BioShock 2 box art, showing a Little Sister atop the game's protagonist Subject Delta
|Engine||Unreal Engine 2.5|
BioShock 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by 2K Marin and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to the 2007 video game BioShock and was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3, and the Xbox 360 on February 9, 2010. Feral Interactive released an OS X version of the game on March 30, 2012. Set in the fictional underwater dystopian city of Rapture, the game's story takes place eight years after the events of the first BioShock. Assuming control of Subject Delta, a hulking Big Daddy, players are tasked with fighting through "splicers", the psychotic human population of the city, using weapons and an array of genetic modifications. The game also introduces a story-driven multiplayer mode called Fall of Rapture, which takes place during Rapture's 1959 civil war, before the events of the first game.
BioShock 2 was mainly developed by 2K Marin, with 2K Australia, Arkane Studios, and Digital Extremes providing additional support. 2K Boston, formerly Irrational Games, also assisted the game's development, with series creator Ken Levine providing input. The story received major changes over the course of development. Garry Schyman, the composer of the first game, returned to create the score for BioShock 2.
The game received critical acclaim upon release, with praise particularly directed at the game's narrative, art-style, characters, ending and gameplay. However, the game attracted criticism for having a slow start and being too similar to its predecessor. The game was supported with downloadable content upon launch, and a new single-player campaign, titled Minerva's Den, was released in August 2010. The game sold more than 3 million copies, but did not meet Take-Two Interactive's sales expectations. A third title, BioShock Infinite, developed by Irrational Games, was released in 2013. A remastered version of the game was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 13, 2016, as part of BioShock: The Collection, along with BioShock and BioShock Infinite.
BioShock 2 is set in the fictional city of Rapture, hidden from the rest of the world underwater. Rapture was the realized vision of Andrew Ryan, who built the city to escape the tyranny of governments. Despite the apparent utopia, class distinctions grew, and former gangster and businessman Frank Fontaine used his influence of the lower class to plan a coup of Rapture. Fontaine created black market routes with the surface world, and together with Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, created a cheap plasmid industry by mass-producing ADAM through the implanting of the slugs in the stomachs of orphaned girls, nicknamed "Little Sisters". Fontaine used his plasmid-enhanced army to attack Ryan, but reportedly was killed in the battle.
Ryan took the opportunity to seize his assets including the plasmid factories. In the months that followed, a second figure named Atlas rose to speak for the lower class, creating further strife. Atlas led attacks on the factories housing the Little Sisters, and Ryan countered by creating "Big Daddies", plasmid-enhanced humans surgically grafted into giant lumbering diving suits who were psychologically compelled to protect the Little Sisters at all costs. Ryan also created his own army of plasmid-enhanced soldiers, named "Splicers," which he controlled using pheromones distributed through Rapture's air system. Tension came to a head on New Year's Eve of 1958, when Atlas ordered an all-out attack on Ryan. The battle left many dead, and the few sane survivors barricaded themselves away. What once was a beautiful utopia had fallen into a crumbling dystopia.
BioShock 2 opens on New Year's Eve, 1958 (two years before the events of the first game), as Subject Delta patrols Rapture with his Little Sister, Eleanor. Eleanor is separated from Delta by her mother, Sofia Lamb, who uses a mind control plasmid on Delta to make him shoot himself. Ten years later, Delta awakens, revived by Little Sisters under the control of Eleanor. Delta is drawn towards Eleanor by their past Big Daddy-Little Sister connection. Brigid Tenenbaum encounters Delta, and explains that unless Delta reunites with Eleanor, he will fall into a coma. With the help of the Little Sisters under Eleanor's control and Tenenbaum's ally, former enterpreneur Augustus Sinclair, Delta makes his way towards Lamb's stronghold. Traveling through the city, Delta encounters members of the Rapture family such as Grace Holloway, a singer who had suffered under Ryan's unjust laws against revolt; Stanley Poole, a con artist whom had murdered many of the Family's members in Dionysus Square after foolishly trying to cover up his blunders from Lamb; and Gil Alexander, a respected scientist who worked at Fontaine Futuristics before Lamb transformed him into an encased monstrosity of flesh, who he can kill or spare, and learns Lamb's plan: she seeks to use ADAM to transform Eleanor into a perfect embodiment of her altruistic ideals. Lamb's ultimate goal is to have the collected minds and memories of everyone in Rapture become a part of Eleanor through the use of the genetic memory in ADAM, thus making her an "Embodiment of the Family" which Lamb believes will put an end to "The Self".
Delta arrives at a containment chamber where Eleanor is held, but Lamb captures him and severs his bond with Eleanor by temporarily stopping her heart. Though Eleanor survives, Delta begins to slowly die as the bond cannot be re-established. Using a Little Sister, Eleanor transforms herself into a Big Sister and breaks Delta from confinement. Together they head for an escape pod that Sinclair has arranged to leave Rapture. The two find that Lamb has converted Sinclair into Subject Omega, declaring that Delta should be what Sinclair is now, and Delta is forced to finish him off. After a final climactic showdown with the remnants of The Rapture Family in order to buy time for Eleanor to prepare the pod, Delta is forced to flood the area and escape in his suit. Eleanor and Delta make it to the escape pod but a bomb set by Lamb leaves Delta mortally wounded. Eleanor teleports and reaches the escape pod before the bomb blows, while Delta manages to grab onto the pod's side and climb aboard as it rises.
The game's ending depends on how the player interacted with the Little Sisters, and the fates of Holloway, Poole and Alexander within the game. Eleanor can save Sofia Lamb or force her to drown, depending on whether the player spared or executed the non-player characters. If Delta rescued all of the Little Sisters he will breathe his last breath in Eleanor's arms, the weather will be sunny and clean, then she will absorb his personality and memories and leave Rapture with the Little Sisters to change the world for the better, dropping the doll that one of the little sisters give her in the ocean, which slightly resembles Delta, in order to mourn his death, and to make his death count. If Delta harvested all of the Little Sisters then Eleanor will extract Delta's ADAM and become bent on world domination, the weather becoming dark and stormy as the corpses of Rapture's inhabitants float to the surface. A mix between rescuing and harvesting the little sisters gives the player a choice; either Eleanor can absorb his ADAM and become evil, or Delta can stop her and die, in which case Eleanor will mourn his death and make her own way in life.
BioShock 2 is presented as a first-person shooter, with the player taking on the role of Subject Delta, a prototype for the Big Daddies 8 years after the events of the first game. As in BioShock, the player explores Rapture and fights off splicers, the remaining psychotic human population of the undersea city, using a combination of the environment, weapons, plasmids, and tonics. Plasmids and tonics are special genetic-reencoding liquids that grant the user active or passive abilities, respectively, and include many of those introduced in BioShock as well as new ones. For example, plasmids can give the player the ability to use telekinesis or to invoke fire, while tonics can improve the player's movement speed, attack damage, or damage resistance. Several of the weapons in BioShock 2 were previously seen carried by Big Daddies in the first game, including a powerful drill and a rivet gun. The player can use each weapon in a close-range melee attack, unlike in the first game, and is able to equip a weapon and a plasmid at the same time, which they can use in quick succession to destroy enemies. For example, the player might freeze a foe using a plasmid then shatter it using a spear gun. If the player is killed, they are revived in the nearest "vita-chamber."
As the player explores Rapture, he will collect ammo, health, recovery items, money and EVE (a liquid used to power plasmid use). Money can be used to purchase more items at vending machines scattered around the city. The player will also encounter security systems which can be hacked through a mini-game; this requires the player to stop a quick-moving needle one or more times in the correctly colored areas of a gauge. Stopping it within a green area progresses the sequence or potentially ends it; stopping in a blue area may grant a bonus to the hacking result, landing in a white area shocks the player (dealing a small amount of damage); and landing in a red area causes a security alert. The player also gains access to a research video camera. In BioShock 2, once the player begins recording an enemy, the player has a short time to damage that enemy in creative ways in order to score a number of points, which are then added towards the total research points of that enemy type. At various levels of research, the player is rewarded with new abilities. Certain areas of the game take place entirely underwater, limiting the actions the player can perform.
As a Big Daddy, the player can attempt to defeat other Big Daddies who are themselves escorting Little Sisters. Should the player succeed, they can then choose to either harvest or adopt the Little Sister. While adopted, the Little Sister can lead the player to corpses from whom she can extract more ADAM. While she does this, the player must defend her from splicer attacks and other foes. Once the Little Sister has collected enough ADAM, the player can then return her to an escape vent, where the player must choose to either rescue or harvest the Little Sister. Rescuing her gives the player a modest amount of ADAM but also the possibility of beneficial gifts later; harvesting her yields a large ADAM boost. ADAM can then be spent at Gatherer's Garden machines throughout Rapture to buy new plasmids, gene tonics, slots, or health/eve upgrades. Once the player has either rescued or harvested each of the Little Sisters on the level, the player will be attacked by a Big Sister. The Big Sister's agility and resourcefulness will task the player with a difficult fight before the player can proceed further in the game.
BioShock 2 features a story-driven multiplayer mode called Fall of Rapture in which the player takes on the role of one of Rapture's citizens before the events of BioShock, during Rapture's 1959 civil war. The player is sponsored by the plasmid manufacturer, Sinclair Solutions, to test out their weapons, plasmids, and Tonics in a consumer reward program. As the player progresses through the multiplayer experience, new weapons, tonics, and plasmids will be unlocked (provided by Sinclair) in addition to the story of the Rapture civil war being told through audio diaries available in the player's apartment.
The player can choose from among 6 characters to serve as an in-game avatar. The characters are: Jacob Norris the welder, Barbara Johnson the housewife, Danny Wilkins the football star, Buck Raleigh the businessman, Naledi Atkins the pilot, and Suresh Sheti the Indian mystic. Two additional characters were available as a pre-order bonus from 12game, GameStop, EB Games or Game, or through the purchase of a DLC pack: a fisherman named Zigo d'Acosta and an actress named Mille Blanche de Glace. Another two characters were made available by downloading the Sinclair Solutions Tester Pack: a criminal named Louie McGraff and a smooth-talking playboy named Oscar Calraca.
Multiplayer comes in 7 different modes, two of which have a single-player and team-based mode. The modes include "Survival of the Fittest", a free-for-all deathmatch mode; "Civil War", a team deathmatch; "Capture the Sister", a capture-the-flag-style mode where one team defends a Little Sister while the other attempts to capture her, and "Turf War", where teams compete to control specific areas of a map.
In the multiplayer modes 'Survival of the Fittest', 'Civil War', and 'Turf War', a Big Daddy suit will spawn at a random location in the level. The choice is given to the player who finds this suit to become the Big Daddy, which will give the player greater strength and endurance but prohibits the use of plasmids and hacking, as well as expelling any previously held damage bonuses against other players. The Big Daddy can stomp, shoot a rivet gun, melee attack, and throw proximity mines. All damage dealt to the Big Daddy is permanent, and cannot be replenished. Once the Big Daddy is defeated, the suit disappears and spawns in another location on the map two minutes later. In 'Capture the Sister' one member of the defending team is chosen at random to be the Big Daddy; after the player's death, the Big Daddy suit disappears for the rest of the round.
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2K Boston and Irrational Games produced BioShock to critical and commercial acclaim. Several ex-BioShock developers moved to 2K Marin, a new Bay Area studio parent company Take-Two Interactive formed in late 2007. 2K Marin started on BioShock 2 with a core team of eight in November 2007, adding 78 additional personnel at peak development.
Jordan Thomas, BioShock 2's creative director, said that the first concern with a sequel to BioShock was "where do you go with this? How do you bring people back to an experience and terrify them and shock them in a way that they’re not expecting, but also fulfill the many expectations they’re projecting onto it?" Early on, Thomas decided that it couldn't be a BioShock game without the city of Rapture, and that there were many unseen locations and untold stories that could remained with the setting. The developers wanted to bring some of the mystery back to the location of Rapture, and maintain a balance of surprising old players while introducing the setting to newcomers. Thomas and environmental artist Hogarth De La Plante agreed that the setting of Rapture was fertile ground for new ideas, and that as they were both veterans of the original game, they were excited to add never-before-seen parts of the city and push the artistic style they had developed. "Any idea was out on the table at that point, and I think nobody has played BioShock more than the developers that made it, so I feel like in one respect we are a pretty good litmus test for whether it’s still an interesting place or not," La Plante recalled. "And if that doesn’t bore us and we’re the people that played it for thousands upon thousands of hours, then I think we have a pretty good perspective on how interesting that location really is."
Each game level was devised by a team comprised on an environmental artist and level designer working collaboratively, as opposed to a workflow where the level was designed and then handed over to art teams to be detailed. Level designer Steve Gaynor recalled that by involving the level designer, they could make sure that gameplay spaces still felt like functional, real spaces, making sure that the Rapture of BioShock 2 still felt like a living, breathing world.
Among the goals of BioShock 2's developers was to capitalize or improve aspects of the first game that were received less positively. One such element was the Pipe Mania-inspired hacking minigame. Thomas said that even players who enjoyed the minigames became "numb" to it after repetition; the replacement of the mini game with hacking that didn't allow you to pause the game added more urgency to the gameplay. Another aspect was the choice to harvest or save Little Sisters; by allowing players to adopt the Little Sisters before deciding their fate, Thomas hoped it would help players form a bond with the characters and think about their choice. Among the other goals the developers had for the sequel was adding more unspliced characters and give players a greater chance to make decisions that impacted the course of the game. "You make decisions about their fate as well, all of which play into the way the story ends," Thomas said. "There's definitely more granularity and dynamism in the narrative of BioShock 2." The game uses Unreal Engine 2.5.
The story received major changes over the course of development, with two of the most important relating to the player's character and the Big Sister. Initially there was only going to be one Big Sister who would continually hunt the player down throughout the course of the game and then retreat once she was defeated. This Big Sister was written as a Little Sister who, as she grew up on the surface, could not leave the memory of Rapture behind and eventually returned. The reason for the change, as explained by Zak McClendon, lead designer for 2K Marin, is "If you have a single character that the player knows they can't kill because they're so important to the story you're completely removing the triumph of overcoming that encounter with them." Jordan Thomas, the game's director, explains however, "The soul of the original Big Sister character still exists, but in the form of somebody you get to know over the course of the game." The other major change was that the player's character, Subject Delta, is no longer the first Big Daddy, but rather the fourth prototype. He is, however, the first to be successfully 'pair-bonded' to a single Little Sister.
Initially, media reports suggested that the subtitle, Sea Of Dreams, would accompany the second entry in the series. However, this subtitle was supposedly dropped, before 2K withdrew the statement, stating that the "Sea Of Dreams" subtitle would still be part of the full title. However, a later statement from 2K spokesman Charlie Sinhaseni clarified that the Sea Of Dreams title was for the trailer, and not for the game itself. The first appearance for BioShock 2 came in the form of a teaser trailer that was available in the PlayStation 3 version of the first game. The first major details on the gameplay and plot of the game were revealed in the April 2009 issue of Game Informer magazine, around the same time that the "viral" site "There's Something in the Sea" was revealed. This site documents a man named Mark Meltzer's investigation into the disappearances of girls from coastline areas around the Atlantic, along with a mysterious red light that accompanies each kidnapping. On April 9, 2009, on the Spike TV show GameTrailers TV with Geoff Keighley the first BioShock 2 gameplay video was shown featuring the Big Sister. This demo showed many features including the ability to walk under water.
Assisting 2K Marin were artists from 2K Australia, 2K China, Digital Extremes, and Arkane Studios. Character modeler Brendan George recalled that the modelers would have to think about how the concept art would be animated, not directly copying from the concept art to avoid animation issues and the uncanny valley. Character concept artist Colin Fix recalled that while the teams researched the time period for era-appropriate influences, costumes would need regular adjustment. "[The artists] had an earlier version of Stanley with a swanky Hawaiian shirt that was in the time period, but felt out of place in Rapture. It felt really modern even though it wasn't."
Fix described the splicers as originally perfect J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell figures, but "totally distorted." Starting with the recognizably human silhouettes of the splicers established in BioShock, the artists decided to push into more varied forms. Early concepts had parasite-covered splicers or air sacs, along with translucent, bioluminescent skin, but finding that these "human blobs" did not instill a sense of sadness in the player, the artists moved back to more conventional forms.
To create the multiplayer characters of pre-fall Rapture, Digital Extremes developed more than 26 character concepts, which were then narrowed down to a few archetypes that would represent a cross-section of the Rapture population.
The Big Sister was, according to animation supervisor Jeff Weir, the first thing Jordan Thomas talked about to the animators when they arrived at 2K Marin. The character challenged the team to convey her backstory and personality through the design. Fix started with descriptive words on a page, moving to thumbnails and silhouette concepts. Early inspiration for the character's design included racing dogs, and the idea of a character that carries itself in a restrained way until it explodes in action. "[We thought] of her as graceful and yet awkward at the same time, and that’s really the hard challenge that we had with her. Actually in terms of design, there were lots of fun things, like at one point she had a sort of 'Fallen Angel' feel to her, like broken wings," Weir recalled. Motion capture sessions were used for inspiration for the alternatingly awkward and fluid motion of the character, though none of it was used in the final product. In developing her visual design, the team tried to balance the design influence of the Big Daddies with a unique look. Soft design elements influenced by the story, like Little Sisters that would ride around in the Big Sister's cage and draw on her armor, were added to complement the harsh metal of the rest of the character.
Digital Extremes produced the multiplayer component of the game. In the multiplayer portion, players are put in a separate story where civil war has broken out in Rapture prior to the events of the first game. In the multiplayer mode, the player acts as a plasmid test subject for a company called Sinclair Solutions. As the player progresses through the multiplayer maps like Mercury Suites and Kashmir Restaurant they will either have the ability to hack turrets and vending machines or search for the Big Daddy suit.
Michael Kamper served as BioShock 2's Audio Lead; he joined 2K Marin to work on BioShock 2 after the closure of Electronic Arts Chicago. Only a single sound designer had worked on the previous BioShock's lauded sound, which Kamper called "intimidating"; "we were all basically coming into the project as fans of the first game." While Kamper collaborated with the leads for other facets of the game, he was given wide latitude to develop the sonic style of the game. Kamper, in turn, gave his team freedom to use whatever software they wanted to create and manipulate sounds, not wanting to limit their creativity.
"Certainly, the fact that the game was going to be set ten years after the first BioShock established the atmosphere of BioShock 2," he recalled. "I really wanted the ambience to sell the fact that Rapture was constantly falling apart around the player." In addition to lots of creaking and groaning sounds to accentuate the setting's disrepair, Kamper and the audio team added non-diegetic sounds that grow in frequency the closer the player gets to the end of the game to convey the mounting insanity of the Splicers. The Big Sister's sound effects were created by layering sounds from birds, hyenas, and Kamper's wife doing impressions of a dolphin. The audio team spent a great deal of time on immersing the player in their role of a Big Daddy through the audio—everything from the sound of the footsteps to the sounds for impacts and water drips on the player's armor was used to sell the player on who their character was. Audio programmer Guy Somberg created a background sound system that allowed the team to layer stereo sounds together depending on the player's location, combined with mono sound effects for certain areas. "This allowed us to quickly iterate on our ambiences and implement them into the levels with ease, and helped create the randomness I was looking for in the background effects," Kamper recalled. Multiplayer sounds were handled by Digital Extremes, who along with Kamper's team had to make sure their sounds cohered not only with each other's work, but with the sounds of the first game.
Garry Schyman reprised his role as BioShock's composer to create the score for BioShock 2. He wrote that "scoring a sequel to a major hit game is always a challenge," and the praise his BioShock score received made things even more difficult. He decided to retain some elements and motifs from the first game—use of the solo violin, and compositional techniques common in the mid-20th century setting—while creating something different. "BioShock 2 was easier in the sense that the style had been established and I didn't have to reinvent the wheel," Schyman noted. "So it was just delightful work creating that score. Which in some respects surpasses my original in my opinion." Among the elements the developers tried to improve on from the first game was adding more pieces of music for the combat sequences in each level.
Once the game's tone and style was established, Schyman worked off specific requests from the audio director for individual pieces of music. Kamper recalled that "[Schyman] really, really did a wonderful job" with molding the music to fit Thomas' and his intended mood and tones. The results, such as the music for the Pauper's Drop level, were different from anything else in the first game. To test how the music fit for each level, Kamper would send Schyman video footage of the game, which would then be appraised with the new score to see how well it meshed. Kamper split some of Schyman's tracks to use as leitmotivs; the opening track of Eleanor and Delta together was divided in later renditions, using the deeper cello for Delta and the violin for Eleanor. The score was recorded with a 60-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at Capitol Studios.
In addition to the original music, BioShock 2 makes extensive use of licensed music from the time period. "Similar to the first game, we tried really hard to instill a sense of thematic cogency with our picks that the message that is coming through the licensed tracks," Thomas said, adding that blues and religious music were important to the sequel's themes, and that while the first game had used more commercial pop music, they wanted a broader range. Music from BioShock was used in the multiplayer portion of BioShock 2 to help connect it back to the time period of the first game.
BioShock 2 was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms on February 9, 2010. A Special Edition of the game was announced on November 19, 2009. This edition, which was limited to a single production run, contains the game along with three posters featuring fictional advertisements from Rapture that reveal hidden messages under a black light, the orchestral score from the game on CD, the orchestral score from the original BioShock on a vinyl 180g LP, and a hardbound, 164-page art book. It is packaged in a 13 by 13 in (33 by 33 cm) case with special art on both the slipcase and the box cover.
A smaller limited edition, titled BioShock 2 Rapture Edition, was officially announced on December 2, 2009. Its contents are the game and a smaller, 96-page art book, packaged together in a special slipcover. As with the Special Edition, the Rapture Edition was limited to a single production run. The BioShock 2 Rapture Edition is available in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, in addition to the BioShock 2 Special Edition.
In its first week of release, BioShock 2 was the best-selling Xbox 360 game in the UK and North America. In the U.S., NPD recorded it as the top selling game of February with 562,900 units sold on the Xbox 360, and 190,500 on the PS3. Gamasutra state a possible reason for the Xbox 360's greater sales was the original BioShock's 14-month exclusivity on the platform. It also managed to hold both the first and second positions on the Steam release charts. In its first month of release, BioShock 2 was number 1 in sales for the Xbox 360 and number 12 for the PlayStation 3.
By March 2010, BioShock 2 sold 3 million copies across all platforms, close to the original BioShock's 4 million lifetime sales at the time. In an earnings call, Take-Two's Chief Financial Officer noted that the game had "lower than expected" sales, adding "sales slowed down sooner than we expected." Prior to the game's release, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick stated that he expected the game to sell 5 million copies across all platforms.
BioShock 2 was supported post-launch with patches and technical fixes, as well as new downloadable content (DLC) for its single player and multiplayer modes. The first DLC, the Sinclair Solutions Test Pack, was released March 11, 2010, and added new player characters, cosmetics, and a level increase. This was followed on May 11 by the Rapture Metro Pack, which added six new maps and new achievements. Also released alongside the Rapture Metro Pack were additional characters and a new game mode.
Released on August 3, "The Protector Trials Pack" is a single-player downloadable content which has the player defend Little Sisters against swarms of enemies in a variety of challenge rooms. The content contains six maps based on locations from the main game, alongside three difficulty levels, seven Achievements/Trophies, and new concept art and videos to unlock. This downloadable content was released for free on the PC on March 14, 2011.
Minerva's Den is a downloadable single-player campaign with a plot completely separate from that of the main campaign. The player assumes the role of Subject Sigma, another Alpha Series Big Daddy, as he travels through Minerva's Den, home to Rapture's Central Computing. The campaign adds three new levels (with around four hours of gameplay) and provides deeper insight into Rapture's inner workings. The add-on also features new weapons, a new plasmid as well as a new Big Daddy type. It was released August 31, 2010 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Work on the PC version of this downloadable content was resumed on October 28, 2010. The DLC was released on PC on May 31, 2011.
With the closure of the Games for Windows – Live Marketplace, the PC version of BioShock 2 was patched in October 2013 to remove Games for Windows Live in favor of Steamworks support for matchmaking. In addition, Minerva's Den was released for free for players who owned BioShock 2 before the patch.
GamesRadar's Charlie Barratt awarded the game with a perfect score stating that "The weapons are better. The plasmids are better. The enemies are better. At some points, even the storytelling is better. What's most amazing and surprising about BioShock 2, however, is that by diving deeper into Rapture's tortured history and exploring more of Rapture's haunted world, it actually manages to make the original BioShock better, too."
Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scored the game an 8.25. He criticised the game for being too similar to its predecessor, saying that "For roughly 10 hours, BioShock 2 follows directly in its forefather's footsteps, too fearful to inject anything new into this twisted world." However, he praised the game's ending, stating that "Eventually this disappointing adventure does turn a corner. It takes 10 hours to get there, but the final two acts (lasting approximatetely three hours) are brilliant." He concluded with "BioShock 2 eventually becomes the sequel I hoped for, but spends too much time getting there." In 2013, Liz Lanier of Game Informer included Dr. Sofia Lamb among top ten female villains in video games, stating that "an extremist obsessed with the "greater good," Lamb will sacrifice anything and anyone for her own agenda; whether that means brainwashing or murdering to create her utopia, she's down."
IGN scored the game a 9.1/10 and said that "anyone looking for a first-person shooter that offers more than flat, stereotypical characters and copy-and-paste supersoldier plots, one that attempts to establish a sense of right and wrong and loops you into the decision making process, and one that's set in one of the most vividly realized settings around should pick up BioShock 2. It's a game in which story, setting, and gameplay are expertly blended to create an experience that's as thought-provoking as it is entertaining." IGN's review also stated that the game does not look as visually impressive as its predecessor, but it is still one of the best-looking games around because of its unique art style. In a round-table style video chat, IGN editors said that Rapture was less mysterious because players have seen it before, and that was a major strike against the game. Since the original had such an eerie mysterious feel to it, the twists and turns seen in the sequel seemed less surprising.
Tom Price of TeamXbox gave the game an overall score of 9.2/10 saying that "BioShock 2 remains one of the most original, exciting, subversive and intriguing shooters out there for you to play, and you shouldn't miss the experience of doing that."
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell was more critical of BioShock 2. Though he scored the game a very positive 8/10 overall, he noted that "The single-player campaign... will and should be damned for its long, slow start, during which the game struggles to make its intentions clear, but once past that the developers find a new tempo that wrings just enough extra quality out of the existing framework to justify your patience, even if the game still feels flat in the context of more daring and elaborate sequels like Mass Effect 2 and last year's Assassin's Creed follow-up."
In contrast to the first BioShock's focus on libertarianism and Ayn Rand's philosophies, BioShock 2 focuses on collectivist ideals.
Lamb's philosophy of altruism is based on that of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill. "Her motto is ‘Make the world your family’ meaning force your mind into becoming loyal to the world in a way usually reserved for your child, and that’s intellectually daunting," said Thomas. In comparison to the first game's questions of free will and destiny, Thomas said that the player character is "almost the ultimate individual" whom Lamb goads to fulfill her goals.
Professor Ryan Lizardi draws parallels between BioShock 2's themes of community versus the individual and the issues of McCarthyism and the hippie movement that occurred around the time period of the game's setting. "As this sequel is an extension of the first game’s storylines and characters, there are direct contrasts between the extreme politics of Andrew Ryan’s objectivism and the extreme religion/politics of Lamb’s collectivism," he writes. "Bioshock 2 specifically asks players to question all sides of debates when extreme stances are taken, and asks players to weigh their decisions in an alternate and complex history. "
To be, or not to be.
JEFF WEIR: Actually, it was the first thing Jordan talked about when we got here, was the Big Sister idea. / COLIN FIX: Yeah, I think the Big Sister’s very important to Jordan. My very first day, which a lot of companies usually consists of sit down, get familiar with your computer, maybe organize a couple files, see if your e-mail is checked up. No, he took me into a room, took Jeff and I into the room, was like, “Alright, this is the main character of the game, *babble*” He just started going, and we’re like, “Oh my lord!” This is the first thing we’re doing. We had just sat down, basically, and he was already getting us thinking about this Big Sister character.
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