We were lucky enough to sit down and have a fair few hours with the sequel to one of 2007‘s best games – yes, Bioshock came out on PS3 in 2008, but by then it had lost a lot of its initial impact so we’re sticking with the 2007 theme. Anyway, this time around PS3 will be getting Bioshock 2 at the same time as everyone else, meaning it will have the same impact across the board and we won’t have any nagging feelings that we’re missing out.
With that mess cleared up, what about the game itself? Initial impressions were, surprisingly, not overwhelmingly positive. Many watching it being played were annoyed to see the sequel looking very similar indeed to its forebear and regularly complaining that even the voice recorders look the same as before.
Well tish and fipsy, we say on two counts: for one, Bioshock 2 is set in the same place as the original, so it makes more than perfect sense that the style is the same – it must be hard enough to get one brand of personal voice recorder delivered down there, never mind a host of alternative models. Secondly, the game still looks fantastic, and the underwater sections – remember that you’re controlling a Big Daddy, so can traverse the seabed in relative safety – are utterly beautiful.
Throwing in a rogue third counter-argument, there’s also a grand reveal of Rapture early on that gives you the same feeling you had the first time you saw it all over again, and is just one of many fantastic moments we experienced while playing the game.
Bioshock 2 opens with a jolt – no introduction, no mucking about: you simply wake up, stand up and get on with it. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re different to the lumbering, slow Big Daddies we became accustomed to in the first game. You’re almost nimble, but at the same time there’s a tremendous sense of weight to the character, emphasised when jumping, for example. It’s nice to see a game where you have such a sense of mass behind you while at the same time not feeling slow or hindered in any way. Regardless of how chunky you’re feeling, you trundle on through – you are Subject Delta, the prototype Big Daddy and a key factor in the birth of Rapture. Or so we think. This obviously isn’t a game that sits you down and explains everything to the player from the very outset, instead opting to keep its cards close to its chest.
There’s a woman called Sofia Lamb who appears to be ruling over this area of Rapture and prescribes to the collective ideology – completely at odds with Andrew Ryan’s objectivist stance, shockingly enough. Tenenbaum makes a return, another bloke with a New Orleans-ish accent tells you some things and… well, it’s hard to talk about this without ruining it. So we won’t. We did kill a Big Sister, though.
The game plays pretty much the same as the original Bioshock, and you are even encouraged to utilise the same combos of plasmid/weapon as in the first game. Weapons differ, with the Daddy’s toolset comprising of massive, brutal looking deathbringers: the rivet gun, machine gun and, of course, the drill arm, to name but a few. Even though this is the case, we found ourselves feeling rather vulnerable, and just a few shots from a splicer is enough to take you down (causing you to be revived by – what else – the vita-chamber). On one hand it’s good that you aren’t just a walking tank, but on the other it’s hard to accept that you’re a bit of a pansy whereas the later Daddies are all bullet-soaking behemoths.
Maybe it will be a story element – we don’t know. Hacking makes a return, but in a vastly different way to before. Gone is Pipe Mania, replaced by a simple timing mini-game: stop the line in the green or blue zone, win. Those who enjoyed the original hack-o-game are sure to be disappointed, but it was the target of many a person’s arguments against Bioshock so it’s easy to see why it had to go.
It’s unlikely that Bioshock 2 will be received with the same chorus of “revolutionary!” and “sets a new standard!” as it was last time. It’s not a push to say this is retreading old ground, but when the ground you’re doing over is so fertile, so rich with character and so ripe for exploration we have no issue with it. We don’t know yet how the story holds out, or if there are any ridiculous final boss battles, or if there’ll just be a general, massive cock-up somewhere along the line.