The first 10 minutes: Bioshock 2
Highly-anticipated by some, condemned without trial by others, Bioshock has finally been released today on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Have the developers at 2K Games sold their souls in an opportunistic attempt at making some more money out of a successful franchise? Or is the sequel worth spending a few bucks/quid? If you're looking for some answers, then you might want to follow me inside and check on all the exclusive videos illustrating our detailed first impressions article. Enjoy!
Bioshock 2 puts you in the suit of a Big Daddy, which is something we had experienced briefly in the first game. So as not to make you feel like you're playing an anonymous character, it's through the mask of the first ever Big Daddy in Rapture's history you're going to dive in troubled waters.
Decommissioned – euphemism - under circumstances that will be revealed in the introduction of the game (watch the video below), our tin man wakes up ten years later and starts looking for Eleanor Lamb, the Little Sister he was once responsible for. Ten years during which Andrew Ryan's fantasy city has continued its decline. Ten years of absence that will sure bring their share of questions about the whirlwind of events that have occurred in the meantime. Supported by Dr. Tenenbaum (whose return is explained at the beginning of the game) and Augustus Sinclair, the hero will obviously cross the path of a cast of disturbing and dangerous characters, even for a Big Daddy.
The first hours of the game reveal a classic storyline in perfect keeping with the previous title, with the introduction of the man, or rather here, the woman, that will be the sum of all evil. It is indeed quite logical for Ryan and Fontaine to “step aside” and leave their place to Sofia Lamb, a fanatic woman the player will learn to know through the famous audio diaries scattered everywhere, and the different radio conversations. The game is based on a structure that is very similar to the first episode, with one main goal - someone to find and deal with generally - to reach in each level, and the upgrade of the hero's abilities: Big Daddy or not, the plasmids will therefore be there, not to mention the required arsenal one should expect from a protector. Weaponry will actually bring a bit more novelty than the rest of the character's powers as they seem to be very similar to those of the first game (certainly in order to keep some narrative coherence).
Bioshock 2 does not want to take any chances and prefers to play it safe, and it is probably a double-edged choice. On the one hand, fans of the first hour will undoubtedly be delighted to find such a cohesive and well-rendered world and atmosphere, that without losing the gameplay mechanics that made the game's success in 2007. On the other hand, there will be those that only see a copy and won't give up that idea, despite the game's obvious qualities. The game alternates between exploration and challenging fighting. Although linear in its structure, it allows to explore the levels more or less freely, in search of valuable items or clues to progress. The battles require a well-thought approach, not to be turned into mincemeat, and well before meeting the first Big Sister, it won't be rare for the player to use the Vita-Chambers (that you can deactivate in the option menu if you're a bit masochistic) since every single enemy in Rapture will want to tear you to shreds. Some new surly creatures emerge to bring variety to the whole, for example the brute splicer, very reluctant to discussion and dialog. Overall it's the same bestiary as the previous game, at least in the beginning.
The first Bioshock required the player to make some tough choices, between saving the Little Sisters, or harvesting the Adam they had collected, killing them in the process. It's the same old story in Bioshock 2, since every time a protector is out of the picture, you can either adopt the genetically modified girl or kill her to recover the sea slug that was placed in her body to collect Adam. If you choose to adopt her, she will then guide you to the corpses (two per little sister) that still contain Adam, and your task will be to protect her the time the process comes to an end. Expect some massive assaults on the parts of the raging splicers that will make your life miserable if you're not well-equipped with Eden syringes and ammo (at least before unlocking the devastating attack with the drill, which will still need fuel however).
Once the job is done, you will have once again the choice to kill the little sister to harvest the fruit of her work, or to save her and bring her back to her normal self. Whatever you decide to do, be aware that this is exactly when things will really start to get serious: indeed, a pissed-off Big Sister will always pop out of nowhere and start to make you understand that you should have minded your own business. If you thought that fighting Bid Daddies was a real challenge, then you're in for a pretty big surprise when the Big Sister teaches you humility. Little Sisters are indeed fast, powerful and deadly and they will send you back 20,000 leagues under the sea (or to the nearest Vita Chamber should you decide to use them).
To make things a tad easier, it is hopefully still possible to hack into the different vending machines to get some discount, or the cameras or turrets that can provide some support from the sidelines. What's new though, is the fact that you can now do it from a distance, thanks to a very useful hack tool. The plumber type mini game is history, unfortunately, and instead we are asked to simply press a button in the right timing several times (ideally, so that the needle stops in the green or blue sections).
Gameplay still revolves around of use of Adam and plasmids and, just like in the first game, it will keep you focused on the building up of your character's powers and abilities. Depending on your choices, the ways you can handle a situation will vary but I must say it's a shame to see that they have not added any new plasmids in the sequel. Most of what you will get is basically the same stuff than before. Perks are also vital to your survival and they are many, which makes it even more difficult for the player to decide whether he should harvest the Little Sisters instead of saving them, as pity is of course less rewarding than self-centeredness. How far will you be willing to go this time?
Another area that hasn't changed much but that should please everyone is the excellent artistic direction of the game. Even though some will bitch about a bunch of blurry textures, it is hard not to remain speechless when discovering some of the new places Rapture has to show. The water effects look as impressive as ever, especially at some point in the game where the water starts flooding the whole level, to the point where some areas are completely underwater (don't worry that's not something I want to spoil in the videos). Such underwater sequences are completely new to the franchise and they offer a nice break from all the combat and survival. In the quiet depths of the ocean, with no sound but the heavy breathing of your character and a perfectly orchestrated soundtrack, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed with emotion. If you're anything like me, you will take your time to contemplate the marvels that the city of Rapture reveals when seen from the outside. Add to that the very nice lighting effects with all the shadows that go with them and you will probably all agree with me when I say that Bioshock 2 still looks very good.
As for the framerate, it is smooth in almost all circumstances, but the rare slowdowns only occur when things get a bit hectic. Unsurprisingly, the voice over work is about as convincing as in the first game and the music score adds a lot to the feeling of loneliness or urgency, depending on the case. Just hearing the ominous violin chords will have you realize how important the soundtrack is to make the game so immersive.
There is something hypnotic about Bioshock 2. It might be easy to consider it as a second-class sequel just because it does not really feature anything new compared to the original game. But in the end, it is very easy to get enraptured by the game's universe right after the first dive. Be advised that the game is quite challenging though, even in normal mode, and that choosing to deactivate the Vita Chambers can make it really frustrating if you're not strategic enough. This sequel should be around the same length than the previous title given that, after 6 to 7 hours, I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what the story has to show. On the downside, the only real regret I have is with the feeling of extreme vulnerability, even when confronted with the most generic enemies. It's not that big a deal but, come on, we're supposed to be a fearsome Big Daddy for God's sake!
That being said, the world of Rapture has been respected to the letter, even if it means that the narrative itself seems to use the same tricks. Some might blame that for being a safe and easy choice, but it's in perfect keeping with what a fan expects from a Bioshock game after all. Time will tell if the story does not disappoint when the climax is reached, but from what I have seen, it is rather consistent with the story of the first Bioshock. So yes, Bioshock 2 does not come out of the blue, like it did in 2007, and there are fewer surprises. It's not like that mysterious and attractive young woman you don't know from Adam and you did not expect to meet. But does it mean the game should be discarded completely? Well, I guess the answer will depend on your expectations, so I'll leave it to you then. I will end this article with the irreplaceable first 10 minutes of the game, so you can make up your own mind, as it is, after all, the only one that really matters. You will notice that I like to take my time when discovering new environments, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
The videos have all been captured from the Xbox 360 version, in hard mode.
About the game
MrWhite that's a pretty big deal, as its probably the biggest stumbling block for the tech. (4 Hours ago)
MrWhite Stuff like inside out tracking and eye tracking, as well as motion sickness solutions should be in place. We've already got a product in development that claims to have eradicated that already (4 Hours ago)
MrWhite The potential of it is massive. More so than what traditional gaming now is. Second gen is going to be very interesting. (4 Hours ago)
MrWhite We're sort of being spoon fed bit sized "experiences" that either work or don't. I suppose that's part of the freshness of it, though. I just wish some big devs would get more involved. (4 Hours ago)
MrWhite @KORNdog: Ironically, though, the VR scene is also playing it safe. Too safe. There's not enough big risk titles like RE7. (4 Hours ago)
GriftGFX I can't really wrap my head around being dismissive of indie games. That's a pretty broad label. (7 Hours ago)
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