge with the original Bioshock was it’s duration.  At a little over ten hours, I would have liked to have spent a couple more hours in Rapture.

Well, that’s what Bioshock 2 delivers. Another ten hours in Rapture. Everything I loved was still there; the gorgeous water effects, the foreboding atmosphere, the several varieties of Splicers with which to do battle, etc.  Even the soundtrack, chock full of old-timey goodness was back.

And herein lies the problem.  Almost nothing is new.

I was so excited to be playing the part of a Big Daddy, clamped into a diving suit, possessed of  the strength of ten men and protecting the Little Sisters.  Alas, it turns out that a Big Daddy is just about as tough as Jack was in the first game. That’s right! The lumbering leviathans that turned up every so often as boss battles in Bioshock take regular human damage.  This flaw makes the experience of Bioshock 2 an almost insurmountable disappointment.  Add to this the inclusion of a really cool drill-bit attachment to the right arm that runs out of fuel after about three uses and there really seems to be no advantage to playing as the character whatsoever.  Basically, the limitations of the characters abilities makes being a Big Daddy virtually useless.   Oh. You can walk underwater but you won’t see any combat there.  It just gives the player the opportunity to walk a little slower than usual.

This is about as tough as you'll feel as a Big Daddy.

Another new twist is the gaining of ADAM, the element that allows you to upgrade your plasmid powers.  There’s now the ability to have adopted Little Sisters harvest ADAM for you from random corpses along the way. Unfortunately, as the little gal is extracting the serum, it causes a steady and annoying wave of Splicers to rush the area to stop her.  You now have the ability to set traps that will hold off the first few of these enemies, but it basically comes down to a swarming firefight.  These events aren’t difficult to get through, but they are tedious and after the first few times,  it just becomes easier to murder the Little Sisters and take the ADAM from them.   Sure, you won’t get as much ADAM and you’ll get the “bad” ending, but choosing to stave off the Splicer throngs time and time again provides a pretty accurate definition of monotony.

Apart from one new flavor of Splicer, the only other new foe is the Big Sister, and she’s a colossal pain in the ass.  She shows up every now and again, leaping from wall to wall, throwing fireballs and diving in for the occasional melee smack.  She’s not particularly tough to beat, but her sudden, unavoidable appearances elicit a frustrated sigh more than the dread of, say,  the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3.

Now this sonuvabitch knew how to make an entrance!!

...this chick? Not so much.

Add to it the complete lack of an epic final battle and the whole experience just doesn’t work as a sequel to a great game.  If anything, the whole thing feels like a lengthy expansion pack. The storyline is passable, but not as good as the narrative from the first game.  There’s a twist at the end that was somewhat satisfying, but to go back and replay it for the different endings just seems like too much labor for too little result.

It pains me to put these words down. I was very much looking forward to a return to Rapture, but there is quite simply not enough new to make it worth the time it takes to get through Bioshock 2.

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