I reviewed a computerised video game.
Why couldn’t there have been just one game? BioShock was an ambitious, frighteningly clever first-person shooter, let down by some occasionally shaky combat and a lacklustre final third. Its sequel emerges as a markedly less ambitious, less intelligent game, but a game with wonderful combat and one of the best endings I’ve seen. Fused together, BioShock’s flesh and its successor’s metal would have created something basically unstoppable.
And… a few more words about it, basically. Despite the largely negative tone to the review, it didn’t disappoint me. It is pretty much exactly what I expected BioShock 2 to be like, and with a better ending that I’d imagined. But then, I didn’t really have high hopes for it. As a sequel to BioShock, it just isn’t good enough. Not until the final hour or two does it come close to delivering anything on a par with its predecessor – and even then it’s a somewhat empty drama.
BioShock’s story was clever. It had plot holes, certainly, but it was an ambitious tale to tell, and it deserved mass applause for that. BioShock 2 plays it safer in every way. It goes for an emotional story, rather than a philosophical one. It’s gripping, rather than fascinating. The game itself, too, smacks of a lack of ambition. It repeats everything BioShock did in 2007, and places its only significant change as something that is essentially an optional side-task.
That score bounced between that one, and one higher, right up until I hit the submit button. In the end, I spoke to Deputy Dan, who’s also played it, and who also thinks that score’s right. Ultimately, I gave Call of Pripyat one higher – and, while they’re chalk and cheese, I definitely enjoyed my time with that game more. It seems only reasonable.
BioShock 2’s biggest crime is that it totally fails at being a short videogame. As a guide, I finished it in just shy of 8 hours. It took three hours to impress me at all, then another two for it to be consistantly impressive. In an 8 hour game, making you wait until the 5 hour mark to start really having fun is inexcusable. Lengthen it, or tighten up the introduction. At not far off its halfway mark, BioShock 2 is still tediously teaching you mechanics that were already familiar by the end of the first game.
Anything else I didn’t have room for in the review? Oh, yeah, actually. It feels wonderful to return to Rapture. But that’s praise of BioShock, rather than its sequel. It was BioShock that conjured up this city. BioShock 2 approximates it, and there is literally one area of one level that lives up to the original’s awesome design. It feels like a less engaging and brilliant place. It feels more like – sigh – a set of levels in a computerised video game.
As I say in the review, it’s a good game. Good isn’t good enough when you’re following BioShock.