When the city of Rapture was first unveiled, it was an underwater dystopia ravaged by civil war and self-destructive genetic manipulation. This strange and unforgettable world was also one of awe and wonder. Set nearly a decade after the events of its precursor, BioShock 2's Rapture is just as haunting and atmospheric the second time around (and perhaps even more so), but the sunken tomb of Rapture has lost much of the mystery that made it so memorable. Everything seems a bit too familiar, and the story that accompanies your journey is not as impressive or shocking as the original. Despite this, BioShock 2 plays host to several enhancements over the first, including an expanded set of moral dilemmas, improved shooter mechanics, and a surprisingly fun and engaging multiplayer mode. Whether or not you've experienced Rapture before, BioShock 2 is an all at once beautiful, disturbing, and thought-provoking experience that stays with you after you've shut it off.
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"Fallen, fallen is Babylon." Scrawled across the wall above a board covered with photographs, these words greet you in the waterlogged, decaying opulence of Adonis Spa after you awaken. Ten years have passed since the surprising events of BioShock 2's opening cinematic, and you're a man with a mission: to find your Little Sister. As Subject Delta, one of the original Big Daddy protectors first introduced in BioShock, you were pair-bonded with a Little Sister named Eleanor Lamb through a love that could literally kill you. Your mutual desire is to be reunited, but Eleanor is now being held captive by her mother, Sofia Lamb, the new master of Rapture. As an altruist and collectivist, Lamb is the diametric opposite of Andrew Ryan, the wealthy industrialist who founded Rapture as a place where mankind could be unfettered by petty morals, the hand of government, or the word of God. As an antagonist, she lacks Ryan's charisma and larger-than-life presence, but her personal philosophy and particular brand of madness nonetheless provides an interesting, if heavy-handed, alternative to his.
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.
Standing between you and your Little Sister is The Family, Lamb's semireligious cult of splicers, or former citizens of Rapture whose years of abusing a genetically enhancing drug called ADAM has granted them superhuman powers at the cost of their sanity. The years have not been kind to the splicers, who are far more warped and disfigured than ever before. They're also more dangerous now, having spent the last ten years honing and refining their predatory skills and abilities. Most of the splicers you encounter, such as creepy wall-climbing spiders and teleporting houdinis, are recognizable from the first game, but they're now joined by brutes, who can ruin your day with a charging tackle or a thrown piece of concrete. To keep up with these dangerous freaks, you have no choice but to splice up yourself to increase your potential and unlock new abilities. This means you need ADAM of your own, which is where things get interesting.
You may be a Big Daddy too, but this is not your bro.
As a Big Daddy, you're only too familiar with the way that ADAM is obtained: the Little Sisters. Making regular rounds in Rapture, the adorable but intensely creepy Little Sisters seek out ADAM-rich corpses (which they lovingly refer to as "angels") to drain with their wicked-looking needles. Each Little Sister is guarded by a Big Daddy, and unfortunately, there's no secret handshake that will get a Big Daddy to part willingly with his tiny charge--you've got to put him down. Once the two have been separated, it's up to you to decide what to do with the little girl, who cries in mourning of her surrogate father. As a Big Daddy yourself, you can lift her lovingly onto one shoulder and become her new guardian, or you can ruthlessly slaughter her for ADAM on the spot--an act made all the more cruel and unforgivable by your circumstances. By choosing the former, you can help your adopted Little Sister continue her rounds, earning a nice ADAM bonus in the process, but you're really only delaying the big decision. Do you choose to be selfish and harvest her? Or will you choose to be selfless and rescue her from her ghoulish condition? Each choice offers a different degree of ADAM as reward, but no matter what you decide, sooner or later Big Sister is going to catch up with you. These grown-up Little Sisters have been retrofitted with armor inspired by their guardians, and they are fast, powerful, and angry at you for messing with their pseudo siblings.
With enough ADAM at your disposal, you can spend it splicing up your DNA with plasmids to gain access to psychokinetic powers, such as the ability to throw fireballs, generate decoys that draw enemy fire, or shoot bees from your hands. You can also purchase gene tonics to enhance yourself with a wide variety of passive traits like faster movement speed, immunity to electrical damage, or quieter footsteps. Your combat options aren't strictly limited to genetic mutations, however, because there is an extensive arsenal of more traditional projectile weaponry for you to find as well. Each gun you find can dish out some serious damage to marauding splicers, from the bolt-launching rivet gun and the shoulder-mounted launcher to the .50 caliber machine gun and the deadly spear gun. Each gun also has multiple types of ammunition that you can switch between depending on the situation. As you journey deeper into Rapture, you'll have opportunities to upgrade both your guns and your plasmids, and there's a much greater sense of improvement this time around. Plasmids gain secondary and tertiary abilities, and weapons receive bonuses, such as the power to zap and stun foes with electricity.