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February 18, 2010
Bioshock 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/2/20102K Games2K Games2K Marin/2K Australia
2K China/Digital Extremes
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Bioshock 2 sees a return to Rapture.
With the first Bioshock winning plenty of Game of the Year awards, and amassing sales which are now close to 4 million units on the three platforms (PC, XBox 360 and PS3) there was little doubt that a sequel would be in the works, and here, in February 2010 is that very game. With such high expectations from gamers can 2K Games deliver the goods yet again? You better believe it...

Bioshock 2 takes place approximately 10 years after the events of the first game but this time there's a bit of a twist as you play as a Big Daddy in the game, and one of the first to fuse human organs with the Big Daddy suit successfully. But Rapture now has someone else controlling their fate - Sofia Lamb and her Big Sisters!

Before we move on to comment about the actual gameplay we have to mention that the storyline is one of the deepest and most impressive that we have recently encountered in a video game. As with the first game much of the story is provided through the audio diaries littered around the levels, but some key characters will provide a few key moments along the way. This is one shooter where the plot isn't just "kill the bad guys", but you have moral choices to make along the way including those to save or harvest the little sisters, and even to kill or let some of the other human characters live. It's your choice and the decisions can affect the storyline - especially towards the end of the game.

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Fires look fantastic in Bioshock 2.
If you've played the original Bioshock (and if you haven't we highly recommend it) then you will be able to slip right into this game with the same controls, very similar weapons, plasmids and tonics (more on the latter two in a minute) and similar enemies. As a Big Daddy it's possible to pick up Little Sister's (from other Big Daddy's that you've defeated in battle) who can then

Throughout the game your Big Daddy can carry a large range of weapons including a Machine Gun, Spear Gun, Shotgun, and a launcher which multiple bullet types available for each. The shotgun, for instance, has a normal buck shot, a more powerful solid shot, and also a bullet which sets enemies on fire. Given that each of the weapons has a variety like this it makes you feel like there's a lot more weapons on offer. Further more weapons can be upgraded at various stations around the levels. We have to say that we are quite grateful that, unlike the first game, there isn't a lot of backtracking in the game which keeps things moving and fresh.

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Expect to see the Little Sisters again.
Two other useful items are a hacking tool which allows you to automatically hack an item such as safe, security camera, or vending booth and so on, remote hack so you can shoot a dart to hack from a safe distance or set up an auto sentry gun. The second useful item is the camera which allows you to photograph fallen enemies for research bonuses (to learn their weak points, or get extra damage abilities). To dramatically speed up this process though you can now start filming the enemies for around 30 seconds and should you kill them in this time earn a large number of research points.

As with the previous game Tonics and Plasmids make a return in Bioshock 2. Purchased using ADAM which is harvested by the Little Sisters, these are essentially upgrade to your character. Some are automatically applied such as improved hacking abilities (and hacking has seen a change from the pipe connecting puzzles to more of a "press the button in the correct zone" game which is much quicker and more entertaining), to slight weapons upgrades such as freezing enemies with the drill, or instantly setting enemies melee attacking you on fire. The second type of these upgrades, the plasmids, give you extra abilities such as being able to throw fireballs or electric bolts, to insect swarms and even telekinesis to throw objects around.

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Battling one of the Big Sisters.
So what about disappointments? We have a few. The first of these revolves around the lack of "progress" which this game has made. It all feels very similar to the first with much the same Plasmids and Tonics available, the same vending machines, very similar enemies and so on. I guess you could say some of this is due to the brilliance of the first game which got so much right, or, as we've read elsewhere, as it's a closed city how can things progress? Well how about some new areas, new research labs that add in a tonne of new content? It just feels more like it's made a slight progressive step rather then any big leaps. Another prime example of this, now that you're a Big Daddy you have suit that allows you to traverse underwater but, while gorgeous, it merely serves to move you from one location to another with narrow paths, few items to discover, and no enemies to battle. Finally, we have to mention the loading times. Despite the game having a (lengthy) wait for a 5GB data installation, before you enter each area or indeed load the saved game after booting there is a lengthy wait for the game to load the required data, often well over a minute.

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Travelling underwater around Rapture.
Multi-player, which was developed by Digital Extremes, is new to this sequel, and it will certainly keep you playing for a while longer with up to 10 players battling it out at once. The multi-player events apparently take place prior to events in Bioshock 2 but to be honest, these lack any real depth or storyline - they could be set at any time in Rapture. What is important is the five game modes include a standard Deathmatch styled mode called "Survival of the Fittest" as well as Team Deathmatch called "Civil War". The mode we love though is "ADAM Grab" where someone on your team needs to grab a Little Sister and keep her held for as long as possible. You'll lose your ability to use weapons, but Plasmids are still available. It's frantic, and very fun.

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Enemies often fight each other in Bioshock 2...
If you've played Bioshock then you will have a good idea what to expect from this sequel. Sure there's probably a little better texturing and lighting in places, and the enemies move a little slicker but if you were to randomly select sections from both games you'd have a hard time picking one from the other. That's not saying this is a bad game, more that the original was so good to begin with, and this game follows suit. We have to say that we absolutely love the water effects yet again with the screen blurring just as you would expect from being covered in water in a large diving suit.

There are, however, a couple of minor niggles with the game including some slight frame hiccups on occasion. The biggest though is that the locations are very similar to the first game which I guess you have to expect from a game set in the same city. I would though love to see some more 'traditional' cut-scenes on occasion.

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As a Big Daddy you can use the drill.
There is little question that the audio in Bioshock 2 is nothing short of sensational. From the scratchy audio diaries, to the different weapons effects and the speech every aspect of this release is top notch. The screams of the Big Sisters are so loud and haunting you'll jump off your seat the first time you hear one! Outshining all of this however is the superb music composed by Garry Schyman and recorded with a 60 piece orchestra which is not only atmospheric, but also changes pace perfectly to suit the tension in the game through various points.

While Bioshock 2 doesn't see any massive changes from the original Bioshock on a technical level, that's not such a bad thing given the quality of that title to begin with. Disappointments with a lack of advancement are balance with the inclusion of the multiplayer modes which are pretty entertaining. Not as groundbreaking as the original, but a very impressive title nonetheless.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSOn par with the first game, which was very impressive to start with.
SOUNDA superb audio experience in every regard. Games rarely sound this good!
GAMEPLAYVery slick, addicive and entertaining gameplay is in abundance in Bioshock 2.
VALUEAround 10 hours for single player, and there's multiplayer modes too.
OVERALLBioshock 2 isn't a radical departure from the original title, but that's not a terrible thing given how great that title was. If you liked the first, then this sequel is certain to please.

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