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The magazines and bigger sites have unpacked and played their review copies of 2K Marin's BioShock 2, and the first reactions are in. IGN gives it a 9.1.
The more you dig into BioShock 2, the more you'll find to like. While BioShock was a statement game and served as evidence that creativity doesn't come at the cost of commercial success, BioShock 2 follows along a familiar path for sequels. It doesn't take extreme liberties with elements that worked before; it improves them in simple but effective ways. No longer do you have to switch between active plasmids and weapons; they're just both up at once so you can shoot and shock without an irritating swap. No longer does the research camera require you to dance around avoiding enemy fire while snapping pictures. Instead, it works like a video recorder, and lets you fight as you normally would while it records your actions. Gone is the pipe hacking mini-game, replaced by a real-time variation that keeps the action going as you take over flying robots, turrets, and security cameras. All these changes contribute to a less fragmented flow and, along with the smoother narrative, a more unified experience.While IGN UK gives it a 9.
The way weapons and plasmids are upgraded has also been given some attention, as you now upgrade things like your double-barreled shotgun and launcher in more significant ways. The first two upgrade tiers make the weapon more effective in combat, and the next unlocks a special function, such as fire damage from your rivet gun and cluster explosives with your launcher. It's not a huge change, but it adds an extra carrot to chase after on your way through the entertaining story.
It has become too easy to forget what BioShock is, and too tempting to discuss it purely in terms of the more high-minded ideas behind its narrative, not the practicalities of what happens when we press buttons on the gamepad. It is a game in which you will spend much of your time messily ramming a drill-arm into the face of a screaming, swearing mutant in a party dress. While it's lovely that the voiceovers have a literate backdrop, this is not a game in which you will actively engage in consideration of utilitarianism and objectivism. It's a first-person shooter, first and foremost.Meanwhile, Ripten looked through some magazines for their scores; PSM 100/100, PSM3 UK 93/100, PC Gamer 90/100.
BioShock 2 does this very well - significantly better than the first game did. Its fights were always a little stilted and small, while by comparison BS2 is chaotic and huge. Most obviously, more enemies attack at once, for longer, and there are more types of them, but why the combat feels so much better and beefier is more complicated than that. It's a much more tactically interesting game, rarely penning you into corridors from whose ends murderous Splicers charge. Instead, your progress through a level tends to involve inhabiting a sprawling zone filled with choke-points and wide-open arenas, in which enemies constantly and invisibly respawn, for a good half hour or hour. BioShock 1 was about plodding forward motion, but this is about turning large spaces into sustained battlegrounds. Fortunately, it gives you the toolbox you need to deal with it.