BioShock 2

Tougher, stronger, smarter - how BioShock 2 reflects its new Big Daddy hero...

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Thought process
But that's only one side of BioShock 2's combat. If you run and gun your way through the entire game wildly tossing Plasmids around, you're missing out on some of its best features. One of the best opportunities to experiment with the game's wealth of tactical Plasmids and gadgets is a battle in Persephone where you're forced to fight two Big Sisters (Rapture's newest, strongest enemy) at once.

First, traps. Fire a Trap Rivet into the ground, or a wall, and a beam of light - a kind of trip wire - will shine out of it. You can plug the level with dozens of these, and any time one of the Big Sisters steps into the light the rivet will fire directly into her. Oh, and if you have that upgrade we mentioned earlier for the rivet gun, the Trap Rivets will set her on fire, too.

Then you have turrets. These can be dropped anywhere, and will both distract and harm any foe that steps in front of them. Best of all, though, is the Cyclone Trap Plasmid. This hurls the enemy into the air and smashes them against the ceiling. You can even zap the whirlpool with another Plasmid, and it'll take on its elemental properties. So as well as flinging foes through the air, it'll freeze or shock them, too.

One of our favourite tricks for tormenting regular Splicers is loading a Cyclone Trap with Winter Blast. As they're thrown into the air, and frozen in a block of ice, you can shoot them with the shotgun and watch as they shatter into a hundred sparkling pieces mid-flight.

A combination of all three is deadly, and you can observe safely from a distance while the Sisters get caught in your devious tangle of traps. But if you want to be even sneakier, break out the Hypnotise Plasmid. Hit one of them and she'll attack the other, and the two will engage each other in a fight. If you've upgraded the Plasmid, the effect lasts longer, and it's possible for one of the Big Sisters to kill the other entirely as you watch. Then you can deal with the other as you see fit.

A slave obeys
Another area in which BioShock 2 excels is storytelling. It has narrative depth to match the complexity of the combat, and it's a rare instance of a morality system in a game affecting the ending in a tangible, worthwhile way. We finished the game in a room with two other people, and all three of us got different endings. We can't go into too much detail without leaking spoilers, but this time your behaviour has further-reaching effects than a simple 'good' or 'bad' ending, or receiving more or less ADAM.

Yes, the Little Sisters are back, and you can 'harvest' them for ADAM as before. But, being a Big Daddy, you're now able to 'adopt' them. This gives you the opportunity to grab more ADAM by leading your charge around the city as she gathers it from corpses. Of course, this sends the Splicers into a frenzy and you have to defend her as she gathers it. Another opportunity to make use of your traps and tactics. And, like almost every decision in Rapture, doing this impacts the ending.

While we're talking about the plot, new villain, Sofia Lamb is superbly written. While Andrew Ryan built Rapture as a place where people could work and achieve for themselves, Lamb is of the opposite belief; a Marxist who thinks every person has a duty to the world. But one extreme belief is no better than another, and she's become corrupted, zealous, and every bit as dangerous as Ryan. It's a compelling motivation for a well-rounded character, and her icy demeanour makes her a terrifying opponent.

Deep blue sea
With a smarter morality system, greatly improved combat, a more customisable character and a twist to rival "Would you kindly?", BioShock 2 is everything we hoped the sequel would be. And although it shares a common structure with the original - with some mission objectives you'll swear you've done before - it's different enough in tone and style to feel unique.

Unless the familiarity really gets to you, you're going to love BioShock 2. It's a lovingly crafted, carefully constructed masterpiece of narrative richness and smart game mechanics. It can even be enjoyed as a straight-up shooter thanks to its innovative, tactile combat system. Reimagined Rapture, despite being familiar, is still a wondrous place to explore making this seemingly impossible sequel worthy of the BioShock name.

For another opinion read CVG's BioShock 2 Review.

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The verdict

Overall Tops the original in terms of storytelling and combat. Brilliant.

PlayStation 3
2K Games
2K Games