When I first heard that a sequel was on the cards, my ambivalence rapidly gave way to a series of possible concepts. I came up with two overall directions the game could take. One was a new setting and story in a new place and time, taking the broad themes of BioShock and reimagining them in a different context. It still wasn’t 100% necessary, but it could have led to a fairly satisfying and worthwhile companion piece. The other idea was a grab-bag of unimaginative, clichéd, painfully obvious ‘twists’ on the original game’s formula, which required less than five minutes’ thought in total to compile.
Above: The last place I wanted to see, believe it or not.
With no exaggeration I can (un)happily say that every BioShock 2 reveal so far was festering at the bottom of that bag months ago. Seriously. It’s like a check-list of everything I didn’t want:
Rapture was f*cked-up and great. If we set it in Rapture, but years later and even more f*cked up, it’s bound to be even more great, right?!
Wrong. It will be something we’ve already seen before with a few more cracks and leaks. The magic of Rapture came from its newness. It was the sheer originality of its design that made it such an immersive world to explore. It was a beautifully crafted achievement; all at once alien and familiar, beautiful and terrifying. To retread its creaky boards will achieve nothing but to cloud its specialness.
And we’re supposed to be excited that the first-generation Splicers have degenerated and become feral? The reason the Splicers were so damn unnerving wasn’t their superhuman physical abilities. It was their degraded humanity. It was the fact that they had enough left of themselves to remain sympathetic, despite their horrific physical and mental decay. If a bunch of them have become genero-monsters (as the Doom-Imp-style designs in the preview video below imply), then Rapture is going to be even duller than I’d feared.
Big Daddies are awesome. Let’s play as one!
How agonisingly unexpected. [/sarc] Not only is the idea the most obvious form of thoughtless fanboy-bait (particularly given the last sections of the original game), it doesn’t even hold together as a game mechanic. To make a Big Daddy actually work as a protagonist, 2K Marin have had to make him faster and more agile, and downgrade his power. He’s also got plasmids and a built-in research camera. So he’s basically Jack with a big fat drill strapped to his arm. Massively contrived and boring. Quite an achievement.
Rapture is under the sea. Big Daddies wear diving suits. Let’s go swimming!
Yeah, we’ll be able to explore the sea bed in BioShock 2. And we’ll instantly lose that sense of panicked claustrophobia so inherent to even BioShock’s most expansive areas. While BioShock 2’s devs have rightly pointed out that the sea was an ever-present character in the original game, their justification for going outside – the idea that you’ll finally be able to meet that character face to face – is simplistic and misguided in the extreme. BioShock’s sea was a silent, oppressive threat, and the tentative distance between you and it maintained the tension. Going for a swim is going to be like Jason Voorhees taking off his mask and sitting down to talk through his issues.
There are Big Daddies and Little Sisters. How about we really subvert things by making a BIG SISTER! Like a Big Daddy, but female!
Oh for f*ck’s sake.
And it gets worse. We’re getting a predictable repeat of the radio-guidance narrative mechanic using an inexplicably-still-in-Rapture Tenenbaum. And the contrivance of the protagonist character has forced a prototype Big Daddy plotline, which will no doubt lift the lid on (read: ruin) the genuinely disturbing history so delicately sketched in the original game.
Every idea is obvious. Every idea is pointless. Every idea feels like a desperate, contrived, flailing subversion attempt which will detract far more from the original game’s design than it can ever hope to add.
Need more evidence? The next page holds two simple but massively important coffin nails for BioShock 2.