The only challenge large and powerful enough to take on BioShock 2's Big Daddy is our large and lumbering BioShock 2 Frankenreview.
Return with us to the drowned art deco city of Rapture, a sunken "Utopia" that still soldiers on ten years after the events of the original game. In BioShock 2, you take on the role of a prototype Big Daddy, gifted with the ability to use plasmid powers, as if you weren't powerful enough already, what with the giant drill for an arm. BioShock 2 also gives us our first taste of multiplayer in the series, casting players in the roles of splicers fighting in Rapture's Civil War. a year previous to the events of the first game. We're just jumping all over time here, aren't we?
Do the review scores for BioShock 2 jump all over the place as well? They might have, had I not grouped them in ascending order. Let's follow the assembled game critics up the not-so-steep slope, shall we?
One of the things that made 2007's BioShock such a stand-out was its focus on exploration and discovery. At the beginning of the game, you knew next to nothing about the nature of your own character, let alone the underwater Utopia-gone-wrong called Rapture. The city was more of a star than any of the characters living in it, and around every corner you'd find an audio log or some piece of art deco architecture that filled in a little bit more of the puzzle. The catch was that actually playing BioShock was far less interesting than watching its story unfold. BioShock 2 addresses a lot of the gameplay issues from the first game, with more fulfilling combat and abilities. But the story feels more like a footnote to the events of the first game, making it best suited to superfans who can live with just a little bit more insight into what made Rapture tick.
Though it is essentially a first-person shooter, the key component of BioShock 2 is its story, and while it features a powerful and compelling narrative with a satisfying conclusion, it is not without its issues. Whereas much of the first game focused on the city of Rapture and the mystery of how it fell from grace, BioShock 2 barely touches on these aspects, and as a result, prior knowledge is required to fully understand what is happening. There is supplemental reading on the big details buried within the menus for those who need it, but unfortunately, this isn't effectively brought to your attention. Furthermore, there are a number of inconsistencies present that are never satisfactorily explained. These range from small, nagging issues with the way certain story-based gameplay elements or characters from BioShock were grandfathered in, to larger problems with your very existence as a Big Daddy. It never becomes clear why you alone among the Big Daddies can use plasmids, for example. And while your pair-bond with Eleanor lightly manifests throughout the game, there is never any emotional connection there to latch hold of—the only reason you have to pursue her is that you're explicitly told you need to find her.
If BioShock 2's gameplay has a serious issue, it's that you're loaded down with way too much stuff. You get new weapons and additional ammo types regularly, and you're constantly buying more Plasmids. There are so many genetic upgrades in the game that you can't even afford to buy them all. Earning a new power can be a huge motivator for a player, but when they're dumped on you in mass quantities, it's far less exciting. Once I found a combination or two that I liked (for me, it was the Incinerate power and the trusty machine gun), I tended to just stick with it. The dual-wielding nature of the Plasmid/weapon system is a lot of fun - softening splicers up with some fireballs from a distance, then shooting them with antipersonnel rounds while they're running around screaming their junkie heads off, for example.
The biggest difference to the overall experience of fighting the crazed gene splicers comes from the fact that you are a Big Daddy in this game. Like in the first, getting control of the Little Sisters and thereby their Adam (the good way, by healing them, or the evil way, by harvesting them) is key to upgrading your powers and abilities. But since you are a Big Daddy, once you have a Little Sister, you can take her around on her Adam harvesting rounds, gaining even more of the precious gene juice. Once you do have the Sister start harvesting an "angel," you'll be charged with defending her while she completes her task. This plays out almost like a minigame, where you must defend the location from rampaging enemies-and you'll need to take advantage of all of your weapons and plasmids, but especially traps and other defensive friends. You can drop traps, such as proximity mines and mini-turrets, and even string up electrical wires with your spear gun. The options are endless, and that's one of the best things about the BioShock games in general: the endless flexibility.
I was also thoroughly impressed by BioShock 2's expansive multiplayer modes (Capture the Little Sister stands out as an easy favorite) and in-depth character customization opportunities, granting players access to three unique plasmid, weapon, and tonic load-outs, each entirely customizable down to the specific weapon upgrades players will carry into battle. The more matches won, ADAM collected, and Achievement-esque Trials completed, the more Gene Tonics, Plasmids, and weapon upgrades your characters are allowed access to, allowing players to finely tune their avatar to match their play style. Combined with some detailed and nicely varied maps, BioShock 2's multiplayer is undoubtedly something that shouldn't work, but inexplicably does — and pretty damn well, at that.
I liked BioShock 2 more than I expected to, perhaps more so than the original thanks to its more satisfying game play. The been there, done that feeling wears off after not too long, giving players a chance to happily get lost in Rapture once again.