Everybody lies, no exceptions.

Bioshock 2

By S.A. Renegade on February 18, 2010 in Reviews

Final verdict: B
Final playtime: Shit, doesn’t tell you your playtime.

Shut up. As you people should already know, I don’t like shooters. They are basically low games of dudes to me. Enjoyable, but never anything special. That being said, as far as shooters go, Bioshock is amazing. Probably the best ones I have played. That’s right. And I will now tell you exactly why this game is so good, and also why, just like its predecessor, it falls short of truly being a top tier game.

Bioshock 2 is very similar to the first one. It doesn’t try anything new, it just takes what made the first one good, and runs with it. This isn’t bad at all. If you’ve already got something good, ain’t no reason to change it. However, Bioshock 2 probably adheres too closely to 1 in that while it has all of the things that made 1 good, it also has all of its flaws pretty much intact. In short, they didn’t make an effort to really improve where the first one fell flat, either because they were content with making something that was “just as good”, because they didn’t consider those flaws to actually be flaws, or because they were too scared of breaking something. Either way, when you’ve got something as great as the original Bioshock, it’s not really a big crime if you decide to leave it alone.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about how Bioshock had an “amazing story” or whatever, and that 2 had a big bra to fill in that regard, that it had to pull off something just as crazy or be a failure, that it had a reputation to uphold. To these people I say go drink an aquarium of dicks. When was the last time a game was awesome because of a good twist in the story? Oh right, never. And you know what else? Bioshock’s story is also very overrated. That’s fucking right, I said it. All you fucks should get your thumbs outta your asses and stop putting it on some kind of fucking pedestal and calling it ridiculous things like “definitive proof of games as art”. Ugh. Now there’s someone that pisses me off. Dumb overeager fucks taking anything and everything they can in a desperate attempt to legitimize games as art. WHO THE FUCK CARES.

Story isn’t the reason Bioshock was good. It’s because of three main things: amazing setting, atmosphere, and exploration. The first two are self-explanatory enough, but the third one not only bears some explaining, but also branches out into other specific things that make the game good and subsequently to the flaws that bring it down.

You see, I used to think that the reason Bioshock was so amazing for the first half but then mediocre for the second half was due to the reduction in quality of the setting and atmosphere, and while it’s certainly true that that happens, after playing Bioshock 2 and analyzing it, I’ve discovered that that’s not the true reason.

When I started playing Bioshock 2, I remembered my experience with the first one, and that made me decide three things:

1) I would play it on hard from the getgo because Bioshock is by nature not a difficult game but at the same time difficulty improves the experience. I’ll elaborate on this later.

2) I would explore thoroughly and play the game very slowly because the more you rush, the less you enjoy it.

3) I would disable vita chambers because they’re retarded.

Yeah, speaking of that. I like how it gives you the option of disabling vita chambers, but frankly, that shit shouldn’t even be there in the first place. I mean come the fuck on. Getting revived every time you die in the other room and the game state not resetting? That’s just fucking wrong and retarded. Seriously who came up with this shit and who decided to keep it? Because those assholes should get fired and their benefits rescinded.

Anyway, so I started playing the game like that, and just like Bioshock 1 it was amazing. I was addicted. It was the best shooter I had ever played. Why? After all, I don’t like shooters. How could I be addicted to one? Simple. Bioshock captures me not by its shooter aspects, but by the secondary aspects of its gameplay that allow it to, in a way, transcend the limitations of the genre. And these aspects are as follows:

As I started playing, the game had a good difficulty. Splicers did a lot of damage to you. Big Daddies and Big Sisters were very hard fights at first, requiring not only being adequately prepared but sometimes even some pretty crazy tactics to avoid losing too many resources. Not only that but ammo was scarce. This is an extremely important part of why the game was so awesome. You see, at first, the game gives you the impression that it’s going to be hard, and that to be successful you will have to play carefully, have careful resource management, hoard as much money, medkits, eve hypos and ammo as you can, and explore every nook and cranny meticulously for these much sought after supplies. And at first, it IS like that. And it’s awesome. That’s a big reason why exploration is so great in Bioshock: you feel a need for these items, and the game rewards exploration heavily. In this game, if you explore, you WILL find things. Tucked away in corners, under a sofa, in a shadow, up on an alcove, everywhere. It’s not simply the fact that the place is pretty and the atmosphere is great, but that you actually FIND things if you take the time.

Not only that, but it also has other excellent elements that make it even more fun, for example: there are tons of awesome and useful plasmids and tonics, but ADAM, needed to buy them, is a very rare commodity at first. So you have tons of options but have to make careful decisions on what to get because you will not be able to buy everything. Which is great because it makes gathering ADAM a lot of fun, because you always want to buy certain things but you don’t have enough to do it, which compels you to search for it and is rewarding when you get it. Same with weapon stations that upgrade your guns.

The other excellent element that makes the game even more fun is the addition of the camera. By filming enemies while fighting them you gain “exp” on them, which eventually translates to benefits such as added damage to them, abilities, perks and tonics. Now you may be wondering, what is this rpg shit doing in my FPS. Who gives a shit? It makes fighting enemies more fun by giving you even more rewards than simply killing them and getting loot, which makes it a win in my book. It actually makes it so that you WANT to find enemies.

But the problem, and the deadly flaw with Bioshock is that this state is actually a lie that gradually becomes uncovered as the game goes on. Eventually you find that you have maxed out your cash. That you have maxed out your ammo. You’ve maxed out your camera research. ADAM isn’t as scarce as it once was. That you come across tons of medkits, hypos, ammo, dollars but can no longer pick any of them up because you’re completely full. You’ve been hoarding all these supplies, getting everything, getting every advantage possible, expecting a time when it will be needed. A great challenge. A challenge that never comes. You become more and more powerful, and yet the enemies never follow suit. Eventually Big Daddies and Big Sisters go from formidable enemies to absolute jokes.

And then the game dies. Halfway through, just like that. Your main motivation for exploring is no longer there. What is the point anymore? Where is the reward when you can’t even pick things up anymore? Audio diaries? Please. That’s not even close to enough. It feels like what you do no longer matters. Nothing is ever going to challenge you, so why bother caring?

And that right there is the one big true flaw of Bioshock. That is the reason why the game is amazing halfway through but then devolves into a mediocre shooter. Bad resource management. Simply put, the game is WAY too lenient and generous to the point that it’s detrimental to its fun factor.

Since I’m such a nice guy, I’m going to teach you dumb bitches how it’s done. I’m going to teach you how to properly design a game so it doesn’t break down halfway through. Here’s how the game SHOULD have been:

1) First of all, you need to keep difficulty both high and relatively consistent all throughout. To do that, you need to buff enemies up a LOT to make up for how powerful the player is becoming and all the things he’s getting. Big Daddies and Big Sisters should stay JUST as hard as they are the first time you fight them, and hopefully even tougher DESPITE the player being much stronger.

2) To achieve the above, you need to make the advantages the player gets from his hard work not simply ADVANTAGES that make the game easier, but make it actually NECESSARY to survive. That’s right. Make it so that if the player does NOT play carefully, hoard resources and gain every advantage possible, he dies. Simple as that. He is destroyed.

3) STOP LITTERING THE ENTIRE FUCKING GAME WITH MEDKITS. FUCK. First of all, being able to carry 5 fucking medkits on you? Too lenient. Make it just one max. Maybe two tops. But that’s pushing it. Actually no. Just make it one. Two is too much, see #6.

4) Medical stations shouldn’t even exist. Either this, or make them SO prohibitively expensive that players will not want to use them because they’ll have to lose an arm and a leg for it.

5)Next, make medkits EXTREMELY rare. Make the player crave them. Make the player feel truly rewarded each time he manages to find one instead of shitting them all over the god damn place until he can’t even slog through the mountains of medkits like the way it is right now. The same can apply for eve hypos, but this can be a tiny bit more lenient.

6) The gene tonic that increases the amount of kits you can carry by one is fine. That’s a fun tonic because it will let you carry 2 medkits, making it extremely valuable and the player will feel good about using it.

7) Make the added damage and perks you get from camera research not advantages, but NECESSARY to survive. If a player doesn’t spend time researching enemies? He dies. Simple.

8) Make ammo way, WAY scarcer. This is already somewhat covered by buffing the enemies, but that alone isn’t enough. If at some point a player is not hurting for ammo, you’ve failed. Now, keep in mind that I’m not telling you to start making a bunch of empty rooms with nothing in them. That’s also fucking wrong and you’re a dumbass for taking things to the extreme. But right now, there’s simply a surplus of resources in Bioshock. There’s just too fucking much and it kills the demand, which kills the reward when you get them, which in turn kills the fun. It should be toned down, but not to the point where you barely find anything by exploring. There are several ways to do this: a) make the amount you get in a single item less. For example, instead of finding 20 bullets in that shoebox, you only find, say, 3. b) like I said, the enemies being tougher will naturally reduce ammo. c) consumables you can’t carry such as food and drink will be more sought after, and this can be used in place of ammo for players to find.

The point is to make ammo valuable. Make it a commodity. Make the player thank his lucky stars when he finds some. Make it so that he needs to make every shot count, and even so that sometimes he might have to resort to some good old melee combat to hoard ammo for the tougher enemies.

9) Money. This also needs to be a LOT more scarce. If the player maxes out his cash at ANY point, you have failed. You don’t want to do away with vending machines and buying things though, because that’s fun. But fixing this problem is simple: Just make everything RIDICULOUSLY more expensive. Make medical stations 200 dollars for a cure instead of fucking 9 dollars. Same with every item sold at a vendor. Make it so that it’s fucking NECESSARY to get every single grimy lint-covered dollar bill to survive. Just triple the price of every item or something like that.

Well that’s about the main things. Do that and you suddenly have a FAR better game, one that doesn’t degenerate halfway through. You may be wondering “But dayum nigguh, how do I KNOW just how scarce things should be?” That’s simple. PLAYTEST THE FUCKING GAME YOU STUPID WHORE. Just play the game all the way through, being as careful as you can, getting everything possible, doing it as best as you can, and if at ANY point you max out your cash, or can’t pick up some ammo, or just in general feel like you’re not aching for more supplies, rachet up that difficulty. Make it necessary for the player to care about what he’s doing. That’s key.

But enough with my sagely lesson in game design. It’s not like you fucks will ever learn no matter how many times I say it. Not that that’ll stop me.

Anyway, better wrap up this review ’cause the important thing is outta the way. The game is graphically the same as Bioshock 1, the same music, about the same length and the setting and atmosphere are just as good.

Something that’s pretty annoying though is the way enemies just constantly respawn indefinitely. You can clear a room of splicers but wait a few minutes and they’ll just respawn again. If you leave to do something and then come back to the previous room you just cleared, it’ll be full of splicers again. Sometimes even if you don’t leave the room they’ll just appear again. Sometimes if you just turn your fucking back they will appear behind you even though there was no way for them to get there. I mean it’s not too bad since it’s only like a couple every few minutes but it’s still not cool.

Like Bioshock 1, you have your little sisters, except this time around you have a lot more interaction with them since you can carry them around, gather ADAM with them and protect them from splicers. Now as you all know I hate children, but these little sisters are aight. They’re not annoying, they ride on your back, do what they’re supposed to, never nag you, never do anything stupid, and only cry when you die. So I guess they’re actually totally not like children.

And just like Bioshock you have the choice of either saving them or harvesting them. And it’s still just as retarded as ever. I mean what the fuck? What kind of dumbass thought this up? You can either be cool, or you can be a douchebag coward with no honor who kills defenseless little girls. Oh my god, such a deep and complex moral choice. Oh and also killing them supposedly makes the already too easy game even easier. As if you needed another reason.

But whatever. In conclusion Bioshock 2 is just as good as the first one. And just as bad, for that matter. Get it, it’s pretty worth it.

Final Verdict: B

Final Playtime: Shit, doesn’t tell you your playtime. Fuck. About the same as Bioshock though.

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