BioShock 2: Minerva's Den Review: Thinker Man's GameS

The battle at Minerva's Den may be your last chance to visit Rapture, the undersea utopia gone haywire of BioShock 2. It's a waterlogged journey both familiar and new, a proud send-off to 2K Marin's capable follow-up to the original BioShock.

As Subject Sigma, you step into the suit of a Big Daddy, drill in one hand, genetically altered super powers in the other. And, familiarly, you've got a bug in your ear in the form of Charles Porter, telling you where to go and what to do—namely wrest control of Rapture's central computer, The Thinker, from Porter's rival, the maniacal Reed Wahl.

Unfamiliar are the new things Minerva's Den brings to BioShock 2. There are new plasmids, like the micro-black hole spawning Gravity Well, and new weapons, the Ion Laser, which can be acquired from the new Lancer class Big Daddy. Ultimately, it's another wet slog through Rapture, full of Splicer battles, Little Sister harvesting and trying on new genes. Worth the return trip, and the ten bucks?

Loved

BioShock Condensed: If you're thirsty for more BioShock, you'll get a five hour dose in highly condensed form with Minerva's Den. You'll sprint through the gene-splicing upgrade process, gaining new abilities, weapons and ammo types quickly and easily. It's BioShock 2, now leaner, and with a mostly new cast and a new environment, but an experience familiar enough to sink back into within minutes. This downloadable add-on provides a few new tricks that makes it stand out—Security Bots that fire electro bolt! Yes!!—but the already refined gameplay of BioShock 2 is still a treat to play.

Enraptured: Better than Minerva's Den's new tricks is its narrative. The method of its storytelling may feel slightly worn, but the quality—and the few twists—of the story of Minerva's Den makes the hours invested worth it.

Hated

We've Stomped This Before: Minerva's Den may engage with its plot, but the well-worn gameplay can border on tedious and tiresome, unmotivating at best, particularly when watching over Little Sisters as they extract genetic material from corpses. The Ion Laser weapon is something of a dud addition, just like the comparatively bland Gravity Well plasmid. The former is welcome for the copious ammo thrown at you and the latter provides a few light puzzle opportunities, but the old reliable options are just too reliable to skip in favor of the new ones.

Minerva's Den is a fine way to put BioShock 2 to bed, a story well told while revisiting Rapture and the solid gameplay of 2K Marin's contribution to the BioShock universe. The new spaces one finds oneself in are expertly crafted, making Rapture feel fresher than the new confrontations with Big Daddies and Big Sisters. For the BioShock fan who never felt the need for multiplayer in their plasmid-fueled experience, Minerva's Den is a smart, single-player side story to spend one's time and money in.

BioShock 2: Minerva's Den was developed by 2K Marin and published by 2K Games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on August 31. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played single-player campaign to completion on Xbox 360.

Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.