I often wonder what it must be like to work for a games studio, creating the sequel to a game that was highly acclaimed and won its fair share of Game of the Year Awards. Sure, you might surprise gamers and reviewers the first time round, but next time everyone will be watching closely. Well, I wondered about it again recently, when all eyes were on 2K Games for the release of Bioshock 2, the sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2007 shooter.
Once again the story takes place in the city of Rapture: a secret underwater utopia where people seeking respite from government, religion and other forms of oppression could go to seek their fortunes freely. Well, that was the idea, but an internal civil war fueled by a genetic tonic called Adam soon reduced this utopia to ruins. This time, players assume the role of a Big Daddy, a genetically-altered man confined to an armoured diving suit whose sole purpose is to protect the city’s iconic Little Sisters — small girls who wander the city harvesting the coveted substance, Adam.
This particular Big Daddy, named Subject Delta, is an early model, which means that he has a few differences to the others, the most important being that he is exclusively bound to a particular Little Sister. In Delta’s case, the Little Sister is a girl named Eleanor Lamb, the daughter of a prominent Rapture psychiatrist who now serves as the leader of a cult in the crumbling, leaking halls of the city a decade after the events of the first game. In the hope to be reunited with Eleanor, Subject Delta follows the guidance of Dr Tenenbaum (remember her?), who has returned to Rapture to put an end to the project she started once and for all. Bioshock 2’s complex story is also full of jarring opinions and commentary on human nature.
The story is interesting and compelling, but what makes Bioshock 2 even more engrossing is the in-depth gameplay. On the surface, the game plays like a standard first-person shooter, but a good hour or two of play will start to reveal the true depth of play it truly possesses. Subject Delta has two main offensive options at his disposal: weapons and plasmids. The weapons seem fairly standard at first. Delta starts out with the huge drill attached to his arm. He can smack enemies with it or rev it up to deliver a high-damage drilling attack. He can also find plenty of other weapons, including the standard-issue Big Daddy rivet gun, a Gatling cannon, a shotgun, and rocket launcher, among others. Each of these weapons can be upgraded up to three times, with each upgrade offering an interesting new benefit, like increased damage, larger ammo clips or ricocheting bullets. Each weapon can also use three different types of ammo, each of which is useful in a particular situation.