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Bioshock 2 faces the connundrum of a broken world and lays the blame at our feet. For someone of faith, the vivid conjuring of Rapture is a fascinating challenge to a judgemental deity. In the quiet between the fighting we hear the frightful idea that the world's problems are in part our own doing.
BioShock 2 revisits the successful formula of the original BioShock game, drawing you through a dilapidated and corrupt city on a journey of self discovery and adventure. It's another brilliant offering from 2K that tells a tale of a failed society and how your own actions affect those around you. Prepare to venture under the sea once again.
You are instantly back in Rapture, the art deco underwater city introduced in the first BioShock game. This time, though, you take on a slightly different role. In the first game you were a soft, squishy human being, always on the lookout for incoming danger and especially wary of those guardians of the Little Sisters: the Big Daddy. This time you are a Big Daddy, albeit one with a bit more self-awareness than the others. As you venture through the city you'll learn more about who you are, how you came to be a big daddy, and what happened to the Little Sister who was assigned to you.
I felt like I had already explored Rapture pretty well in BioShock and loved the style of the city. In a strange way it was good to be back, despite knowing the place was full of insane and powerful Splicers. I will say that it didn't seem nearly as scary this time - whether because I knew what to expect or because I knew how tough the Big Daddy was in the first game and assumed I would be as tough this time. Whatever the reason, I didn't have any of the jumpy, 'what's coming next?' moments that I did in BioShock. You could say that was a downside, since those moments really add to the atmosphere of a game, but I can't say I missed them.
One of the big draws of BioShock was the moral choice. Your decisions throughout the game, how you treated the people you come across and particularly the Little Sisters, had an effect on how the game played out. That element has been carried over to BioShock 2 and, while not the innovation it was in the first game, it still makes for a very interesting experience.
One of the characters tells you they've learned how to live from your actions and, in my case, it was survival at all costs.
I played BioShock rescuing all the Little Sisters, receiving less Adam but gaining additional rewards and, ultimately, the 'good' ending. I decided to play BioShock 2 the other way round - rather than rescuing the Little Sisters I would harvest them. I would get more Adam but would have to kill the wee girls to do it.
You might expect a pang of guilt about that, but I can't help but remember that this just isn't real. There's no real moral choice here, just a decision about which branch of the game's logic tree I want to go down. Given that unreality, it doesn't feel any different dealing with the Little Sisters to dealing with Rapture's adult Splicer inhabitants.
There is a nice element of cause and effect within both BioShock games, though, and I was pulled up short for a moment by one of the comments made towards the end of BioShock 2. One of the characters tells you they've learned how to live from your actions and, in my case, it was survival at all costs.
That really made me think about how the things we do have consequences, both for ourselves and for others.
That really made me think about how the things we do have consequences, both for ourselves and for others. Cosidering the consequences of my decisions is one of the guiding themes of my own life and something we regularly remind ourselves of at our church.
As I played on, aware of the effect my actions were having for the game world around me, I found my own understanding of God refelcted here. It's so easy to blame powers beyond ourselves for things that are wrong in the world - and God is an easy target. But for me, I think much of what comes our way is of our own making, a bit like in BioShock. Sure I believe in divine involvement, but I think there are much more mundane reasons for a lot of the stuff mankind experiences. And maybe more straight forward answers we need to address.
One of my abiding memories of BioShock 2 will be of travelling through the Journey to the Surface exhibit in Ryan Amusements. A series of animatronic scenes are designed to tell the inhabitants of Rapture just how horrendous things are on the surface. I got a fright more than once by a huge hand appearing from the ceiling - even after I'd learned to expect it! It was fascinating to hear about the philosophy behind Rapture, that every person is entitled to the benefits of their own work and actually thought some of it made sense. I guess the line between 'selfish' and 'self advancement' is a pretty thin one!
There's so much more to BioShock 2, moments that can be taken as deep and meaningful, philosophical, but most of all it's just a great adventure and loads of fun. I've loved my return to Rapture, and can't help but hope there will be another instalment to the story in future.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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