It has often been said, but it bears repeating for Bioshock 2's case; you can't please everyone. Despite the fact that Bioshock 2 is a great title, it's fans can't really make up their minds as to whether they like the game or not. On the one hand, fans have praised the games story and gameplay improvements, but on the other fans have been nit-picking everything they don't like about the new incarnation; I've even read complaints where players felt it didn't feel like Bioshock because the splicer enemies swear more.
In any case, players return to the ruined utopia "Rapture" in Bioshock 2, and the experience is good. Very good. Speaking from a gameplay standpoint, the game has been improved wonderfully; plasmids and weapons can be used simultaneously (no more switching between the two), and upgrading plasmids and weaponry is much more interesting and enjoyable, as the upgrades boost a weapon's efficiency, and its effects. Enemies have been tweaked to be more formidable, and the game has included some new enemies as well, like the Big Sisters, which use their melee and plasmid abilities to great effect against you.
The Little Sister challenges have been changed-up as well. As a "Big Daddy", players can choose to either harvest a Little Sister on the spot (killing her for her ADAM) or adopting her and exploring the environment, searching for ADAM-filled corpses to drain. Of course, since all Little Sisters are protected by a Big Daddy of their own, players will have to deal with them first. It isn't too bad at first, but players who choose to maximize their ADAM while playing the "good" role will be engaging in these challenges a lot. To the point that it can get tedious.
On a more positive note, Bioshock 2 also changes things up by introducing multiplayer. While a little rough around the edges, Bioshock 2 lays down some great groundwork for it's multiplayer, which can surely be improved with a patch or two. Despite occasional freezing and lag, the game has a Modern Warfare-esque leveling system that allows players to unlock more plasmids, weapons, and make other alterations as they earn experience. It is slower than Modern Warfare by nature, but the multiplayer is fun all the same, and definitely worth investing some time into.
Story wise, the game is a different beast than the first title. Gone are the visionary Andrew Ryan and the corrupt and cynical Fontaine, replaced with the hive-mentality extremist Sophia Lamb. The game explores the city of Rapture through the eyes of Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy successfully bonded to a Little Sister, and entertains the relationship between Lamb, Delta, and his "daughter" Eleanor. I won't spoil the story, but the father-daughter elements of Bioshock 2 are subtle, and yet and very satisfying.
Many complain that the game simply doesn't have that same sense of awe, the mystique that was so different and fresh from the first Bioshock, and to an extent this is true. Some of the magic has been lost, but this has more to do with the game being a sequel, and no real fault of the developers or of the game. Players have already been to Rapture, and so it is no real surprise that despite the game presenting new environments and gameplay mechanics, they aren't as impressed anymore.
The only complaint I have story-wise is listening to Sophia Lamb prattle on about Delta's crimes and the crimes of Rapture and tyranny and family and the like. It felt like I was living with my mother again.
In the end, Bioshock 2 has a good amount of length to it -some twelve to fifteen hours, not including time spent in multiplayer- as well as gameplay tweaks that make the game faster and more enjoyable to play than the first incarnation. The moral choices in the game are more interesting, and Delta himself is more sympathetic story-wise than Jack is. Despite the tedious Little Sister segments and the rich-but-choppy multiplayer, Bioshock 2 turned out to be a great title.
NY Console Games Examiner articles ©2010 by Gabriel Zamora; reposts permitted with link back to original article. All other rights reserved.