BioShock 2

BioShock 2
BioShock 2 Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre Return to Rapture shooter
MtAMinutes to Action 8
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

In 2008, I played the first hour of BioShock and loved it. Last year, I beat it and declared BioShock as one of the best games I played all year. That's when I started reading up on the already announced BioShock 2 though. I honestly didn't see the point. BioShock was a perfectly contained game: the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and Rapture was left to crumble. Sequels are usually an easy sell, BioShock 2 was not.

I wanted to give it a chance though, I never like to judge a game without playing it. But I will admit, things are a bit stacked against it. The original development team has moved on to something new, handing the reins to 2K Marin. While they worked on the PlayStation 3 port of BioShock, this is their first new game. You also play as a Big Daddy in BioShock 2, to me, this just screams one giant hand-holding game as you move from body to body with a Little Sister. Talk about one of the worst scenarios a game designer can put the player in.

But let's have some hope here, this is BioShock. It features the same engine and the same world (the single best environment ever to appear in a video game), it's going to take a lot to mess this one up. So here we go, the first hour of BioShock 2 and our glorious return to Rapture. I'll be playing a review copy provided by 2K Games on the Xbox 360.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of BioShock 2 begins. First things first: set the brightness and difficulty. I'll leave it at Medium since I've "played other shooters." Hah, even though I've "played a LOT of shooters," I'll leave Hard for another day. The game begins loading with some old-time radio and we're off! The loading screen gives hints: press right on the D-pad to heal, that seems different than the first.

01 - 1958: Beneath the Atlantic Ocean. I'm looking out the mask of a Big Daddy as he approaches a Little Sister hole in the wall. He pounds on it and the girl crawls out holding a Big Daddy doll (I want!). She drags me along with here and I can see my reflection in the glass. I looks awesome!

02 - She's already sucking ADAM out of a dead splicer and then she gulps the juice. Did they do that in the first? I chase her through a party and then she's surrounded by some splicers. The Big Daddy jumps down and stomps one on the head and then he starts up his drill and starts tearing them apart.

Bioshock 2 Welcome To Rapture Fallen Babylon

03 - One of them throws some kind of green goo at me and the Big Daddy goes down on his knees. A woman approaches us and begins controlling me! She tells me to take off my helmet, gives me a pistol, and orders me to kill myself!

04 - The BioShock 2 title screen comes and goes... Ten years later. I'm in the Big Daddy outfit again and gain control.

05 - "Fallen, fallen is Babylon" is painted on the wall in front of me. For being a Big Daddy, I move surprisingly well! Great job on that one. I bust through some coral with my drill and move on.

06 - A shadow appears and something hops around the area knocking stuff down. The Big Sister? The area I just left was called Vita-Chamber. Interesting. I find my first diary recording, it's by Big Kate O'Malley. It's an introduction to Rapture for her new employees.

08 - My first splicer victim goes down in a splatter of blood and gore. Behind him is a picture of the woman who ordered me to kill myself: "Lamb is watching."

10 - I find a bottle of plasmid and inject myself (having flashbacks of BioShock 1 here!). Looks like it's an electrobolt power, woah, a Little Sister! She tells me about that Eleanor (my "daughter") missed me a lot. I need to find her. All of a sudden the Big Sister runs by and snatches the girl in front of me. Oh no you didn't!

Bioshock 2 Big Daddy Drill

12 - The game gives me a quick tutorial on using plasmids and weapons together: shock them and then drop them with the drill. Easy enough. Oh, a message from Tenenbaum! We're supposed to meet up.

13 - A diary from Sofia Lamb to her daughter... Eleanor! This is getting interesting. I love how you can search everything in this series, makes me check every nook and cranny in every room.

14 - A gun for my Big Daddy, he doesn't get any sort of regular gun, but a Rivet Gun that shoots... rivets! One shot takes down the splicers.

15 - I should note that my Big Daddy should jump, not very high, but it feels realistic. He comes down really hard and with a great heft.

16 - I find the Little Sister from earlier, but then the Big Sister makes her grand entrance! She hops on top of me and the fight is on! Wow, she's tough, and I'm barely doing any damage. But it looks like this may be more of a chase than a fight.

18 - Wow, she's ruthless! I enter a large room and she's running along the glass wall puncturing holes in it, a moment later the game goes slo-mo and the wall is bursting! The room is immediately flooded and destroyed, but Big Daddy is safe in his suit. Tenenbaum tells me I can still reach her. Through some glass I can see another Big Daddy fighting off a splicer and defending his Little Sister. The ecology of Rapture survives.

Bioshock 2 Big Sister

20 - Wow, I leave the building I'm in through a hole in the wall and have a beautiful view of the city of Rapture. Incredible. The game kicks up the eerie violin music a few notches for this moment.

21 - The Big Sister is a lot more agile in water and hops around, but it doesn't look like you can fight out here anyway. I hit some airlock controls and unlock the Daddy's Home achievement. Loading Atlantic Express.

23 - I find a hacking weapon that you shoot at machines to take control, nifty!

24 - First hacking attempt... it's now a game of timing instead of a Pipe Dream clone. You just stop the needle on the green area and try to avoid the white. Easy. I also activate a security bot.

25 - Wow, for being a Big Daddy I sure do take a lot of damage. A couple of hits and I'm almost dead. Sofia Lamb comes on the intercom and tells us to reject the dead Andrew Ryan's philosophy.

27 - A hacked health station heals me up for nine dollars. Nothing comes without a price in Rapture.

Bioshock 2 Big Daddy Little Sister Brute

28 - An Andrew Ryan diary! Sounds like Sofia Lamb was a psychiatrist who Ryan let practice to help the "weakest links" of his Great Chain.

30 - I enter a small room and pull a switch, Lamb comes on some televisions and recognizes me. She calls me Subject Delta and then sends some of her splicers after me. The ensuing firefight collapses the floor below me and I fall... down into some more water.

31 - Tenenbaum is watching everything I see through a camera in my helmet, interesting. She says we share a common enemy in Sofia Lamb.

33 - I hack a security camera with the hacking gun to make it my own. Hacking is a bit more realistic in this game, in BioShock 1, you sometimes had to jump to reach the cameras and slam on the hacking button at your apex, and then hack while you floated in mid-air I guess. This is a bit more plausible. The camera sends a bot to take out some wandering splicers and I'm free to explore the room on my own.

34 - As I leave the room, my daughter Eleanor sends me a telepathic message and gives me a plasmid. Thanks, it's Telekinesis! Now I can throw objects around with my mind. Or fist, or something.

36 - I'm eavesdropping on a trio of splicers arguing about Rapture.

Bioshock 2 Splicer Trio

37 - Oh, I'm forced to fight them and they quickly take me down. There's gotta be a smart way to do this, like using telekinesis somehow. I revive in the Vita-Chamber and try again.

38 - Ah, the key to the fight was apparently the exploding canisters! Toss them at the splicers and they go boom!

42 - Everything about the game screams atmosphere, I love it. Oh man, a diary of Andrew Ryan and Sofia Lamb debating. They both can definitely work a crowd.

45 - Sofia Lamb is using the splicers as slaves to do her bidding against me. Seems awfully familiar! I find one of those clown vending machines and check out what's for sale. Hmm, need some first aid kits, that's for sure. But first I hack it to reduce prices a bit. Can't I just hack it to make everything free?

47 - The Big Sister appears again, and the chase resumes! And then I'm killed by some splicers. Dang! I even the odds a bit in our rematch by hacking the security camera behind them to call upon a security bot.

50 - As I enter an elevator and head up, a swarm of splicers fills the room behind me. Tenenbaum comes back on and explains my situation: I've been separated by my Little Sister for too long, and she also confirms that my "daughter" is Eleanor Lamb, daughter of Sofia.

Bioshock 2 Hacking Minigame

53 - I continue to move through Rapture, it's worth noting it's useful to hack everything now whether you plan to use it or not as you generally get a free item or a bit of a bonus.

54 - Tenenbaum! We meet up, even if she's behind a glass wall. She's with a few Little Sisters and speaks for a moment before Sofia Lamb interrupts us. She warns Rapture of Subject Delta.

56 - Wow, just fought off a huge swarm of splicers to give Tenenbaum and her girls time to escape. I also learned the hard way that time does not freeze when you're hacking in BioShock 2!

57 - Tenenbaum bids goodbye for now and Sinclair, an ally of hers comes on the line. He's impressed that I'm a free minded Big Daddy and tells me to come to Ryan Amusements.

58 - A diary of Tenenbaum's reveals that Sofia Lamb was kidnapping children from the surface. Do I really need another reason to kill her?

60 - I hop on the train to Ryan Amusements and the first hour of BioShock 2 ends!

Bioshock 2 Andrew Ryan Amusements Entrance

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 8

What was awesome: This is a true sequel to BioShock! My worries were quickly dashed away as I was tossed back into Rapture, there's no way I can deny that. This is not going to be an "unnecessary" sequel as I expected, let alone a failure. Let me get into the biggest reason why:

The Big Daddy controls exactly opposite of how you would expect a Big Daddy to control. While he has the heft of a half-ton beast, he moves around quickly and wields a mean drill. The Big Daddies of Rapture are slow, boot-stomping beasts. This wouldn't be fun at all and the designers knew it. I'm reminded of some portions in Knights of the Old Republic where you're forced into a lumbering suit where you take one step per second. They were the single worst portions of the game and memorable for just that. BioShock 2 amazingly avoids this while still feeling realistic.

Sofia Lamb sounds utterly despicable. BioShock was great because of Andrew Ryan, a confident villain who ruled Rapture with a philosophical fist. He leaves behind a giant power vacuum in the underwater city and his political rival has stepped in to fill that gap. People love a good villain, especially one that appears to have good intentions. I look forward to learning about her rise to power and then drilling her back down to size.

The audio diaries are also back, and I still think they're a brilliant way to tell a story for those that want to hear it. Basically, my point is that BioShock 2 has been great so far because it looks, plays, and feels like BioShock 1.

What I liked: The concept of the Big Sister seems a bit contrived, but I'm definitely curious about their connection to Little Sisters and Big Daddies. The ecology of Rapture continues to grow and evolve and it's exciting to see what they've got cooked up.

I also like the new hacking game. The original's Pipe Dream mini-game took you away from the action, and while it still doesn't feel like I'm "hacking," at least it keeps things moving. There's also a real danger in hacking now as time doesn't freeze while you're attempting it.

Gameplay: A lot swifter than I imagined it would be in control of a Big Daddy. It still feels like BioShock too, which is a huge plus. Battles are chaotic with so much going on, but yet you feel like you're in control with both plasmids and guns at your disposal (and at the same time!).

Fun Factor: It was great fun being back in Rapture and seeing some old faces. The atmosphere is still incredibly creepy and has not seem to have lost anything in the transition to 2K Marin.

Graphics and Sound: Many people complain that the engine is aging, which it obviously is, but when you have an incredible art deco style powering the visuals, it's really hard to complain. Oh, and of course the sound design is insanely good. My one crappy complaint is now that you're playing a Big Daddy, your own character is making those groaning noises! Throws me off.

Story: This is where BioShock 2 needs to prove itself the most in my book, and so far, it's doing a pretty good job. It'll be harder to make an altruist like Sofia Lamb out to be the bad guy as opposed to the selfish egoist, but from what I've seen so far, they'll manage. Hey, she tells you to shoot yourself in the game's first cutscene!

Would I keep playing? Yes, I loved the original BioShock and the sequel hasn't missed a step so far. There's no better (or worse) place to be than in Rapture, and I'm glad to be back.

Bioshock 2 Big Sister Little Sister Art