Finally, we assumed that we’d already explored the coolest, creepiest areas of Rapture, and that the new locations unlocked by BioShock 2 would come across as leftovers. We were wrong… and right.
To be honest, none of the sequel’s levels are as brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed as the best in BioShock 1. The entertainment district of the first game, Fort Frolic, is still a seedier, more bizarrely sinful place than Siren Alley, the red-light district of BioShock 2. The beauty and wonder of Arcadia’s indoor forests can’t be matched by the follow-up’s similar resort style in Dionysus Park. And even when you visit autopsy rooms and pacification chambers this time around, they’re nowhere near as bloody or macabre as Dr. Steinman’s Medical Pavilion from the original’s free demo.
On the other hand, this Rapture feels more real and more complete. Rather than jump from haunted house to haunted house, you’re taken on a tour of the whole society and shown aspects of the citizens’ lives that were, until now, glossed over. You’ll attend Ryan Amusements, a demented take on Disneyland in which monstrous animatronics – including some of Andrew himself – teach the city’s children about the dangers of the surface. You’ll be trapped in Pauper’s Drop, the impoverished slums that weren’t constructed on the wrong side of the tracks, but underneath them. You’ll enter Fontaine Futuristics and discover what happens to Little Sisters after they grow up. Before, you battled with the titans of Rapture. In the sequel, you also experience what life is like for all of their sad, desperate and downtrodden pawns.
Plus, you get to walk underwater and, through means we can’t spoil for you, view Rapture as it must have been before the downfall. Neither represent huge portions of the game… but both are surprisingly beautiful.
On the subject of twists
Yeah, you’re expecting them. Yeah, you’ll be looking for them. After the number and impact of shocking revelations in the original, how could you not? Our advice, however, is to relax. Don’t overanalyze to the point that your enjoyment of this game is entirely dependent on a single major twist. BioShock 2 is full of sudden jolts and unexpected turns, but the story this time is emotionally investing enough that it doesn’t depend on one groundbreaking, genre-subverting surprise in order to work.
That said, you should still be careful. BioShock 2 is definitely not a game you want spoiled before playing. And did we mention the four different endings? We shall say no more…