Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bioshock 2

The following contains major plot spoilers, read at your own risk. I finished up BioShock 2 last night and I feel pretty good about the overall experience. I will say though, that out of the gate I had to overcome a bit of disappointment. The game tells you from the that you are one of the first Big Daddies, dubbed "Delta," which means that you aren't regulated to carrying one weapon and you can also use the same plasmids that are available to the rest of the Rapture world. I read that to say that I would be much more powerful this time through Rapture, and much harder to kill. Alas, I was not. Somewhere between the second and third train stop I got the notion that my character was not unlike the frail protagonist from the BioShock Sr., and there fore my gameplay should perhaps mirror that style. When I made that decision the game immediately became immensely more enjoyable. Now, I may be splitting hairs to be complaining about this learning curve, but I guess I just don't like being lied to when it's unnecessary. As you play through the game, and specifically, as you listen to the diary records, you find out in a round about way why it is that everything can still beat the crap out of you as if you were an ant among gods. I really don't mind that the random Leadhead Splicer can drop me in 3 shots, as long the game didn't tell me that I'd be a Juggernaut, it could have just told me I'd be an ant.

Okay that's out of the way. After I made the realization that I would have to start playing this iteration much more like I played its predecessor, I was able to get into the groove of the game and start experiencing the rich world and deep story arc it offers. I'll say first that I wish I had already been a father before playing this game, because the story affected me at the emotional core that I have already built for my future children. My assumption is that it hit much harder for those who are already fathers. This is the game's real value in my opinion. Most efforts in this industry seek to entertain your mind; distract you. Bioshock 2 seeks to engage you on a more human emotional level. When I walked up to the quarantine room before the final act of the game, the plot twist that I expected right down to the ground, was that the next set of circumstances would force me fight my daughter. But, as it turns out, I had already had my fight with my daughter, and it was a fight that rang much more real to me than I have seen in this media. She had been watching me, and learning, you know, like children do. My actions had shaped her, my decisions had informed her conscience. When the game revealed this to me, I had that panicked moment that you get when you think someone has found you out. I frantically inventoried the decisions I had made, wondering if I was the right kind of example, or if I had steered her wrongly, and all the while knowing that whatever I had done it was too late to change it. I wonder what it would have been like if I actually had a daughter and this game I was playing held that mirror up to my face....

The game also made for me an, I think, inadvertent comment about what it might take to create a Utopian society. Lamb is the perfect example of that old proverb, "The path to Hell is paved in the best intentions." She believes that in order to achieve utopia, that one must sacrifice not only self but sense of self and with it conscience. "Conscience is a curse," she says to Delta. I disagree with her, and since she is the antagonist, the game seems to disagree as well. She is proposing to create and individual with not even the slightest propensity toward evil. I would argue that good must be chosen of free will. I think that the greatest gift that God ever gave humanity was the freedom to choose. Humans have in them a great potential for good, and in order for that to have any value they must also have in them a great potential for evil. The power that we have to choose gives good its value, it can only be defined in reference to its opposite, other wise it is neither good nor evil it just is.

So, that's my piece on Bioshock 2. Overall I give it an A-.


David and Stephanie said...

This is an excellent review. I actually appreciate the story even more hearing your perspective. I agree with your criticism of gameplay balancing, but it didn't detract much for me either. Another criticism I had was that the developers originally described the story as fighting against THE big sister. That would imply that it's one unstoppable enemy that shows up occasionally to freak you out and then leave. This happened a couple times in the beginning, but eventually the Big Sisters became just another enemy to fight. I the level of intensity and suspense would have been better if the Big Sister was an uncontrollable story element, rather than a predictable end-level boss. Still, it was fun to play regardless and I think the change suited the story that, as you have said, works really well.
I really appreciate a game that can make you think and keep you thinking after you're done. I'm sure there's lots of nuances to the story I didn't catch so I'll definitely be playing it again.

John said...

Dude, if you're going to be posting reviews you need to come up with a completely arbitrary scoring system. Y'know, like, "On a scale of Greyhound to Giraffe it definitely rated a solid Gazelle."

Do it.

Stephanie said...

I really like this review, Reno. I love Bioshock and enjoyed Bioshock 2 as well. I totally agree with what you're saying. Watching David play, I definitely felt some of the frustration of being so easily hurt. And I love what you said about Eleanor watching. As soon as that line was said, I had a totally similar reaction and as we got ready for the ending, I hoped that we'd been a good enough example.