Bioshock 2: Flaws

Bioshock 2 does a shocking amount right, especially considering what it had to work with in terms of inherited material, but there are disappointments and flaws.

First and foremost: you don't feel much like a Big Daddy.

There's some justification for this, as you're an Alpha series and they're clearly more agile overall than the more familiar Big Daddy design, but you're still a hulking giant in a kind of giant steel diving suit. Your physics really ought to reflect that, and for the most part... Bioshock 2 operates on unmodified versions of Bioshock 1's physics. Meaning Delta plays basically like Jack, who is a regular-seeming guy in regular clothes. Not a titan of steel and muscle. So much so that what few ways the game does model you as having the physics of a Big Daddy tend to be jarring when they crop up, such as how falling far enough has you clank violently.

I'm overall sympathetic to this particular aspect of Bioshock 2; why fix what isn't broken, particularly when you could be fixing things that are broken. And Bioshock 1 had a number of problems Bioshock 2 does work to fix, such as making the hacking minigame considerably less of an inane timewaster, and removing the single most annoying and ill-conceived Splicer type from the game, replacing them with something more interesting and less obnoxious. Plus, I'm sure there'd be loads of people whining about playing a slow and steady character if Bioshock 2 had given you more Big Daddy-esque physics.

So overall it's a disappointment, but it's one of the least bad possible disappointments Bioshock 2 could've hit me with.

A bit more frustrating is the weapons overhaul: every single weapon from Bioshock 1 has been replaced by something big enough for a Big Daddy to wield rather than a regular human, but how meaningful those changes are is a bit erratic. The Speargun, for example, is really basically just the Crossbow from the first game with a new skin. The minigun is just the machine gun retuned to not suck so much. Other weapons -such as the Drill- are better, and it's certainly appreciated that the game used the excuse to retune some concepts (ie the aforementioned machine-gun-that-doesn't-suck) and dump others outright. (The sprayer weapon from the first game is such a bad idea, and I'm glad to see it gone)

But overall the weapons overhaul is a bit disappointing, involving a lot of graphical effort that doesn't correlate to a strongly divergent experience.

The game also has a bit of a lull in the mid-late third-ish, before you hit the endgame proper. You haven't really had new content/forward progress in a while, and it's not obvious that the endgame is both just around the corner and is a big paradigm shift. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of players abandon the game in this part of it, as it's easy to be getting bored.

Narratively, there's also a bit of a hole in that Sinclair -your primary radio buddy in Bioshock 2- is never properly explained as a character. Why is he helping you? What's his motive here? It's particularly conspicuous since the villain actively raises the question herself in an attempt to sow mistrust among her enemies, and... the game never answers the question. It's not a lethal problem, and in fact it's minor enough I completely forgot about it when going into the endgame, but it is a notable gap in Bioshock 2's narrative design.

Also a bit of a flaw with the game is that, to the best of my knowledge, the Little Sister defense minigame doesn't really have any stakes attached. The Little Sister's gathering can be interrupted, but not stopped. She can't be successfully kidnapped. Her being interrupted doesn't, to my awareness, reduce how much Adam you get in the end. So... the whole thing is undercut a bit by that. By the same token, Bioshock 2 inherits the first game's problems with a lack of stakes in general, since Vita Chamber resurrection remains completely free and enemies don't even get to regenerate their HP and so on.

That sucks a bit, but the Little Sister gathering sequence is still pretty fantastic. Notably, one of the flaws with the original Bioshock is that it's fond of giving you defensively-inclined tools (eg proximity mines) but defensive play isn't an integral part of the game design. The game has to contrive scripted events to function as defensive sequences. Bioshock 2 having Little Sister gathering sequences neatly plugs that hole, providing an obvious place to apply your defensive tools on a regular basis.

So even though it's flawed, it's still serving a useful design purpose successfully.


And... that's really all the negative stuff I have to say about Bioshock 2.

Next time, I move back in the past and start talking about System Shock 2, the game that Bioshock is a spiritual successor to and with a notable overlap in the teams involved.

See you then.


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