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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews BioShock 2.

Transcript Edit

I've had a lot to say about sequels in the course of this series, how some are good but a lot are ropey strings of flavorless wallpaper paste squirted from the backsides of uncreative publishers with seriously fucked-up eating habits. I think I've worked out the formula now. A good sequel--like Half-Life 2, Silent Hill 2, Tranmere Rovers 3--is one that uses the original as a jumping-off point for a whole new story with whole new technology, while a bad sequel merely wallows in the original, like a hippo in a vat of liquidized children.

So where does BioShock 2 go? Well, I'm ashamed to admit it might actually transcend the formula. Just as the original had a surprisingly intelligent undertone that deconstructed the very nature of linear gameplay, Bioshock 2 is a sophisticated satirization of the very concept of a sequel that HAR HAR I'm just messing you. It's a knock-off piece of shit.

So the wallpaper paste-squirting bean counters from 2K asked themselves, "What was a popular aspect of BioShock 1 we could focus on in the sequel in order to ring as many pennies as we can out of the property?" And someone said, "The Big Daddies, of course! I think you should get to play as one!" "What," said someone else, "those haunting, monstrous things that trudge around as if they can barely support their own weight? Those tragic figures reduced to single-function robots with no trace of humanity left and seem to embody the downfall of the city as a whole? That's a stupid fucking idea. It'd be like a sequel to Half-Life where you get to play as a gun turret." "No, no," said the first guy, "you play as a prototype Big Daddy who can move at normal speed and use multiple weapons and plasmids." "Well you're not a Big Daddy, then, are you," said the second guy, "you're just the bloke from the first game with a fishbowl on his head. And besides, why would a prototype be more efficient than the finished model? Did they think that Big Daddies being fast, flexible, and capable of self-preservation was just not being fair on everyone else?"

The story deserves close examination, because BioShock 1 was incredibly strong in this aspect. That's kind of the point--there was no need to tack another story on. It's like ordering the lobster thermidor and sellotaping a Snickers bar to it. Ten years on, Rapture's somehow still inhabitable, despite last time around it having more leaks than British military intelligence, and has been taken over by a political dissident with a voice so smug that you want to jam a comically oversized syringe in her eye every time she opens her fucking mouth who has turned the whole place into a sort of psuedo-communist cult.

Your quest is to rescue your Little Sister, now just a plain old Normal-Sized Sister, who can communicate with you and the other Little Sisters telepathically, a plot point that kind of hopes to slip by unnoticed but which you then grab and pull back by one of its dangling threads. How can she do this? Is this because of ADAM, or did she just wish upon a star? Oh, it's for convenience, I see. Anyway, your psychic hotline friend is to be the victim of a procedure that will combine all the great minds of Rapture into one person, and how the fuck does that work? Wouldn't her head need to be about six foot across? I think ADAM has become the equivalent of the Force in Star Wars, all-purpose cavity plot insulation.

Most of the gameplay is pretty much unchanged: a largely resource-based shooter, where you take one or two hits from pretty much every fight but then you hunt through the neutralized areas and scarf down a few cratefuls of cakes and potato chips. Through your helmet apparently, or perhaps ADAM lets you absorb nutrients from the fucking ether. Just as before, the right combinations of boosts and plasmids can totally break the game. In my case, I found that slinging hypnosis blobs around and making all the Splicers attack each other allowed me to spend most of the combat sitting in the corner mashing candy bars against my faceplate.

So what is different? Hacking, for a start. Instead of playing Pipe Dream for half-an-hour at every turn, you do a pseudo quick-time event for a few seconds instead, and apparently the universe is about to explode, because a quick-time event has actually improved the game. The other major difference is that instead of rescuing Little Sisters straight away, you have to carry them around and let them gather ADAM for you, which evokes that one bit in BioShock 1 where you pretend to be a Big Daddy and defend Little Sisters from Splicers. You remember, the absolute worst fucking part of that game?

Here's the BioShock 2 moral choice: fight a Big Daddy--no small task--adopt the Little Sister, carry her to a corpse somewhere in the level, defend her from waves of Splicers for a minute--using up half your heath kits and ammo--carry her to another corpse, defend her again to use up the other half, then carry her all the way to an exit vent and only then can you rescue her. Alternatively, fight a Big Daddy, then pull the Little Sister's fucking spine out. Yeah, you get the bad ending, but fuck it, I've got places to be. And both options have a chance of spawning a Big Sister, so if you, say, used up all your health and ammo defending your Little Sister then it's time to take a probe right up the Mariana Trench. Here's an idea, 2K: how about only spawning a Big Sister if I take the evil harvest option? Surely that would give the Big Sister a valid reason to be cross. Otherwise, she's all like, "Grrr, your selfless compassion fills me with murder frenzy!"

Alternatively alternatively, just don't even fucking bother. ADAM is not as vital as the game would have you believe. All you need are a few core combat plasmids and the right gene tonics, a lot of which are just lying around for free. By the last couple of levels, I just played live and let live with the Big Daddies and got by just fine, although one I had to kill in self-defence for various unimportant reasons, so I just left his Little Sister loudly weeping by his corpse while I went off to loot. Stop crying, you little bitch! I'm trying to eat these cakes!

The usual line at this point is, "If you liked BioShock 1, you'll like this, because it's pretty much just more it!" But I don't think that applies, because if you did really like BioShock 1, you'll understand that it works perfectly fine by itself, the story very tight and self-contained with no dangling plot threads. Our hero escapes, Rapture falls, and all the leaders are dead with 9-irons jutting out of their skulls. A sequel like BioShock 2, riddled with metaphorical stretch marks trying to squeeze in enough retcons to get another plot out, can only diminish the effect of the original. But if you're thick and just want to play with Big Daddies some more, than I guess it will tide you over until BioShock 3, which presumably will let you play as a fucking vending machine.

AddendaEdit

Shocked through the heart: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Never mind how he eats food, how does he see past those fluorescent green lights in his face

Would you kindly stop the video now


ScreenshotsEdit

Bioshock 2 1

A bad sequel merely wallows in the original, like a hippo in a vat of liquidized children

Bioshock 2 2

Wouldn't her head need to be about six foot across?

Bioshock 2 3

Rapture

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
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2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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