Successful sequel shock?
In this, Bioshock 2 is at least excused by its particular brand of combat. Fast and furious, and with a superabundance of weapons and plasmids at your disposal, it is essential to revert to the game-pausing radial menu to change strategy effectively mid-combat. While regular pauses in combat reinforce its RPG credentials and, as in Fallout 3, never detract, they dilute any intended improvement in the introduction of dual-wielding.
Fast and furious
Environments also compare poorly with the first game. Bioshock's developer 2K Marin has done little to improve upon the original’s use of the Unreal Engine, especially noticeable given the recent bar raising seen in Mass Effect 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s disappointing, then, that Rapture, perhaps again constrained by its very nature, spreads out before the player in uninspired, homogeneous corridors and hallways.
Always intended to evoke claustrophobia, Rapture now feels too close, too stifling. On the odd occasion the environments do differ, it’s for the worse, such as the dingy, insipid and confusing architecture of Dionysus Park. Worse still are the (fortunately) infrequent underwater sections set in the exterior of Rapture’s environs. Short and without peril, these point-to-point walks are at best perfunctory, and at worst just plain pointless.
What ultimately redeems Bioshock 2 is the combat. Here the developers are to be applauded. 2K Marin has chosen to enhance the single best aspect of Bioshock’s combat principles: planning. As in the original, you are able to plan your strategy before instigating a fight with a Big Daddy. Using the environment to your advantage is essential. Turrets, cameras, traps, even pools of water and oil slicks - all can be used to turn the tide of battle in your favour.
Who's the Big Daddy?
But 2K hasn’t just repeated the successes of the first game here. Taking its cue from Left 4 Dead and Gears of War 2's Horde mode, this mechanic has been expanded with great aplomb. The basic fight-a-big-Daddy is now joined by two other scenarios. The first sees you fending off wave after wave of Splicers as your Little Sister harvests Adam from dead corpses.
"Mr. Bubbles, Mr. Bubbles, are you there? Are you there? Come and give me lolly, come and bring me toffees. Teddy bears... teddy bears."