BioShock 2 Review: Why I Don’t Like It

It’s no secret that BioShock 2 is my least favorite game of the series, and I’ve been asked a handful of times why that is.

To be clear, I don’t think it’s the worst game in all creation. Just in this series, and that’s only my opinion. This post is to clarify why I don’t like the game for those who are curious and to reassure anyone concerned that this isn’t an insult by any stretch of the imagination.

If you like BioShock 2 and I don’t, it’s no different than if you like olives and I don’t. More for you! But now let’s get into the reasons I don’t like BioShock 2:

  1. Narratively Ho-Hum

It doesn’t really do much in the way of establishing itself in the timeline in relation to BioShock 1, for starters. Is Jack still there? When in the timeline is this, anyway? The novel does a better job explaining what happened when, acting as a transition between 1 and 2 better than 2 itself did.

I’m not saying it never explained the timeline, only that it did it poorly in such a way to cause more confusion and put most of the work on the player.

You get the impression that Ryan is gone since Lamb has essentially replaced him, but how long ago? Ryan knew of Subject Delta, so this special Big Daddy was there during BioShock 1 somewhere. There’s a recording to find about Fontaine making the switch to Atlas, so that’s a thing too. And when and how did Sinclair and Tenenbaum meet? So many questions.

Also, Tenenbaum shows up for the beginning only, never to be seen in any significant way again for vague reasons… In a game that’s about Little Sisters in a pretty big way.

Little Sisters

 

It’s not the first time I’ve had to flesh out the story for game designers who crawled over the narrative finish line, but I really just expected better from the sequel to the smash-hit classic BioShock 1.

That narrative wasn’t innovative, per se, but it was masterfully done. By comparison, the narrative presentation of BioShock 2 is little more than a rough draft.

That said, it was nominated for the BAFTA award for best story in 2011 (among 5+ awards or nominations for music, to give you context). It didn’t win, but some people liked it enough to nominate it. To each their own, see?

2. Combat Mechanics are, Shall We Say, Not Good

You start as a Big Daddy, the strongest enemy of the first game. When you start a sequel game as the top of the food chain from the prequel, this presents an issue for designers making your combat experience. Everyone, starting from your first opponent, has to be stronger than the strongest thing you’ve ever faced until now.

bioshock 2 big daddy little sister.jpg

 

This gets you a game focused on beating the ever-loving crap out of you. And that’s totally fine if you want to boast about beating a needlessly difficult game, but I’m not that kind of gamer. I like a challenge to test my strategies against, not a poorly crafted nuisance because the designers painted themselves into a corner at the outset.

More weapons won’t save cumbersome level designs or tanked up splicers for when the designers needed what amounts to a Bigger Daddy. It’s not awful, but it’s not anything to write home about either.

3. Takeaway

That said, I don’t hate the game or feel it’s devoid of value. It developed more of the world, which I loved! Seeing from the eyes of a Little Sister was fantastic, and Subject Delta is interesting (honestly, I’d play a game about his prequel to becoming Delta). Eleanor has potential, but her lack of screentime really hurt her development.

…Besides, I’m trash for Sinclair.

bioshock 2 augustus sinclair.jpg

So no, it’s not awful, but I wouldn’t play it again and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else does. It’s worth a watch, not a play—in my opinion.

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