Wot I Think: Bioshock 2

The DRM sucks. It really does. Only… I can’t comment on exactly how sucky it is because this an opinion based on the 360 version of the game. I know! I played it on a gamepad and everything! I’ll be handing in my PC4EVA badge and gun momentarily, but before that it seemed wise to at least write up my experiences. 360 is what we had access to for review, and, while largely speaking (based upon the differences between BS1 console and PC, and how technically similar this is to BS1) the experience should be very similar, I can’t say that it definitely will be, or that those multiple forms of copy protection won’t cause every PC in the world to turn into a chocolate muffin with chicken nuggets on top when it unlocks tomorrow. That would make me a liar, and I only lie about things that don’t matter, like loving my family and whether I really finished reading that Stephen Hawking book. I’ll be checking BS2 PC out tomorrow, and if there’s any sign of trouble or disparity with anything in this piece, rest assured there’ll be posts about it. For now, though: An Opinion.

I’ve got a PC copy of it here, which I can’t currently play due to the stupid, paranoid unlock thing not happening til tomorrow, but I’ll be firing it up and double-checking all matches up with these thoughts as soon as it does. Promise. And I’m not crossing my fingers, look:

You have no idea how difficult it was to arrange that photo, as obviously I didn’t have a hand free to take it with. Ended up with my camera phone balanced on the back of a chair, trying to hit the shutter button with my nose. I had to… oh yeah, Bioshock 2.

Where to start? In a way, RPS is the worst possible place to be writing about Bioshock 2. You proud, loyal PCites are so steeped in gaming history, having experienced the best and brightest of brainy shooters – Deus Ex, System Shock, Stalker, X-COM: Enforcer, Vampire Bloodlines… Poor Bioshock tried – and failed – to break into a very exclusive clique. It found its own ways to be interesting (and its own ways to make a right old mess of a few things), but it was much closer to a traditional shooter than its perceived siblings. It’s a shame it didn’t do some of the things they did, but that was its developers’ decision. So: stop comparing it to them. Compare it to its direct contemporaries instead. On 360, it found much more acceptance for a reason: most 360 owners only had the likes of Halo and Gears of War to compare it to. Glossy, but unambitious.

When I reviewed Bioshock 2 for IGN – which I sort of wish Kieron hadn’t already linked to in the Sunday Papers, as I was consciously writing for a very different audience – the question “would I rather these readers play this, or Modern Warfare 2?” was in my head at all times. Clearly, I’d rather they played this. On PC… well, it’s not that easy, as we’re spoiled for excellent choice, historically at least. Maybe it should be that easy, though. Bioshock 2 is, lest it were not obvious, more of the same. Now, I have some real problems with that, which I’ll get into shortly, but nothing is achieved by holding it against Shock 2 et al now – this is the path these games have chosen. Let’s accept that decision, and see where it leads to instead of forever thinking of the road not taken.

To start with the good: the combat’s so much better. I’ll come back to why later, but I just wanted to state up front, before I have a big old whinge, that it’s a really solid game in terms of killing nasty people in entertaining ways. Let’s go into the less-good now though, as there’s some stuff I want to get off my chest. Earlier today, I was idly browsing through the art book that comes with the special edition of the game, and repeatedly I spotted designs that made a boyish thing in my brain exclaim “ooh, that looks ace! I can’t wait to play Bioshock 2!” Only… I’ve already completed Bioshock 2. None of these things were in there – the Big Daddy with arms like tortured tentacles, another which looked like a spaceship on legs, the Splicer whose grotesquely mutated face had become a fleshy whirlpool, a hideous sea-beast halfway between a merman and giant phallus, a frail, frock-wearing Big Sister who carries her hulking oxygen tank around on a rickety hand cart… Where are they? What happened?

I flick through this tome of delights and horrors, and I feel incredibly sad. So little of this apparent cyclone of character design creativity made it in. In multiple cases, there’s an annotation from one of the development team reading “in the end, we reused this model or that animation from Bioshock 1….” That’s what the game feels like, too. Bar two rather splendid setpiece levels, which are absolutely worth experiencing even if they don’t hit as hard as Would You Kindly, it’s an incredibly familiar-looking game in both is populace and its environments. Variation, not novelty, is the guiding aesthetic. Obviously, you’re back in Rapture so there has to be commonality with the structures and science of the first game, but it’s a shame to never be shocked. The Splicers are the same Splicers with an occasional fearsome, hard-to-kill Brute variant salvaging them from cannon fodder status, and while there are new Daddy types, they evoke their predecessors a little too strongly. The Big Sisters? A fine and consistently challenging miniboss, but a conceptual let-down.

Bioshock 2 is, I must stress, a strong first-person shooter: great-looking, varied and often incredibly nasty combat, well-paced escalation and richly-detailed environments. Those new Daddies, especially the turret-placing ones, make a big, challenging difference to the fights, even if they don’t do so much for the eyes. At no point does it muster anything anywhere near as striking as that first image of a Big Daddy with his Little Sister, that art we all saw a few years ago and immediately thought “yes”. It seems it had once intended to go further – but something went wrong. It’s reckless and arrogant to guess at what limitations might be imposed on a publisher-owned studio charged with creating a sequel to a game made by someone else, but difficult not to wonder what might have been if 2K Marin had been given more resources, more time, more freedom. This applies to its story, too – while it’s more consistent than Bioshock 1’s, more ingrained to the player’s journey throughout, it seems unable or unprepared to launch off in new directions.

Instead, it’s a lump bolted onto the side of the first game, trying to find holes to fill that don’t exist, and crudely intertwining with the original narrative in ways that don’t quite convince. In some ways it makes more sense – the main antagonist at least explains their ultimate plan rather than simply turns into a 12-foot blue person and tries to punch you in the nose – in other ways less. There are reasons given as to why you didn’t hear anything about Sophia Lamb, the altruism-obsessed rival to Andrew Ryan who’s taken control of Rapture in the wake of his golfing accident, during the first game, but it does distractingly feel throughout as though there’s been a mandate to expand the Bioshock story without, in fact, continuing it. And Lamb’s plans for Rapture, for her daughter Eleanor, and for you – as Eleanor’s former Big Daddy – are weighed down with so much babbling pseudo-science that the neatness and horror of the Little Sister concept is almost undone.

Part of Rapture’s great wonder was that it was just believable enough, if you squinted your brain a bit (or a lot), but this lathers on so much wild sci-fi that it’s that much harder to connect to it. The Sisters are elevated from horrifying genetic/psychological experiment into all-powerful messiah figures capable of pulling any old deus ex machina out of the hat. Making them into so much reduces the power and the sadness of what they are. As a result, the concept feels too exhausted to ever be used again. Though of course it will be.

A big part of the problem is the mystery’s gone – we know what Rapture is, we know the condition it’s in, and we know what happened to the guys behind it (hint: DEAD IN THE FACE). It would be a tall order to reintroduce any of that, without switching to a different setting entirely (which I wish BS2 had done, and BS3 better bloody well do). So, instead of a journey of discovery, it’s a personal journey. Don’t expect great revelations in terms of who your character, prototype Big Daddy Subject Delta, really is – he’s eyes for you to see through, and that’s all that matters. He has a goal, and that’s to be reunited with Eleanor. It’s far more concrete a purpose than BS1’s Jack had for the bulk of the game, which was only ever “find out what the blinking crikey is going on in this watery hell-hole.” If the denouement’s less satisfying, that’s because this is a smaller, more straightforward tale. What twists there are are pretty self-contained to individual characters rather than presenting a major shift in what’s going on. In other words: I can’t see there being the same flurry of speculation, re-interpretation and even nitpicking that followed BS1. While that lack of advancement for the BS universe might be missed, what we do have is a sensibly compartmentalised, bittersweet tale of one man’s quest to be a father figure. It doesn’t stretch itself too far, but being wilder (as the art book hints it once might have been) about the physical and social changes Rapture has suffered during the decade of ruin since the events of the first game would have created a welcome balance between the compellingly personal and the memorably melodramatic.

Even the much-ballyhooed Big Sisters are presented without mystery; they’re just there. The underwater sections, meanwhile, are at least very similar to trying to walk along the bottom of a swimming pool – the difference being that at least you can play splashies if you get bored in a swimming pool. They’re a bit of breathing space between the game lobbing a bundle of angry mutants at you, but entirely pointless otherwise.

‘Straightforward’ is about as apt a term as you could find for BS2. There are choices to be made about whether you save or slay three key NPCs, which will affect the game’s resolution and – forgive me for being vague, but I fear spoilers – some of the sights you’ll see towards the game’s climax. In the grand scheme of games concerned with shooting people in the face, they’re interesting dilemmas with interesting direct and indirect consequences, but in the larger scheme of games concerned with making you question your own actions and believes, they’re pretty throwaway. Still, they’re essential and themed enough that they elicit sympathy with Delta – a man who’s been abused, multilated, nearly murdered and then separated from the one thing he still cares about. Should he be a model of compassion and forgiveness, or should he seek the revenge he’s arguably entitled to? Even if the mechanism of your choices is simple, their cause and effect alike are directly relevant to the player character. There’s not much to them, but that’s how they should be: this is a first-person shooter. It isn’t Dragon Age.

What it is – to finally cease the whingeing part and get onto why I really do like this – is a very good first-person shooter, in terms of being a game in which you progress from point A to point B by killing a lot of people. With the interface no longer positing Plasmids as an awkward alternative to weapons, but instead a simultaneous addition, it feels a lot more fluid, a lot crunchier. Whenever you’re not using the almighty drill, Subject Delta feels more like Everybloke than a Big Daddy – fast and fragile rather than lumbering and heavily-armoured. It’s probably the right decision, going on how full-on Daddyvision feels when you pick up the vaunted suit when it sporadically appears in multiplayer. The slow turning circles and screen-shaking, glacial stomp wouldn’t be much fun over 10+ hours, so the alternative – to be relatively nippy and blessed with an explosively escalating skill set – feels right.

It’s a much more brutal game than the first, foregoing the sinister subtlety BS1’s Splicers demonstrated in favour of massed, respawning waves of the fruity-faced buggers. Even on Normal difficulty, their numbers can present a real problem. Which means it’s a more satisfying challenge, another replacement for the lost mystery: it’s now about mastering the situation rather than explaining it. While the weapon and Plasmid roster is broadly similar to the tools provided in BS1, everything’s noticeably amped up, more destructive, more laced with combo possibilities.

Once you’ve upgraded a few Plasmids to level 3 and equipped some of the meatier (and much more effective) Gene Tonics, you’re into full-on superhero mode. It’s a lot of fun, a torrent of gore and death and elemental destruction. Another big part of this is the change in the nature of the environments – not many tunnels, but instead each level is a large playground you’ll circle around repeatedly, combing it for goodies, for Little Sisters/ADAM and for audio logs, and also using as huge combat arena. Splicers respawn with relative subtlety, so the fight never quite stops. You’ll learn the map, though – where the water puddles that amplify the Electro-Shock plasmid or the oil slicks that make the fire one so deadly are, where you’ve left trapped security cameras and health machines…

In BS1, it was a matter of noticing or not noticing such things, then moving on. Or feeling a bit crappy when your friend told you about an awesome thing they’d done, but you’d never even thought to try it. Now, you slowly and organically transform an entire area into a trap town of your own. Combining weapons, plasmids and environmental details is something you now just do, rather than being the sole domain of happy accidents or highly experimental players. There aren’t, realistically, all that many different ways to achieve this, but enough that you feel you’ve carved your own sadistic path rather than ever simply followed directions. The sheer carnage in the late game, as you’re bombarded with what seems an unfair number Splicers, Brute Splicers and Alpha Big Daddies, yet have the tools to deal with them all, is incredible. Fire, electricity, ice, wasps everywhere, the endless satisfaction of charging a frozen body with your drill outstretched, shattering them into crystalline chunks, the crazed buzzing and bleeping of whatever turrets and drones the fight’s stumbled into the path of, and the brutal killing animations of the [SPOILER-CENSORED] you’ve summoned… Compare that to most FPS’s late levels, which struggle to get beyond Killing A Lot Of Guys With A Machine Gun Then Watching A Cutscene.

I can’t stress this enough – as a game about shooting people, it’s very responsive and very rewarding. As a game that’s like System Shock 2: it’s not at all. It takes Bioshock even further in the direction of pure-combat, which means anyone who’s spent the last two years filling forums with spite whenever the first game is mentioned will only feel more ostracised by this, by the step down in spooks and unforgettable moments in favour of out’n’out action. As for me, I’m a little sulky that it’s so short on surprises, both narratively and aesthetically, and most of all I’m really hacked off that they kept the same illogical Giant Audio Diaries Everywhere background narrative system, but at the same time I approve of how much BS1 improves upon its predecessor’s mechanics.

2K Marin have made (or been made to make) a decision to improve the game, not the packing around the game. By doing so, they create disappointment in people who wanted to see more of Bioshock’s still-splendid universe. That’s a big job to be done another time – to follow-up and supersede the idea of Rapture is… Well, I don’t envy whoever does it. To create a better shooting game may have been the easier road, but it’s also one that’s lead to a splendid, confident game of extreme violence.

Due to the problems inherent in setting up a match when no other bugger has the game yet, I’ve played much less multiplayer than singleplayer, but such joyously chaotic fireworks do extend over to it: the Plasmids feel such a natural part of deathmatchery that you almost don’t realise most online shooters don’t have ’em. Freeze’n’smack, shock’n’shoot: it feels so right. The multiplayer feels a little small, a little cartoony rather than truly tactical, but it’s not the awkward butchery many worried it would be. It’s throwaway online killing, but in a very positive sense: drop in, have a fun time in an attractive, colourful world, drop out again. I enjoy it, but I’m unlikely to flock back to it again and again in a way I would to, say, Team Fortress 2. It’s a guaranteed giggle, but no more. It’ll find a loyal crowd – most probably because of the inevitable but agreeably gift-packed unlock system – but I can’t see it making a big dent in the crowded online man-slaying market.

It rounds out a genuinely fulsome package that may not stick its fingers into the brain as effectively as BS1 (for all its compromises) ever did, but is comfortably the best mainstream first-person shooter in several months. Well – Borderlands is bolder and better, but really you should be comparing BS2 to something like Modern Warfare 2 or -aieee! – Dark Void. It’s tempting to pit it against Mass Effect 2, which I think manages to be a surprisingly thrilling shooter as well as a (simplified) RPG, but really it’s off doing its own space cowboy thing. By the standards of its glossy, expensive but oh-so-obvious shooter contemporaries, Bioshock 2’s a spaceman in the court of King Arthur. And not one of the rubbish spacemen who didn’t get anywhere. This one goes to the moon, baby.

You’ve been a PC gamer for years. The lights of Ultima Underworld, System Shock and Deus Ex still shine as brightly as ever in your mind. You’ll probably hate Bioshock 2 on principle. That’s a shame. It’s a much better shooting game than the first one.


  1. Mike Russo says:

    X-COM: Enforcer

    Er, was that a joke?

    • Bret says:

      Obviously not!

      I mean, remember the bit where you shoot aliens? Deep.

  2. Travis Howard says:

    For what it’s worth, the DRM in this game is basically 100% identical to Fallout 3’s. SecuROM for a disk check, GFW Live for activation/achievememenets/headaches.

    Seems to make sense to save your furious and boring energy for DRM conversations about games that actually deserve it (see: Ubisoft’s upcoming games)

    • Vinraith says:


      I was under the impression that 1) GfWL imposed install limits and 2) GfWL was being used for save game management. With Fallout 3 you never actually had to log in to GfWL in the first place, I don’t get the sense that’s an option here.

      That said, yes, Ubi’s god-awful new thing makes this look good by comparison.

    • suibhne says:

      Pretty sure GFwL is being used for save management and initial activation, so it’s not at all like Fallout 3 – where GFwL could be cheerfully ignored, and where the SecuROM disc-check could *also* be entirely obviated by using sly hints dropped by Bethesda staff. FO3 clearly didn’t advertise itself as such, but it was possible to play it, out of the box, as a game entirely without DRM. Bioshock 2 isn’t even close.

  3. Bret says:

    Ah, X-Com Enforcer. One of the few shooters to really get how to integrate calculus into alien shooting, while still commenting on John Calvin’s theories of predestination.

    And the subtle plays on Kantian ethics were divine. Shame so many never got that far.

  4. TheBlackBandit says:

    Brilliant, brilliant review Alec. The other Bioshock reviews have left me with a little sense of disappointment, but yours actually fills me with hope for tomorrow. Well done RPS.

  5. Ballisticsfood says:

    So where the first one made me cock my head and go ‘Muh? Wow…’ this one will make me go ‘PEW PEW PEW, BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!’

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    That was an amazing review Alec, thank you.

    As for the game…well, I guess I’ll see tomorrow. It sounds like a game that will at least entertain me, though not one I’ll be remembering as a masterpiece decades later.

    I’m still getting the collectors edition, I loved the music and artwork from the first game.

  7. Marty Dodge says:

    So essentially they have used the good-will of the first one and pissed it away on a bog-standard shooter. Then again ME2 is no where near as good as ME1. They are both watered down versions of their predecessors. What a pity…

    • Jockie says:

      I don’t think Alec said a bog standard shooter, just that the actual combat is the main area the developers focused on for the sequel. The description of the combat sounded pretty awesome though.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Remember kids:ME2 isn’t an RPG because it’s not a numberwank!

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      @Marty Dodge

      Then again ME2 is no where near as good as ME1.


      You are referring to Mass Effect, right?

    • MWoody says:

      No, he just hates his twin sibling.

    • Alex Bakke says:


      Why is it such a ‘watered down’ version of the game we know and love? The story-line is as great as ever, the choices you make in the previous game can come back to haunt you/reward you, the combat is vastly improved. Are you referring to the armour changes?

      Well, yes, while it would have been nice to have a little more choice in that area, in the previous game there were just so many types that were redundant.

      Don’t even get me started on the inventory…

      <3 Thane <3

    • Koozer says:

      Hooray someone else who doesn’t think ME2 is the best thing since the resurrection of christ/sliced bread.

      The clips are annoying, I miss the old guns, mods and loot system.
      The overall plot is fine but the details are awry. (“You found the 3 guys I asked you to recruit? Great! Now go and find another 3.”)
      The combat seems just as systematic and mildly entertaining as the first game. (hide behind cover, take pot shots until your shield goes, repeat)
      They “fixed” the slightly repetitive Mako exploration parts by replacing them with an incredibly tedious mineral scanning minigame.

      Now exuse me while I finish my second playthrough.

      Oh yeah, and I doubt Bioshock 2 can invoke the same feelings of discovering Rapture and unravelling the inhabitants’ machinations as the first game did.

  8. anomie says:

    You know, I just played Bioshock 1 for the first time 2-3 weeks ago. I went in expecting it to be an RPG – once I realized it wasn’t, I wasn’t mad at the game at all because the game itself was still very fun; I was just confused I guess…… that so many people considered it an RPG. (I think the people who would call Bioshock an RPG are also the same people who call Zelda games RPGs)

    The first game was great though, and I loved the story/gameplay/etc/blahalbah/…. but I’m glad I waited 2 years to buy it from Amazon for $10 on a black friday sale.

    • Lars Westergren says:


      I think one reason some ppl expected the first one to be a RPG was because it was developed by the ppl behind the System Shock games, and they described it for years as a revolutionary PC RPG in the making. Only the last couple of months before release they created a community site where the representative took every opportunity to point out that this was a revolutionary shooter first and foremost, and that we could rest assured that it had been in every way been designed to provide an optimal console game experience….

    • anomie says:

      Yeah I totally understand that. What I’m saying is that I was STILL under the impression that it was an RPG when I bought it 3 months ago. Every site listed it as RPG, people openly discussed it as being rpg, etc.

      Again though, I didn’t let that change my opinion of the game. I just treated it as an FPS with more depth than normal.

  9. archonsod says:

    The reason it’s hard to get excited by another linear shooter for the PC isn’t so much that it won’t live up to System Shock or it’s ilk, but the fact that you can buy your pick of last year’s linear FPS shooters for a quarter of the price. Why pay forty quid for Bioshock 2 now when you’ve got enough Unreal FarCrysis games from last year in the bargain bin to satisfy your shooting people in the face needs until Bioshock 2 inevitably joins them?

    • Aganazer says:

      Good point. I just bought Red Faction Guerrilla and Bioshock 1 for $5 each. Its starting to be a little like going to the theater to see a movie when you can watch it in high def at home just a few months later at a fraction of the price. Paying top dollar for a game is for those who have no patience or buy into hype so bad that they can’t control themselves. I really can’t think of any advantage to having finished it within a week of its release, but I can think of about a dozen disadvantages.

      It looks like it will be a fun game and I’ll keep an eye on Steam/D2D sales and pick it up for $5. Great review!

  10. AndrewC says:

    The reason I can’t get excited about Bioshock 2 is that, in the ads, the Big Daddy’s face looks like Bomberman’s.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      That’s a reason NOT to be excited?!?!?!?!?


    • Casimir's Blake says:

      For those of us that have grown up, we’ll pass on bomberman-daddy, thanks.

      Thanks to Alec for convincing me not to bother with Bioshock 2. Stalker spoiled FPS fans looking for something beyond linearity, not to mention I’m still at that “but I’d rather just go and play through Mass Effect 2 again” stage, and nothing else forthcoming this year looks like it will change that. (except whenever Smrt releases a new SMRTER mod for Stalker Call of Pripyat…)

    • PleasingFungus says:

      If that’s what being grown-up means, I pity the grown-ups. WHEEE! DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!

    • Wulf says:

      I loved the original BioShock because it had this feeling of art behind it, it wasn’t an Art Game, per se, far from it, but the aesthetics, the locations, the creatures I’d encounter, it had this Zeno Clash/Guild Wars/Uru air of an art department that wanted to show me something a little bit special, perhaps even beautiful if looked at with the right sense of wonder. There were many, many things to stop and gaze upon in awe in BioShock, things that the average shooty fan would’ve blasted past on their adrenaline rush and not noticed, but I did. I serenely plodded through Rapture… I was a tourist despite the carnage that I was frequently a part of. There were things that made me smile.

      I worry that this has indeed all been pissed away in the sequel, and those moments, the very reason I enjoyed the first game, won’t be there, they’ll be traded for DURHURHUR moments of drooling idiocy, with flashy powers, bangs, and booms, and all that made Rapture so evocative and enticing in the first place would be lost. The earliest warning signs were the Big Daddy designs, they’re awful, they look like anything but what they’re supposed to. Originally they were a meld of a nightmarish diving suit and life support system, with armaments bolted on for good measure, and they really looked the part, they were convincing! The Big Daddies in BioShock 2 completely lose this… there’s the Bomberman one, the bucket headed one, and the steampunk robot the player takes upon the role of. They don’t look like Big Daddies, they don’t look like they were designed by a person who knows what a Big Daddy is supposed to look like or why.

      And that leaves me afraid for the rest of the game, that all of those moments of beauty are going to be lost to simple, braindead levels of shooty, explodey fun. And that can be entertaining, yes, brilliant even, no doubt! But BioShock was a thing of elegance and beauty, and this seems akin to having an artist capable of brilliant creative works, amazing alien vistas, fantastic realms beyond imagination, who’s been kidnapped from his shadowy little abode where he spends most his time and introduced to mainstream society. He gets drunk, stoned, he has a bit of a laugh, there’s lots of sex, and now he’s a burnt out husk that draws little comics for MAD magazine, for the muse he once had is lost.

      BioShock 2 strikes me as that. It’s tragic, and I just feel sad for it. I might be wrong though, there might be moments of beauty there, but I somehow doubt it. I’ll wait for a trusted source to tell me whether my fears are valid or not, but from what I’ve seen in the videos and the screenshots, they’re very valid. I’m not trying to pick on BioShock 2 or anything, to the contrary, and I can bet it’s a competent and amazingly fun shooter. But BioShock 2 doesn’t seem to be the things that BioShock 1 was, the very things that define BioShock: Art, Beauty, and Elegance.


    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Casimir’s Blake: Christ, man!


    • AndrewC says:

      It’s just I get the feeling i’m supposed to think Big Daddy is all intimidating and serious and i’m all like ‘Bomberman! Weeeee! Bomberman! I got Push-Bomb! BANG!’, which sort of spoils the whole trapped-in-an-existential-hell-on-earth sort of vibe.

      Bomberman for the security over-ride minigame in Bioshock 3!

    • AndrewC says:

      Yeah, ummm, i’m not with Casimir’s Blade.

  11. WishCow says:

    …aaaaaand the game is already cracked. That’s it for the DRM.

    • Bhazor says:

      Your point?

      DRM is intended to put off casual users copying it. The guys who will go to the dark regions of the internet and then hack .dll files are the guys who would be cracking it anyway out of sheer principle. But not people who only just learned how to do emails and don’t yet know what Goates is. I know that whole thing is too much hassle for me because I once tried to do a no cd crack for a Pro Evo game. This ended up forcing me to reinstall my OS after getting a virus that deleted 86 .dll files . I only wanted to crack it so I could play at work without bringing the bally disk in.

      This DRM will probably stop your Dad from lending it to a friend to install on his computer. Its DRM that stops people who don’t know about DRM breaking the DRM. That’s all and that’s all that it was made for. Well that and to spunk into the gears of the second hand market.

    • Thants says:


      So it only stops people who aren’t going to download a pirated copy from pirating it? That’s super useful!

    • Bhazor says:

      … kind of.

      My point is that people who will go through all the hoops would a) do it anyway whatever DRM you use and b) are the minority for a big AAA (in terms of budget and publicity) game like this. As I said, I won’t touch cracks anymore because of how much fannying about they often entail. The Pro Evo game for example required two specially made programs (cd code generator and something that played on top of Pro Evo). In the end I had to reinstall windows. I really don’t foresee my dad or my friends girl friend* going through that when they don’t even know what DRM means.

      *Who is a big Bioshock Fangirl by the way which surprised me at least. She actually tried to go as a Little Sister for fancy dress but sadly she’s a bit on the chunky (but hot) side (I mean I would). So she looked more like a Dickensian prostitute as drawn by R Crumb (I mean she has really dark eyes, with a rich throaty laugh and the kind of cleavage you would dream of if you were away fighting in the Antartic). Her favourite game is Deus Ex. (You would though)

    • Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

      Yeah, cause we all know that the pirating that the super casual dads out there do really blow chunks out of the industry.

    • Vandelay says:

      Hmm… I got a crack for Pro Evo quite simply. No need for key gens and the like; just install the game regularly, download the file, replace the .exe file with the one you downloaded and away you go. If something asks you to do more, I would probably avoid them (used Daemon before, but I swear some copy protection detected it and prevented some discs from being read.) In fact, No CD cracks are generally pretty simple to get for the majority of games (a certain website that is a whole world of game copying *nudge* *nudge*.)

      edit: As for the reason behind DRM, the kind of restrictions are only ever going to prevent casual piracy (school kids sharing it amongst classmates, for example,) so you probably do have a point. Games publishers talk a lot about preventing online piracy, but they really can’t be that deluded, can they?

    • vagabond says:

      The biggest problem with the argument that DRM is solely to stop people who know nothing about computers casually copying it, is that it keeps getting more byzantine and elaborate. If what you posited were true, we’d still be dealing with disk checks and some minor copy protection that required specialised disk copying programs to get around. Or code wheels. Bring back the good old days when being a software pirate taught you some craft skills as well…

    • Bhazor says:

      Well from what I understand the worst piracy is in Asia (China and India especially) where there’s really no legitimate means of getting the stuff. They’re the guys who’ll break any DRM you can make but its the kids and those who simply don’t care who will be held back. Like some have said, no cd cracks are easy and many of my friends have used them to spread one game among five of them. But none of them have ever managed with games that need online verification and usually just buy their own copies when theres a sale (or a bundle such as with L4D).

      I’d like to point out that I really hate the sound of Ubisoft’s online thingy. Because *that* one could make the game unplayable. But hey, Steam is doing pretty ok (I don’t mean to start another Steam flame war but that is what always springs to mind when people mention the Ubisoft online thingy).

    • MajorManiac says:

      I like the idea of making piracy more dificult, but it does seem DRM (et al…) is only making legitimate copies more difficult to use. I’ve bought and installed many games thinking – “I bet the pirated version doesn’t make me log into 3 different accounts to play”.

      A bit like how I’m sure pirated DVDs don’t come with all those anoying anti-piracy adverts that can’t be skipped.

      So in conclusion, I’m guessing to download a pirated game is probably easier today than it was 10 years ago (mostly due to internet speeds). But installing a legitimate copy have become much harder than it was 10 years ago. If these trends continue a point will be reached when its actually easier to install a pirated game than buy it.

    • Foamer says:

      DRM is to prevent resale, it’s got nothing to do with piracy.

  12. Phinor says:

    I approached the first game as a shooter with style and that’s exactly what I got. It was a clear GOTY contender for me despite the technical problems. There is one but though: after my first (and only) play through the game, I swore to myself this is exactly as much Rapture as I ever want to see. Never again. So I never played it again. Tried a few times but always ended up quitting 30-45 minutes into the game.

    But I still pre-ordered Bioshock 2. So 10th of February (why is the release date in Steam the 10th, not the 9th?) I can answer the question you didn’t ask: is Bioshock 2 good enough for those of us who appreciate the first one, but thought that was about as much as they could take of that world.

    • Jugglenaut says:


      Steam is set to unlock it at 2 PM Pacific Time Zone (Valve Time), and I’m sure they just set it to unlock everywhere at once. As to why 2 in the afternoon is the chosen time, I’m just as confused.

    • Jugglenaut says:

      Nevermind. Now it corrected to midnight Valve time. No worries.

  13. the wiseass says:

    It’s reviews like these, why I love RPS. I was just wondering a bit about the Xbox part, trying to imagine Mr. Meer playing an FPS on a gamepad. But where I come from we’ve got a saying, which loosely translated goes like this: When in distress, even the devil resorts to eating flies.

    Reading this article, I felt the same disappointment as the author does. Bioshock was a fun shooter, made even more fun by its amazingly interesting world to explore. It seems like this surprise has already been spoiled in Bioshock 2 as there is nothing really new to see since we’ve already visited the place.This an the stupidly stupid DRM make me want to wait a while before picking this up in a bargain sale.

    • Labbes says:

      Hello there, fellow German RPS reader!

      I have to agree that it is a fabulous review, I will try Bioshock 2 a chance when I played through the first one. Just need to convince one of my friends to buy it…

  14. clippa says:

    Is the weird mouse-acceleration thing from the first game still present?

  15. mcw says:

    I’m looking forward to playing Bioshock 2 but it always make me a little sad that someone at 2K decided to refocus the game as a shooter. BTW, I propose the sentence in the last paragraph to be changed to “You’ve been a PC gamer for decades”. I think that would apply to most people reading RPS.

  16. StalinsGhost says:

    You didn’t finish George’s Secret Key to the Universe?

  17. DiTH says:

    I wonder why they even put this lame DRM.It certainly requires less time to crack it than apply it.

    • Wisq says:

      @Dith: Last time, they said the DRM was “successful” in that it delayed cracking long enough for them to get their first rush of sales out of it.

      I can’t wait to see what their excuse is this time.

  18. Roadrunner says:

    If I hate it, life will not be worth living any longer.
    This is the only game I’ve preordered in a long, long time :<

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      Same here, actually..but hey, I’m getting the Little Sistah action figure, weee… gonna be fun toying with it at uni during lectures..

    • Lilliput King says:


  19. Sinnerman says:

    There is currently a world shortage of console shooters on the XBox so I am glad that RPS brought this one to my attention.

  20. terry says:

    Ehh, sounds like this one can wait until the Steam sale in December. Pity.

    Edit: Maybe that sounded a little flippant, but I really would’ve liked (was not expecting) a little more depth and flavour to the Rapture environment and society, and yikes…RPG trappings, really. Bioshock was not a great shooter for me.

  21. faelnor says:

    “As a game that’s like System Shock 2: it’s not at all. It takes Bioshock even further in the direction of pure-combat, which means anyone who’s spent the last two years filling forums with spite whenever the first game is mentioned will only feel more ostracised by this”

    Well I’m among the “Bioshock-hater crew”, but after reading that the combat is actually engaging this time around, I’m intrigued. The first game didn’t know what to be, and it ended up being nothing. A tighter and more straightforward direction for Bioshock 2 actually makes me interested in it.

    (Yes I’m a fan of SS2 -SS1 even more so-, but I know how to enjoy a good shooter when I see one)

    • Jad says:

      I agree with this statement. In FPSes the feel of the combat/shootyness is vitally important to me. I’ve never actually finished Bioshock 1, even though I want to see the end of the story, because every time I think about picking it up again I imagine myself wrestling with those awful controls. And then I just go and replay a level of MW2, a game with a terrible story, but rock-solid controls, or I play some more of ME1, an RPG with an engaging story and far less empasis on combat.

      Both Deus Ex and System Shock 2 had pretty poor gun combat as well, but they made up for it much much more succesfully than Bioshock. Deux Ex by giving you lots of choices, so you could play it as a sneaky knifing/swording dude with a bunch of hacking (like I did), and SS2 by being a survival horror game, not an action game. Bioshock required you to have near-constant combat, but wiht none of the tightness of a Valve game, or a CryTek game, or an id game.

  22. Helm says:

    The sense I get from this review is that it’s trying very hard to not step on any toes. It’s really considerate but it risks the danger of coming across as apologetic for what? The common industry woes of making coward sequels to big ideas, should any journalist be trying to rationalize that? I do realize that a stronger or polarizing opinion piece is perhaps something to write about later when people have actually played this and made up their own mind (as happened with Modern Warfare 2 and the No Russian stuff) but then… what use is this piece? It’s a better first person shooter than the first game, that’s one informative line. You’ll be disappointed if you were hoping for high concept, alright, that’s two. What’s the rest trying to achieve? I guess what I want to expect from RPS is more austerity with sequels that don’t have anything to say even if their mechanics are improved. We don’t HAVE to find a reason to enjoy every videogame who is mechanically robust, do we?

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Perhaps because of the monumental hype surrounding the original, which turned – for some – to abject disappointment at the linearity and non-System-Shock-2-ness of the game. Bioshock gets some negative press by some crowds for being lower-brow than we all thought it was going to be.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Thought it was a really good review. Told me everything I wanted to know.

      Mr. Meer summed up the focus of the game effectively (man-shooting), and just about convinced me not to bother with it at the moment. It’s not a philosophical dissection, it’s consumer advice.

    • Helm says:

      I wasn’t swept up by the hype of the first game and when I realized it wasn’t very interesting it wasn’t a big loss for me, but I can see how others might still be touchy-feely when Bioshock is mentioned. This explains, to a degree, the pussyfooting in the review.

      Lilliput King: the RPS crew have often shown they are aware of that a reviewer can do consumer advice while being conscious of to the various pitfalls that being a proponent of consumer culture comes with and often play around with this dynamic, this is why I expect more. That this review ends on the note ‘it’s the best man-shooter of the last few months’ isn’t very inspiring.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Helm: If he wasn’t trying to step on anyone’s toes, he’d have just talked about how good the game was. Frankly, this is the sort of review which, if it was on a major site, would probably lose advertising.


    • Helm says:

      I believe you that it could lose advertisements. I wasn’t saying Alec Meer was catering for advertisers, I was more thinking that there was extra effort made to convey an (for lack of a better term) objective, well-rounded review of this game than I expected. The feeling I got is that Alec would write this and then if some friend asked him candedly what he thought of Bioshock 2 he’d say it’s pretty bad. Of course I could be totally wrong but that’s the feeling I got from this, as if Alec Meer was trying to say ‘I didn’t like it too much but if you want more derivative manshoots to occupy yourself with, it’s alright’ but without actually saying it.

    • Alec Meer says:

      The feeling you’ve got is totally wrong. It may even be a textbook example of the “because he doesn’t say it’s unequivocally good, it must be unequivocally bad!” mentality I’m quietly railing against in the piece.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Helm

      I think the rest of the article is illustrating the two points, which is exactly what a review should do; make a couple of good points and give enough details and examples to make those points seem rational and fair.

      Of course, it’s apologist in tone because he gave it 9/10 on IGN, for the IGN audience. Alec now has to turn around to the RPS folk and go, well, it’s 9/10 for IGN, but for you… well…

      (Edit: … and then we have a nice discussion about which parts are good and bad so we all make up our own minds whether to buy it or not rather than let a number dictate how we spend our money. Phew, eh?)

    • Bret says:

      Yeah. It sounded more like Mr. Meer would (Not meaning to put words in your mouth) respond with something around “It was alright enough, but it didn’t live up to what I was hoping.” with further details on request.

    • Helm says:


      “It may even be a textbook example of the “because he doesn’t say it’s unequivocally good, it must be unequivocally bad!” mentality I’m quietly railing against in the piece.”

      It is not. I realize the concept of critique and I do not read videogame reviews so as to know what to hate this week. I’m not looking for the broad strokes, in fact the opposite, I’m trying to read between even the finer of them. Please don’t think I’m saying something I’m not because it’s similar to what angry men have said before. I do not think Bioshock 1 or 2 are unquivocally bad or worthless nor do I think you believe they’re unequivocally bad but hiding it.

      The game is probably worse than you make it out to be for any player that values their videogaming time very highly (because they don’t have a lot of it like in my position). Those players would probably feel the retread of the first game isn’t worth it. What made me comment was that I thought you probably had considered that viewpoint too but in the end defaulted to a curious position of “the best shooter in the past few months” that to me reads pretty much as ‘well for those that don’t value their time as highly (because they probably play a lot of videogames), it’s worth playing’. If I misread completely, I apologize, I’m open to it being explained to me how the piece is supposed to read otherwise.

      On a general note my point of view is different to that of various angry internet men: I have problems with the quiet mediocrity of a lot of product but I don’t think it’s worthless to talk about experiences with such games, it says a lot about the world we live in what kind of mediocrity passes a certain bar and I think it’s encouraging to be openly critical of this meta-concept. You are approaching videogames professionally because you are a reviewer but a lot of us readers are not in a position to devote so much time (or money) to the medium, I think it’s worth being stricter with mediocrity for exactly that reason. I read a lot of comic books that I wouldn’t touch if I weren’t a comic book artist, for a parallel example. I find a lot of interesting talking points about them and they tell me a lot about how to make my own comics better but I wouldn’t suggest them to someone that’s going to read one comic book in the next 6 months.

    • Psyk says:

      @Helm so because people play a lot of video games they don’t value there time as much as people who don’t play as many video games WTF.

    • Helm says:

      Unless they’re a professional in some capacity, yes. It is the mark of a true lover of an artform that they are very discerning, as opposed to the prioritized consumption POV that one that likes an art would like nothing more than to gorge themselves on as much related product as humanly possible.

      Does my opinion on this really come as much as a shock to you as you say?

    • Muzman says:

      I appreciated the caveats in the review. And the acknowledgment that the audiences are different and PC users aren’t just being a lot of elitist groupthinking doodyhead backlashers for not thinking the first was, like, the greatest game eva obv.

      Just sayin’. Don’t let me get in the way. I just like a review that does that.

      Makes me feel bad for reading the IGN review and saying “Hmm, reads more like an 8”

  23. Deoden says:

    This is an unbelievably good review, and has convinced me to subscribe to RPS due to the embarrassingly high quality of the writing of this website.

    Sycophancy aside, I’ve been playing for a couple of hours now and it all feels a bit “I can’t believe it’s not Bioshock 1”. Glad to hear the combat really opens up later on as right now it feels more like an expansion pack than a true sequel.

  24. passingtramp says:

    Brilliant review.

  25. MToTheThird says:

    My main takeaway from the BS2 reviews is that I can’t be bothered to play it (pure shooters don’t interest me much), but that I’d very much like to read spoilers.

    Soooo… anyone have any links to story walkthroughs or other somesuch content? The current BS2 wikia is disappointingly coy.

  26. gulag says:

    Great review. It sums up the ambivalence I’ve felt about this game perfectly. I share your disappointment that so many developers appear to have ignored the lessons of the games cited in the first half of this ‘Wot I Think’. I wonder why more hasn’t been made of the FPS/RPG genre after those first promising steps. It seems like such a good fit. If anything, we are now seeing a slide backwards, and I don’t think it’s as clear cut as simply the effects of cross-platform developing for the consoles forcing this compromise.

    I guess it’s ground the West has ceded to Eastern-European devs to explore. More power to them.

  27. negativedge says:

    So this game is good because you don’t like Modern Warfare 2 and Deus Ex is too good to compare to a game that people play. If there was an ignore button on this site I’d hit it.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I think the point was rather that this is nothing like Deus Ex, and this is why they ought not to be compared. I don’t think the review concludes that the game is ‘good,’ either. Feels pretty negative, to me.

      Also, you could just not come to the website ever again. It’s just, if there was an ignore button, that’s the form it would take is all I am saying here.

    • D says:

      The ignore button is the X in the top corner. Please use it next time.

  28. KillahMate says:

    “There’s not much to them, but that’s how they should be: this is a first-person shooter. It isn’t Dragon Age.”

    Hrm. I thought Mass Effect 2 sort of proved that expecting deep choices from your action games is not out of place.

    • Benjamin Finkel says:

      Just because a genre of game can have attractive elements from other genres, doesn’t mean it needs to or should. I think it’s fine that there are still linear games, or games with a small branching factor in plot. While action games etc. have indeed been shown to support more complicated stories, I don’t think that it is often necessary to pursue that end.

      Bioshock 2 isn’t Dragon Age. It’s not trying to be. Apparently, what it dropped in plot and setting, it put back into the game mechanics of combat, which seems like a virtue well worth supporting.


  29. Solario says:

    Honestly this review makes me a little sad. I’m not sure I want to buy it anymore. And I quite liked Bioshock 1.

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll get it for the artbook.

  30. Louis F. says:

    Thanks for this and for your IGN review. I’m still eager to see for myself, but at least I won’t go in with misguided expectations.

  31. Severian says:

    Brilliant writing, really. Thank you.

    Not sure if I’ll spring for this in the foreseeable future. I actually loved Bioshock because I thought it was an excellent shooter in an interesting world/mythology and didn’t expect too much more. I like the idea of better shooter-esssness (?) but am disappointed that the ambiance feels very “been there.” Wait and see.

  32. Heliocentric says:

    You just rended a hopeful goty to a £5 christmas steam purchase. Bravo

  33. A-Scale says:

    I read another review on Joystiq which claims that the story actually has a decent amount of interesting features and some tremendous set pieces. Is this not true?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      A-Scale: C’mon, man. That stuff is clearly subjective. Alec didn’t think it did, in whole. Other chap did.


    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ A-Scale

      I have to agree with Kieron, one man’s Avatar is another man’s shit on my shoe, there’s no eternal truths here.

      That said, first, the combat. McElroy thought it was a bit repetitive while Alec described the combat as, well, er, repetitive; circling the same level, fighting respawning baddies… Alec just said it was enjoyable because you got to ignite everything in a satisfying manner.

      Second, the story. Alec goes into the details of the story and why it doesn’t work for him, whereas McElroy only briefly outlines the broad strokes. Essentially though, as above, both agree that in many ways it’s a better story, Alec just thinks it’s undermined the Little Sisters with pseudo-scientific babble.

      So, they’re essentially saying the same thing, just disagreeing a little on the interpretation. You could quite easily meld the two reviews together with little disagreement. You can have enjoyable but repetitive combat, and a neat story about families undermined by pseudo-science. Clearly both think it’s an okay to good game.

      For everyone else, here’s the review over at Joystiq, by Justin McElroy:
      link to joystiq.com

    • A-Scale says:

      Maybe I put that the wrong way. I wasn’t asking for an eternal truth or trying to point out an inconsistency, I just wanted to know if more than one reviewer holds that the story is actually decently compelling in parts.

  34. paul newman says:

    very helpful review, cheers

    if it wouldnt carry that cancer gfwl i’d buy it just for some short-term art deco deathmatch fun

  35. Tei says:

    As most games that try to be “console bestsellers” seems this is another SuperStar thats tryiing to be “bright” and “empty”, “dumb” and “fun”, “grindy” and “gamey”, … this game will spawn monster in the closet, and will feel proud of it.

  36. Count Elmdor says:

    I actually am more interested in playing it after reading the RPS review than I was before. What’s happened to me?

    • BeamSplashX says:

      You have discovered your own opinion. Cheers.

      I’d totally buy BS2 also, but further down the line (for financial reasons, really).

  37. Sagan says:

    It sounds like they took it in exactly the direction that I didn’t want it to go. I was hoping for more atmospheric levels like the best of the original’s. What I had most fun with in the first game was running around and looking for the scenes that the level designers put in there. Like a mattress hidden in a corner behind some barrels, with a poster on the wall and a stack of food, alcohol and eve-syringes next to it. Discovering these and trying to figure out what had happened there was the best thing for me about the first game, and it sounds like that might be missing.

    Still, I didn’t think that I wanted a sequel to Bioshock, and now this is in my “will buy when discounted” category. It sounds like this is interesting enough that it is my kind of game.

  38. Glenn says:

    Bleh. Honestly, it’s all well and good that Bioshock did well enough to warrant a sequel, but I just couldn’t imagine that Bioshock 2 has anywhere near the level of atmosphere and narrative loveliness that the first one did. The review did a good job of confirming that, from what I understood. I knew something was wrong as soon as I heard “multiplayer”. Multiplayer is not Bioshock, and it does not belong in Bioshock. Ah well.

    Also, I’ve never liked the engine that the games use. It feels like a pre-rendered cutscene from the PS1-era – primitive lighting and bubbly models. I know it’s technically superior… but ugh.

  39. EBass says:

    Meh haven’t been excited about this since it was first announced, still not.

  40. Curious_Orange says:

    Wow, there really is no other game that tickles the bollocks of PC snobbery than Bioshock eh? A game that’s main crime seems to be not being Deus Ex and System Shock. For those of us who didn’t go into the first game blinded by predjudice, we found an interesting and exciting shooter with fantastic scripting, incredibly evocative design (that shat all over Deus Ex in all three respects I might add) that centred around probably the most incredibly brilliant plot twist in gaming.

    Yes it couldn’t come back after it, a fact that’s been pilloried far too harshly, but it’s easily one of the most important games of the last decade – a shooter that wasn’t afraid to show some brains, and because it was on console too it got slated.

    My 360 copy arrived this morn and I’ve been playing all day, its bloody brilliant, an easy 9 for someone who loved the original. All Alec’s points are valid to some extent, its looks and feels very similar, too much at times, but it’s a sequel, surely that’s the point? I dont hear people complaining that ME2 looks like ME1. The story prob isnt as good, but how could it be? Everyone’s looking for the twist now, so why bother with it? It’s still more convincing, interesting and clever than practically anything that isn’t made by Bioware.

    As for the combat, it’s outstanding, tighter and better than ever, and ironically, much more balanced, all in all, you should play it, even thought it’s a ‘dumbed down’ console shooter, because you’re just depriving yourself of what’ will no doubt one of the year’s best games…

    • Larington says:

      “A game that’s main crime seems to be not being Deus Ex and System Shock.” Anyone who IS feeling that way is being a little foolish imho.
      The actual problem is that we haven’t gotten anything in the way of Deus Ex/System Shock in some time, there are plenty of open world shooters, linear shooters, etc. And Bioshock can carry on being whatever it wants to be, but it won’t change the fact that many desire another game that revisits DX/SS1/SS2 formula without taking a hacksaw to a number of the gameplay elements therein and I won’t deny a feeling of frustration that increases with each year passing by where that desire remains unfullfilled.

      And I really wish this idea of a console shooter would gtfo. A shooter is a shooter is a shooter, whether it’s on a console or not isn’t important the question is, have they got it right for whatever platform and control method it’s supposed to be on, the rest is just people coming up with definitions that are in my opinion harmful in the longterm – Just like people deciding what can or cannot be art, people get left out. And sometimes, yeah, I feel left out.

    • Bhazor says:

      Deus Ex and System Shock 2 were both pretty linear btw.

    • Larington says:

      Nit picking. (Sigh)
      Point being, you’d get a pretty large degree of decision making presented to you, multiple approaches that weren’t simply a different type of gun.

    • tapanister says:

      @Bhazor, Seriously? In Deus Ex there was a unique multitude of ways to solve a problem or make progress through the game that people have never since seen in a shooter. The hell are you talking about?

    • Bhazor says:

      Well I’d argue Bioshock had as much freedom as Deus Ex. I think the big difference is Bioshock made it much more transparent. With Deus Ex and System Shock 2 you had to manually activate the biomod that made me stronger, you had to manually turn on the motorbike legs augmentation. Busy work, hence why when I played I just used the “all augs on” button and saved myself a lot of time. In Bioshock both were passive. Ken Levine and team actually talk about this in the Irrational Podcast. They say the turning point was seeing GTA 3 where jacking a car took one button and they realised that with the Looking Glass method it would take 5 or 6 different buttons

      “Hold Shift to Run and go to drivers side, Press O to open door, Press P to pull guy out, Press E to enter car, Press O to close door, Press Shift to accelerate. I looked down at the D&D style map I was working on and I realised we were dinosaurs.”
      link to irrationalgames.com

      In the end the complexity wasn’t lost, you still had to reach the car, you still had to make sure the cops weren’t near, you still had to make sure it was the right kind of car for the mission. It was about assuming what the player would want and then giving it to them. If I want the alarms to run out faster I don’t want to have to equip my Psi-orb, scroll to my “Make alarms run out faster” ability and then use the ability and then go back to whatever weapon I was using. If I have a Shorten Alarm tonic in my inventory I want the alarms to be shortened. If I want to jack a car just let me run up to the car and press an action button.

      Certainly I had a lot more fun on my second playthrough playing stealthy (but not using overpowered active camo). With no set patrols, randomised enemy locations and the fantastic atmosphere it was probably the scariest shooter I’ve ever played. Then finding a Thuggish all alone mooching among some junk, checking, double checking, listening then giving him a lobotomy with my wrench, stealing his candy and running away is supremely satisfying. Then doing it again only to hear the scrape of a meat hook on concrete as I’m half way across the room and turning to see the sparks rain down from the floor above as a fisherman starts to turn towards some stairs and I ready my gun and I aim down the irons and then I’m whacked in the back of the head by the guy I was stalking. Oh that was a moment alright. The stealth is just about the most overlooked component of Bioshock and it really is the best way to play (also played on hard, no vending machines, money can only be used to “buy out” devices).

      In terms of footprint I’d say Bioshock sticks close to System Shock 2. Plenty of side rooms and nooks and hidden caches and skippable fights. Maybe not as long but then System Shock 2 *was* twice the length and arguably dragged in different place.

      I’m not saying Bioshock is better than System Shock 2 or Deus Ex. I’m just saying its a very good game that deserves the comparison.

    • Nick says:

      I thought it’s main crime was being hyped as something it wasn’t and not actually being a very good shooter. Personally.

      Also that ‘Looking Glass method’ is total bollocks.

    • Mike Russo says:

      @Bhazor: Shock 2 didn’t have much in the way of branching or plot-relevant choices, true — it was all about how you upgraded your character, and then I think there were two decks where you could choose which to do first (4 and 5, IIRC?) But Deus Ex is really not in that class — it’s got tons of meaningful decisions you can make that significantly alter the game plot, objectives, etc. Bioshock looks a lot like Shock 2 but very little like Deus Ex on this front.

      Mind, I prefer Shock 2 to Deus Ex.

    • Bhazor says:

      Reply to Nick

      Humour me, did you or did you not when playing Deus Ex have to play with a pen and note paper for passwords and logins. Do you remember the research in Shock 2 that involved tracking (more often backtracking) down a storage room then hiding under a table for 5 minutes until you could scan the next radioactive monkey gland (not having enough inventory to carry the neccesary chemicals). Weapons that explode as you look at them. Having to clear a space in your inventory to pick up a weapon just to take the 2 or three rounds of ammo it had then dropping it, in real time. Did you ever spend a full 20 seconds activating the buff augs like motorbike legs, melee man whacker and bullet proof face in your inventory because you would lose half your bio energy before you’d activated them all in realtime. Certainly playing The Nameless Mod has brought these memories crashing back home.

      Some call it consolification, I call it trimming the fat.

      Edit: to focus on “Looking Glass ethos” (to use Levine’s own words) did individually reporting every perp and hostage add a great deal to your time in Swat 4, or the complexity of the radio message system which meant you could issue commands to dead guys and it took 3-5 separate clicks to tell them to move to where you were looking.

    • Leeks! says:


      You speak the words of someone who absolutely knows what fucking time it is.

    • vagabond says:

      “Wow, there really is no other game that tickles the bollocks of PC snobbery than Bioshock eh? A game that’s main crime seems to be not being Deus Ex and System Shock.”

      To be fair, every computer game released in the last 10 years has committed the crime of not being more like Deus Ex or System Shock 2.
      Bioshock’s main crime was not doing this whilst being designed by the guy who designed Shock 2. (The crime of being designed by, but not enough like, Deus Ex was taken care of years earlier by Deus Ex: Invisible War)

      Actually, if I might stop being facetious for a moment, Bioshock’s main crime was having the only meaningful choice in the game revolve around a moral dilemma that wasn’t actually a dilemma.

      Anyway, it’s been ten years. There clearly isn’t going to be another Deus Ex or Shock 2.
      We’ll have to start railing against games for some other crime, say “not being less like Bioshock”. It’s a shame that so early on in its run, Bioshock 2, a game not even designed by the people who made Bioshock, is not less like Bioshock…

    • Nick says:

      @Bhazor In all honesty, no to most of those. Yes you had to backtrack to get the chemicals, but each storage had a manifest so it wasn’t that hard to track down what you needed. I never used a pen and paper for passwords in Deus Ex.. er, wasn’t there a log in game?

      Yeah, the weapons degraded too fast, that was tweakable with a ini edit but the default was definitly bad, I also agree the psi amp was unweildy.. both those were certainly bad design. Inventory management never bothered me. I never really used the augs in deus ex unless I was messing around (throwing boxes around or whatever) so I can’t really comment on that.

      As for SWAT 4, yes every perp and hostage needed to be reported and every weapon secured, that’s what SWAT teams do. If anything, zip cuffing should have auto reported when finished. Ordering had been handled better in other games.

      Most of these things aren’t gameplay issues however.. they are control issues and as such I fail to see how removing gameplay elements improves things, tightening the controls and UI would surely suffice rather than saying ‘fuck it, lets just cut it out rather than streamlining the control of it’. The plasmids control was an ellegant solution to the psi amp problem and that method would have improved the SS2 psi gameplay greatly, its a shame the plasmids themselves were so limited and rather dull.

      The reason I say it is bollocks is that they have seemingly confused streamlining controls with removing complex interactions, which is sad, to me. What good is one button press if you only have one button to press with it?

    • Bhazor says:

      Reply to Nick

      What exactly is completely gone? Thats my point, all I can see missing is a lot of largely featureless gun mental grey side rooms (like the residential sector) and a lot of backtracking. I feel the Bathyspheres were a deliberate design choice to cut down the need to retread through the whole ship just to reach the newly unlocked door. Though I think they should have used Mass Effect style transitions to hide the loading screens, being able to look out at Rapture passing would have made the game world a lot more cohesive I feel.

      System Shock 2 was a fantastic game. So was Bioshock.

      Also: Deus Ex had a notebook. That you couldn’t access whilst using a computer or ATM.

  41. Langman says:

    Review was well-written. As for the game, I’ll get it for the usual £3.74 on Steam in around 10 months time – going on various reviews I’ve read, there just isn’t enough there to justify an instant full-price purchase IMO.

    Bioshock was fairly underwhelming and like others have mentioned they really should have expanded on the concept instead of just making Bioshock 1.5 with better combat.

    I can take it or leave it tbh.

  42. pedant says:

    Great review, the stuff that got me hooked on RPS to begin with.

    While I disliked pretty much everything about Bioshock 1 after the golfing incident I still had hopes for the second one. Reading this review doesn’t fill me with rage about failing those hopes, just sad to see them go the other way but at least they seem to do it with style and skill. Which is good, just not for me. Bonne Chance and all that. Call me if you change your mind.

    Also ME2, damn!

  43. Hybrid says:

    Excellent article.

  44. Zwebbie says:

    A game about shooting people? I already have one of those, so I think I’ll pass.

  45. tapanister says:

    *yawns* Not interested, sorry [whoever is selling this game -THQ?-]. If I’m playing a glorified shooter with reused art from a previous game and less RPG elements than the original, I’m gonna have to stick with Mass Effect.

  46. Caiman says:

    2K Marin have made (or been made to make) a decision to improve the game, not the packing around the game. By doing so, they create disappointment in people who wanted to see more of Bioshock’s still-splendid universe.

    I don’t like this assertion that more shooting = more game. For me, the game is far more than shooting, otherwise I wouldn’t rate Thief so highly. But the whole review almost sounds apologetic, almost as though you’re saying it’s not really Bioshock anymore but at least it’s a good FPS in the Bioshock setting. This review has completely shelved any notion I had of buying this game, at least not until it gets heavily discounted. They’ve done pretty much exactly what I expected them to have done after I heard the inevitable sequel wouldn’t be handled by Levine.

    I’m sure the game is a lot of fun, but it’s no longer essential.

    • Wulf says:

      That’s precisely what I was trying to get at, Caiman, thank you.

      BioShock, the original: So, there’s this beautiful city of mystery, Rapture, which you know nothing about, it’s nightmarish in a well-done sort of way, and there are logs and characters around who’re really going to fuck with your mind in particularly entertaining ways. Would you kindly realise that some effort has been put into making this an experience which goes beyond a simple shooter, there’s lore here, art, atmosphere, soak it up like a good little sponge. Oh and uh… have some combat with some RPG elements too.

      BioShock 2: This game is all about combat with even less RPG elements and nothing else, in a sort of cheesy rip-off of the setting of BioShock 1, advancement of plot, plot in and of itself, atmosphere, and stuff like that are FOR THE WEAK! Instead of advancing beyond Rapture, we go back to Rapture, and we blow things up in Rapture, and we fight hilarious things that look like cheap pound-shop knock-offs of the monstrosities we once encountered.

      It’s the Big Daddies that bother me the most. You know how pound shops all ways used to have Transformers and Turtles toys from some unknown country that weren’t actually Transformers or Turtles, weren’t named that, but kind-of-sort-of looked enough like them so that you could just barely make the connection? The ones that were horribly cheap and looked shoddy, and showed that the person putting them together had no clue about the source material, but rather that they were just trying to badly copy existing toys? Yeah… BioShock 2 Big Daddies are that. It makes me :<

      Sorry to everyone who might like this, but… Gods, I want a real BioShock 2, I want something that's more than just a decent shooter, I want something with the heart and soul of BioShock, rather than just a sort of simile thereof.

  47. MadMatty says:

    i didnt enjoy the first one that much, dunno why really.

    • MadMatty says:

      too linear maybe

    • Igor Hardy says:

      Was too linear for me too. And the enemies were like annoying, loud mosquitos rather than characters it is fun to overcome.

      But I’ve given up on the game fairly early on, so maybe it got better later.

    • Frosty says:

      I hated on the first one (not outwardly mind) for quite a while then picked it up one day and just ran with it….

      Well, up until that plot twist. I kept going a while but like a lot of people I tailed off eventually.

      But I think Bioshock required a certain attitude, a certain want to play it when you first start. Something that I can’t figure out in the brain. Basically, I suddenly said yes to it one day when I had been saying no every other day. I wish I knew why…..

      Still, I’d recommend having a go; it gets better. It might seem strange to have to “Grin and bear it” to enjoy the game but that’s the nature of gaming sometimes.

    • blah says:

      I was underwhelmed with the first one for some reason. Build up too much hype for a game and it’s bound to disappoint. Guess there’s no need to bother with BS2.

  48. Chris Kerr says:

    I’m pretty amazed at the number of haters here – you’re bashing a review for saying that the game is fun, but not revolutionary?

    Games are a medium – some are meant to challenge your ideas, some are meant to be fun. Nobody panned Casino Royale for not changing their lives, and nobody pans Children of Men for not being fun. I read Matthew Reilly if I want to have fun, or Neal Stephenson if I want a kickstart to the imagination.

    Take the game for what it is: It’s a shooter, a rush of adrenaline. If you want to be bored, go and play Gothic or something.

  49. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Thing is, I don’t want a shooting game in Bioshock 2. Ah well. I’ll pass.

  50. Radiant says:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com
    I’d think that kangaroo would want his copy of Bioshock 2 back, Meer you bloody tea leaf.