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Reviewed by Rich DeWester
t's been almost three years since we last wandered the dark, murky halls of the dystopian city of Rapture. Now, finally, 2K has called us back to experience a new story, from a new perspective. In Rapture's timeline, it's been 10 years since Jack's impact on its history, and the power vacuum left by Andrew Ryan's death has now been filled by former psychiatrist Sofia Lamb.
In "BioShock 2," you play as one of the original Big Daddies before Jack's arrival, who has his little sister taken from him by Sofia and forced to kill himself in front of her. When you awake, you find Rapture very different since you last saw it, and you wander the battered and collapsing corridors in search of your little sister. While it may seem strange and new for the character, it's all too familiar for everyone who played the first one. They have implemented some minor changes here and there to help remind you that you're not still playing the first one, though. Some of these are some very welcome changes, too, so huzzah for that.
First off, you no longer have to swap between plasmids or weapons – they can both be up, making the combat feel a hell of a lot smoother than the first game’s. “BioShock 2” also changes the pipe minigame so that it's all now handled in real time. You pretty much get the same plasmids as the first one, but now you can upgrade them and your weapons in all new (and, in some cases, pretty awesome) ways – that double-barreled shotgun is one of my favorites. Oh, and you can also perform a melee action with all the weapons. It would have been nice to see even more depth put into the overall combat experience, but it's still an improvement. There are a few new types of enemies, but outside of the plasmid/weapon-using Big Sister, there isn't really anything worth noting.
The story is really where the game shines, and this time around, it places a greater emphasis on the relationship between big daddies and little sisters. You still have the option to harvest the little demon kids, but added backstory and character changes gives it a greater impact. You will often find yourself protecting them while they extract Adam from the dead, fighting off hordes of spliced enemies only to either harvest the little one or adopt her. You could, of course, harvest them before the whole bodyguard part, but you miss out on a ton of Adam that way, so sack up and fight.
"BioShock 2" really has one of my favorite "find and collect" items with the audio tapes that are placed throughout the game, because while they don't give you power, they do help provide depth to the story. And if you're too stupid to grasp the concept of a great story and you're only here to kill, then just go pick up “Turok” because anything of value is just wasted on you.
It's sad to say, but slightly obvious, that the overwhelming fear of ruining a fantastic franchise (and possibly a desire to quiet everyone's fears) may have forced 2K Marin to play this one a bit safe. While great additions were made, the game’s overall lack of "freshness" – something the first “BioShock” provided to a genre filled with lackluster stories – is felt throughout the entire game.