BioShock 2 Review
Making a sequel to a beloved original can be a risky proposition. Sometimes it goes spectacularly well, like The Empire Strikes Back, and sometimes it goes horribly wrong, like The Phantom Menace. When BioShock was released in 2007 it quickly captured the imaginations and respect of gamers, and rightfully so. The fallen undersea city of Rapture is one of the most unique and beguiling settings ever to appear in a videogame. So naturally the announcement of BioShock 2 was met with mixed emotions from the BioShock faithful. A return to Rapture was a very enticing prospect, but at the same time there was some trepidation about the prospect that a disappointing sequel would tarnish their beloved game by turning it into just yet another shooter franchise. BioShock sits somewhere high up on my all-time favorite game list, so I shared some of those fears as I pulled on my Big Daddy suit and returned to Rapture…
Before I delve any further into this review, I should note that I will assume that you have a certain amount of familiarity with BioShock. Normally I would treat a sequel as any other game in a review and not make such an assumption, but BioShock 2 itself makes this assumption and you won't be able to fully appreciate the game or follow its story too closely if you've never played BioShock. There's some background information to be found in the text buried in the game's journal, but it's by no means comprehensive and you'll be left with a number of questions big and small if you use this game as your introduction to Rapture. Besides, playing BioShock is such an enjoyable experience that you should play it first regardless, and then at that point decide whether or not you want to continue the Rapture experience in BioShock 2. That being said, there's certainly nothing stopping you from starting with BioShock 2 and you'll probably still have a good time with the game even if you're not quite sure as to what is going on.
BioShock 2 takes place ten years after the original game, which puts it in 1970. Not that the year in which it takes place matters that much - Rapture exists in a cultural bubble with its own unique zeitgeist combining a 1930s art deco architectural style combined with a 1950s style culture, albeit one heavily based on an Ayn Rand inspired objectivist philosophy. The intervening years between the games allows the narrative to hand control of the city and the antagonistic reins from the John Galt stand-in Andrew Ryan to the collectivist-minded Sofia Lamb. Yes, Rapture has fallen into the hands of a socialist, but one that shares the same obsessive need for control and borderline madness as its original master.
You enter the new Rapture not as an outsider as in the original game, but as one of the Big Daddies that protect the genetic material gathering Little Sisters that figured so prominently in BioShock. But you're no ordinary Big Daddy; you're Subject Delta, an experimental Big Daddy pair-bonded with Eleanor Lamb, who is none other than the daughter of the new master of Rapture. Eleanor has grown during your time on ice and is no longer a Little Sister, but she needs your protection more than ever. You must make your way back to her, in spite of the best efforts of her mother and the legions of splicers under her control.