Overlooked: Bioshock 2

Written by: Carlos Zotomayor

Features | Jul 21, 2016

Big Daddy Bioshock Ken Levine Rapture

You may have missed this bit of news, but the Bioshock games are getting remastered for the current generation consoles as well as the PC. The collection will be out this coming September 13 (that's about as informative as I will ever get in an article) and will feature all three games as well as the additional single-player DLCs. I guess you could say this announcement... went under the water (or flew over our heads?).

Bad jokes aside, this is good!

The Bioshock franchise is one of gaming's best; teaching us that you should never approach suspicious lighthouses nor the cities that float above or lie below them, and to never attempt to unravel their secrets like some twisted episode of Scooby-Doo.

Yet for all the talk about the series, only the original Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite ever get to see the spotlight: Bioshock 1 for introducing us to the underwater city of Rapture and its insanely philosophical residents, and Bioshock Infinite for letting us explore high-flying Columbia to let us murder its insanely racist citizens.

Nobody ever talks about Bioshock 2 and whenever it does come up, people treat it like a younger sibling that lives in the shadow of its brothers, never to get the attention it so rightly deserves.

Well worry not, Bioshock 2, for in this issue of Overlooked, I will abduct you from your ever-abusive family and show the world that you are more than just the shameless cash-in sequel that people take you for (just as soon as we get rid of that multiplayer component that stuck itself to you like a cancerous tumor).

So what exactly was overlooked in Bioshock 2?

The whole game, really.

Controlling Subject Delta, a prototype Big Daddy (those are the hulking behemoths in diving suits that you see on the game's cover), you explore a more decrepit version of Rapture and see just what happened to Atlantis' top competitor since its esteemed leaders all went swimming with the fishes.

What makes Bioshock 2 great from the outset is that within this context alone, it already sets itself up as a good sequel, one that expounds on what made the first game great by retaining just enough of the familiar while adding more of the strangeness that we've come to expect from a Bioshock game.

Instead of showing us what happened to Jack, the protagonist of the first game whose only audible cues were grunts and shouts (which puts his speech skills on par with those of an easily surprised gorilla), Bioshock 2 knows that people want to play the sequel because of one thing: Rapture.

The plot of the first game may have ended with you either saving all the orphaned children like an aquatic version of Peter Pan or by murdering them in cold blood like the final plague in the book of Exodus, but there is still more to be discovered about the underwater city both before and after it turned into the world's largest defective fishbowl decoration.

Through the diving helmet of Delta, what was once alien and unfamiliar to the player now becomes recognizable. It becomes an analogy where the player, like the Big Daddy, already knows how the world works and rather than taking its time to recap on the events from the last game, it takes its past into stride and makes steps with a narrative that centers not on conflicting morals or ideals, but on a more base need: love.

Yes, there are still incessant characters that annoy you through the city's PA system like a more disturbing version of Big Brother, but all their dialogue and tasks center on the relationship between you and Eleanor Lamb, a girl you are sworn to protect out of a bond that was not formed but rather manufactured.

This bond then becomes the central theme of the whole game: from the story, to the gameplay, to the overall choices you make. Rather than being told what to do by some poorly-voiced Irishman, the driving force in this game is more focused and relatable.

So how about that gameplay?

Though the AI in Bioshock games hasn't changed over the years (as they all rush at you with the confidence of an adolescent rhinoceros), the methods in which you can dispatch them have been refined and made to feel faster and more personalized.

Gone are the days where you had to awkwardly hold up one hand and keep the other down like a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot; now you can use both hands to simultaneously shoot your conventional weapon in your right hand while being able to fire....um, fire from your left hand. These weapons and powers then can be upgraded to suit your preferred playstyle and by the end of the game, no two people will have the same version of Subject Delta as you cannot fully upgrade everything in the game.

Personally, I count Bioshock 2 to be the best in the series gameplay-wise as it builds upon the plasmid-weapon one-two punch from the first game and lets you experiment more with various powers in environments that make full use of them.

And that, ultimately, is what Bioshock 2 is all about: experimentation.

No one wanted a sequel to Bioshock as it was fine all on its own, but 2K decided to go with it and the result was a game that made you feel like you were part of this world rather than just a tourist visiting Aquaman's dilapidated summer home.

Sure, not everything worked well.

As I mentioned earlier, multiplayer is the last thing a Bioshock game needs and isn't what draws players to the franchise. They look to the series for immersive storytelling, clever use of the environment and weapons, and a world full of people who peddle their philosophies like aggressive street vendors but also serves as a reflection of the darkest corners of the human mind.

Bioshock 2 has all these things and then some, but people look down on it is mostly due to the fact that it is a sequel. It goes back to a city that we've already seen in a world that we now understand so rather than taking it as a true Bioshock game, many players see it as 2K's half-hearted attempt to rake in more money without trying that hard.

But I never saw it that way. What I saw was a chance to return to one of the most unique locales in video game culture and see just what happens to a city after it dies a second time.

If Bioshock 2 was the first game in the series, maybe people wouldn't complain as much because on its own, it is a really good game. It doesn't wallow on the past events of the first Bioshock but rather takes what made its predecessor good and refines them in such a way that it tells a different, more relatable story. It just so happens that the setting is the same.

No matter what haters might say, I still think Bioshock 2 should not be overlooked. It's tight, focused, is a reflection not of man's dreams but of his most basic desire, and should you come looking for adventure, all good things can still be found in this city. 

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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