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Monday, February 22, 2010

Game Play: Bioshock 2

Personally, the Bioshock franchise is an odd measure of the change in my gaming habits. The first game was one of the last games I played on the PC, that my PC at the time could handle well and yet I still spent a lot of time trying to fiddle with the resolution on the damn thing to make sure I was getting the prettiest darn experience possible.

This game - I just popped it into the PlayStation 3 and moved on. Not only did getting the PC not occur to me, I don't even have a PC to play it on anymore. This isn't really meant to be yet another nudge at the PC market, just a footnote that whether the genre is dying or not, it's somewhat dead to me.

Anyway - the game itself. Bioshock 2 takes the player back to Rapture. If you haven't played the first one, you won't be totally lost ... but you will be missing out on a quite a bit of detail as the story of the second game builds heavily on the first. And once again, Bioshock 2 succeeds in storytelling to a point well past most shooter's benchmarks. There are very few non-interactive cut scenes, and far better character interaction than most games. This goes well past "hey, aren't you Gordon Freeman" to - "I just totally tried to kill you, what are you going to do about it?". While it's not exactly deep character development, it does allow players to literally go past the "glass wall", such as the ones Matt and I noted in our Dead Space conversation.

Mechanically speaking, the game is nearly identical to the first game, which is good - we're talking about a shooter with a rich heritage here and it shows. My favorite addition is the more free-form moments where you need to defend a little sister. Some of the fights got very dynamic and fluid, which is getting more and more rare in the shooter world, as the "virtual shooting gallery" has become more common. There are scenes which are clearly staged, but much of the world of Rapture feels organic and connected, not a series of artificial scenes stitched together.

Finally, I think the ending is much, much improved over the original. Oh sure, there are logical inconsistencies you can drive a truck through - but at least it felt like a consistent, coherent narrative ... and not a end animation tacked on to be done with it. This time I was careful to save every little sister ... so I don't know if the "harvest one, and you get the bad ending" rule is still in effect.

I have not tried the multiplayer yet, I'll give it a go this week and report later. The total game play was probably about 20 or so hours ... you can finish it in a week or so without too much trouble. The summation is what one would expect - if any game similar to Bioshock (Bioshock itself, System Shock, Deus Ex, etc.) has ever entertainted you, Bioshock 2 will not dissapoint. All in all, well recommended.

I will have an upcoming post, though, about how the shooter genre needs to evolve. This is a footnote on the genre, not on Bioshock 2, but in the same way this game book ends my PC gaming experience, I think it also bookends - along with many other titles like Modern Warfare 2, my welcome mat for some tired and true FPS concepts.

But, that's for another time.

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