Bioshock 2 First Impressions

11 02 2010

Man, it’s good to be back in Rapture. I wasn’t aware how much I missed the creepy, rambling chatter of Splicers roaming the desolate hallways, the scattered audio logs filling my ears with objectivist propaganda, and the bone chilling sing-song of the Little Sisters as they go about their wicked, foul business.

Bioshock was one of the first games I got for the 360 (Halo 3 was the first; I got the box the night Halo 3 came out). I played it for a minute, up until the first Big Daddy fight, then got distracted by something else (can’t remember what). My wife, who has never been too big on first-person shooters, picked it up, and fucking ran with it. She got totally immersed in the world of Rapture and its inhabitants, to the point where I came home one night to find the lights off, candles lit, and my wife wearing headphones, and completely oblivious to the world around her. Eventually I did come back to it, and found it to be one of my favorite shooter experiences, up there with Half-Life 2 in terms of innovation, atmosphere, and character. The city of Rapture is as much of a character as Andrew Ryan or Atlas, and the water effects (fitting for a game taking place under the ocean) are second to none. But to this day I still think of it as my wife’s game.

Tuesday I picked up the sequel, brought it home and immediately found myself in familiar territory. Rapture hasn’t changed much, though the game is from a different studio (2K Marin instead of 2K Boston/Irrational Games) you wouldn’t know it from the level design. It feels very much like the first game, and I found myself reverting back to its control scheme before I even realized it, just as reaction. You still pick up audio logs, there’s still food scattered everywhere, and the world around you seems to act familiarly. The new underwater ocean areas are gorgeous, but serve as little more than sightseeing tours, adding mood and atmosphere but little gameplay.

The big changes seem to be in the combat, and most of them are welcome. Where as before, Splicers would run at you one at a time, regardless of the fact you had just mowed 3 of their brethren down with an automatic shotgun, now the AI seems a little bit more thoughtful, dodging and weaving, taking cover and flanking, all of which is a necessary upgrade in the age of Modern Warfare 2. Also, the dual wielding system works wonderfully, and before you knew it, I was shocking and smacking Splicers again like it was 2007. I will miss the old hacking mini-game, but the new Tiger Woods Golf-style meter keeps you in the fight and doesn’t break the pace of the game, which seems a little bit more frenetic this time around, pushing you forward harder than its predecessor.

The one detraction I can give to this game is the story. After a brief opening cut scene, it just kind of plops you in the world, and it’s just not as immersive as the first game. I’m not saying it needed a tutorial, it may just be a problem with the very nature of sequels, that we already know how Rapture works, we know what plasmids are, and what they do, so they can just dump you in a seemingly random room in Rapture and expect you to fill in the blanks as you go. That’s cool, I don’t need my hand held, but it seems like they could have taken their time developing this character and thus put me more into the story. As it stands, there’s a distance between me and my in-game avatar that wasn’t there before. I feel that, especially since you play a denizen of Rapture in the sequel, that they really could have played off the familiarity of a sequel more effectively, especially from a storytelling standpoint. A missed opportunity, as it stands, but still overall a minor bump, and, as I said, I’ve only played the first few hours of the game.

I haven’t played much of the game, and haven’t even looked at the multiplayer yet, but I still recommend at least renting the game, if not outright buying it. It’s fun just to watch the game being played; it’s so beautiful and haunting.

Follow me on Twitter! @CharlieHamlin

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2 responses

12 02 2010
Joe

First, I’d like to say that I didn’t realize people still rented games. It honestly never occurred to me. (I think Bit Torrent movies are to blame for that, somehow.)

Second, have you played Fallout 3? I think that game has ruined me for all other games. Hack-n-slash FPS’s just seem so 2D to me that I find myself getting bored quick. Even ones as elaborate as Borderlands (Or, World of Wild West Craft, if you will) can’t seem to hold my attention– I haven’t played more than a handful of hours on it.

So, with that out of the way, do you think I’d like Bioshock 2? (I haven’t played Bioshock 1 for much; only a few hours on a pirated PC version to check it out.) I’m tired of buying games that I either beat in a day or lose interest in a week. (I’m looking at you Prototype and Borderlands)

$60 ain’t cheap for something I’m going to let gather dust, ya know. 🙂

13 02 2010
charliehamlin

The only place people rent games anymore (that I know of) is GameFly. I don’t use it, I just have a pretty good eye for games that I will like, and go for sales.

I did indeed play Fallout 3, and yeah, it was awesome. Would have liked a better third-person camera, but hopefully that will be remedied in New Vegas. I don’t know about it ruining other games for me, I’ve played several since (including World of Wild West Craft, I like that!) and liked them better (AC2, Borderlands, Batman:AA). Halo:ODST was cool, but not different enough to really grab me. The thing in my household is Co-op. That’s why we love Borderlands. It is a riot when you get two people on that game, and can really see the classes bounce off of one another. I kind of avoid online co-op, because I get tired of hearing the word fag, and if I wanted to play with 12 year olds, well, I don’t live that far from Chestnut Log. Fallout 3 was fun, and I liked the VATS system, but after a while, all the grey and the blah character animations really got to me. Didn’t do Pitt or Mothership Zeta, just never got around to them (too much stuff to do, and alas, single player).

Now as to Bioshock 2, I don’t know if I can really recommend it if you didn’t get into the first one that much. Like I said, we really loved Bioshock 1, even if all of its Ayn Rand references reminded me of Doc’s class (without that annoying voice). But if the first one didn’t grab you, I’d say skip the second one.

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