DEVELOPER/PUBLISHER/ PLATFORMS: 2K Marin/Irrational Games/Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows
FUN FACT: The man behind the eerie soundtrack, award-winning composer Garry Schyman, also scored today's other big release, EA's Dante's Inferno.
WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING IT: You mean besides the fact that this is the sequel to 2007's biggest surprise hit? Well, instead of running off with an even more complicated storyline, the folks behind BS2 reigned it in and refined the gameplay to make it appealing both to outsiders and those devoted to the original. That's not to say the folks at 2K have sold out—for those willing to take the time, this sequel is way more rewarding, giving you a reason to spend more time than we would like in one of the creepiest environments we've set foot in. Yeah, if you were iffy on playing the first one with the lights off, don't even think of flicking the switch with this one.
STORY: Compared to the original BioShock, BS2's story is fairly simple. It's set 10 years later in the failed dystopia we know as Rapture; the city has been taken over by some crazy broad named Sofia Lamb who for some reason is obsessed with butterflies—oh, and she tried to make you kill yourself in front of your Little Sister. Speaking of which, you're playing as a Big Daddy, complete with hunkering metal suit and big-ass drill, with no recollection of the past 10 years. All you know is that you have to find your Little Sister and get the hell out of Rapture without dying. Sounds simple enough, right?
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GAMEPLAY: From early sneak peeks and game demos, we heard a lot of fearmongering from gamers who were afraid the gameplay would too closely mimic BioShock, as if that would be the tragedy of tragedies. That's akin to saying, "Oh, no! I hope the new iPhone doesn't work too much like the old iPhone." Thankfully, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree on this one, though there are some much welcomed improvements and refinements—the first being the most noticeable change of playing as one of the armored, drill-equipped Big Daddies who were everyone's favorite characters from the first installment. This, of course, changes everything. Due to the fact that you're no longer just a bunch of organs encapsulated in a sack of flesh named Jack Ryan, and instead a giant borg, you won't die as easily. You'll even find some Splicers to be shook ones when it comes time to fight you. But as you get through the game, you'll increasingly find yourself up against more enemies than in the first one. Thankfully, this time you have more weapons at your disposal... weapons that can be upgraded to do way more damage that you thought possible, like guns that shoot instantly exploding rivets. Not only that, you're able to combine weapons to create superweapons.
The refinement is noticeable only as you get going. When you start off, you'll find yourself in a dark, disheveled building with next to no items or enemies to fight. Don't fret, though; as you go along, things heat up and you'll find yourself searching each and every corner for new items and cash. Another major improvement is the Hacker tool. Instead of having to take time out to play a mini-game, now you throw the Hacker onto the machine and, in real time, play a (mercifully) smaller game in which you land a needle on the green part of the meter for it to activate. The original hacking games were cool, and were a respite from the tension of the larger gameplay, but the refinement helps keep your head in the game.
GRAPHICS: Beautifully, albeit bleakly, deranged. Though sparser than in the original game, the environment acts as a third character, almost breathing alongside you—or down your neck—as you wade through the dampness. It's all pretty creepy. More polys means rendering's a bit better as well. As you walk, water cascades over your head, or over stairways, or off landings, and if you're quick enough, you can catch glimpses of your own glowing eyes staring back at you.
DOWNSIDE: We were excited for the multiplayer part of this game, but found it to feel a little tacked-on. Unlike the single player narrative, the multiplayer narrative takes place in 1959, a year before the first BioShock, and lands you smack in the middle of the Rapture civil war. You're able to choose one of six characters (with more available as pre-order bonuses)—none being a Big Daddy—and five different game modes. For a game so richly detailed and original in story and conceits, the game modes here aren't that inventive. There's a Capture the Flag Sister mode, and of course a free-for-all mode. But that's not what irks us about the multiplayer mode; it's the chaos. We much prefer going through the landscape by ourselves on alert, rather than dodging random plasmids. However, that said, get a couple of friends and some beer (or sticky) and you'll find yourself immersed.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.