First, a confession. We thought BioShock 2 was a mistake.
As much as we worshipped the original, we worried about the possibility of a sequel. Though we longed to experience another game with that level of mature, masterful storytelling and with that number of unique, unusual ideas, we seriously doubted such brilliance could be captured again. While we desperately wished to revisit the haunting underwater dystopia of Rapture, we suspected that doing so would ruin, or at least diminish, the thematic significance of the initial trip. To us, BioShock was one-of-a-kind, not one-of-a-franchise.
Well, you know what? We were wrong. Somehow, with less than three years of development time and without the direct involvement of creator Ken Levine, the BioShock team has pulled off another masterpiece. One that expands the mythology, but doesn’t lose any of the mystery. One that introduces fascinating new settings and characters, but doesn’t forget or neglect those previously established. One that gives the player devastating new power, but balances that with devastating new fear. One that takes chances and makes changes, but almost always for the better.
He’s the undisputed star of the series. He features on both boxes, appears on countless magazine covers, inspires costumes, sells toys and has already cemented himself as a gaming icon as recognizable as Lara Croft and Master Chief. And in BioShock 2, you don’t just fight him. You are him.
Casting the protagonist as a Big Daddy is not just a gimmick, either – the game fully immerses you in the role of the towering, stomping, clobbering monster. Each footstep produces a crunching echo. Each turn of the head sways edges of your diving helmet into view. Each painful hit from an enemy unleashes a wailing, otherworldly moan from deep within your unseen body. Water blurs your visor and steam leaves a lasting fog upon the glass. Occasionally, you’ll catch a glimpse of your own shadow and think, “Whoa, is that thing me?” You may not see your actual reflection very often, yet you’re constantly reminded of your size, your strength and your strangeness.
Then, of course, there’s the drill… and perhaps the greatest melee starting weapon of all time. You’ll no longer need to sneak up on unsuspecting Splicers, praying they don’t notice as you bop them on the back of the head with a rusty wrench. Low on ammo or caught by surprise? Just rev up the spinning spiral of death attached to your arm, point in their general direction and enjoy the resulting, screaming bloodbath. Enemy peppering you with gunfire from far away? Unlock the “drill dash” ability and you can launch instant murder from across the screen with the speed of a locomotive.
And the drill is only the beginning. Every weapon in BioShock 2 is more impressive and more satisfying than its equivalent in BioShock 1. The shotgun is now a double-barreled shotgun. The basic pistol has been replaced by a lethal rivet gun that treats Splicer flesh as scrapyard metal. The machine gun has been upgraded to a turret-sized Gatling gun that couldn’t fit in human hands, let alone be carried by them. Our favorite is the spear gun, which has the accuracy and retrievable ammo of the crossbow, but the added benefit of instantly pinning enemies to walls, floors and ceilings like a gruesome collection of butterflies.