To us, BioShock is not a series that needs multiplayer and, at first, the very idea sounded sacrilegious. Why cheapen such a carefully constructed universe by making it competitive? Why diminish the lonely, ghostly atmosphere of Rapture by dividing it into maps with 10-16 players racing back and forth? Why transform a tragic figure like the Little Sister into the object of Capture the Flag?
After playing these modes, though, we must admit that the developers have done a good job distinguishing – and separating – the online multiplayer from the offline campaign. The matches star meaningless Splicer characters instead of story icons and, more importantly, the context is altogether different. You fight during Rapture’s Civil War, a year before BioShock 1 and nine years before BioShock 2, when dozens of mutated freaks would be running all over the place, competing for weapons and plasmids. That setting not only makes sense, it reveals a brand new chapter of canon history.
Still, we doubt we’ll stick with BioShock 2’s multiplayer for more than a few weeks after release. While having a gazillion combat and strategic options during the campaign is liberating, imagine signing onto a dark and cramped map where nearly a dozen people have the same crazy amount of options. Gunfire is constant, plasmids are flying in all directions, Big Daddy suits are spawning randomly, Little Sisters are being stolen and you’re trying desperately to keep track of your health and your Eve. We found the results too chaotic. Too confusing. Others will no doubt find the madness exhilarating and addictive.
Watch the sample footage above to decide which side you think you’ll fall on, but know that the score you see below is based entirely on the single player campaign. Multiplayer is just a bonus – take it or leave it.
Here is the part of the review in which we normally compare a game to three of its closest clones or competitors. With a series as unique as BioShock, however, that seems kind of silly. And with a sequel like BioShock 2, we realize only one comparison really matters. So, is it better than…
BioShock? We never, ever imagined we’d be writing this, but… yes. In some fairly significant ways, including combat diversity, enemy variety, character depth and emotional attachment to the story, BioShock 2 is superior to BioShock 1. Plus, fans’ biggest criticisms of the original – the pipe hacking and the sagging third act – have been addressed and fixed for this sequel.
But in many ways, the first BioShock can never be surpassed. Everything – the world, the philosophies, the surreal oddity – was new then, and unlike anything we’d experienced before. BioShock 2 can only hope to match that genius. Fortunately for us, it succeeds.
The weapons are better. The plasmids are better. The enemies are better. At some points, even the storytelling is better. What’s most amazing and surprising about BioShock 2, however, is that by diving deeper into Rapture’s tortured history and exploring more of Rapture’s haunted world, it actually manages to make the original BioShock better, too.