BioShock 2 Review

Written by Joe Martin

February 11, 2010 | 08:30

Tags: #big-daddy #bioshock #fps #little-sister #rapture #system-shock

Companies: #2k-games

BioShock 2 Multiplayer

BioShock 2’s biggest new feature over the first game is the addition of an entirely new multiplayer segment which, even more unusually, is framed in an earlier part of the story than the singleplayer.

Just to recap and elucidate; BioShock 2’s singleplayer campaign picks up ten years after the end of BioShock, but the multiplayer portion is set as a prequel to even the first game. It’s grounded in the fictional civil war that first wrecked Rapture and decimated the population.

In some ways the way that the story has been woven around the online game changes an awful lot and massively affects how you’ll interact and experience BioShock 2’s multiplayer. In a much more real sense though it doesn’t really change anything at all. That’s a very good thing too, because while a story-led multiplayer might sound fun the reality is that it’d be incredibly tedious to sit through a cutscene every time you tried to get into a match.

*BioShock 2 Review BioShock 2 Multiplayer
Little and large

There are areas where the wartime framework helps to heighten BioShock 2’s appeal, but they are all mostly aesthetic tweaks that alter the functionality of the game very little. When you first start up the multiplayer you are ushered into a brief Prologue section, for example, that lets you roam your apartment beneath the waves and choose your outfit and loadouts by rooting through your wardrobe. Then, when you want to take a stand in Rapture’s war then you jump into your bathysphere and head to the lobby.

Granted, all you’re really doing with any of this is choosing what plasmids and weapons you want to use and selecting a character skin, but being able to do it while standing in a lavish art-deco apartment adds a lot of flavour even if it isn’t really anything new. Boiled down to the basics, BioShock 2’s multiplayer is a 1930s take on the now-familiar Call of Duty template; completing achievements and grind kills to earn upgrades and abilities. It even apes the lack of LAN support and dedicated servers, though most gamers will likely be more annoyed that everything runs through Games for Windows Live. We are not fans of GFWL.

Speaking of which, while it’s impossible to talk objectively on the matters of speed and stability for multiplayer games thanks to the fact that all games are going to be different, our experience with BioShock 2 MP hasn’t been fantastic. We regularly ran headlong into walls of lag and numerous little grievances with the limited interface made the process of creating matches painful. The claustrophobic and cluttered levels with often striking artwork may flow well in singleplayer where you can appreciate every detail as you please, but in multiplayer they just serve as distractions.

*BioShock 2 Review BioShock 2 Multiplayer
Those goggles won't do anything

That said, there’s a decent amount of variety in the maps from a stylistic perspective and the available battlefields really do capture the best areas of Rapture. All too often though online matches can leave you feeling stifled purely because the levels don’t feel like they’ve been properly optimised for multiplayer gaming. Even with an upper limit of just ten players in any of the game modes (which run the usual gamut of deathmatch, domination and team games) there’s a notable lack of breathing room.

More than any other single issue though, it’s BioShock 2’s complexity that saps the fun out. Multiplayer borrows far too many systems from the solo campaign. Just like in the singleplayer game players can hack, shoot, use plasmids, make use of environmental hazards like oil slicks and water pools, buy ammo, use health kits and so on. You can even use your research camera (by far BioShock’s most ludicrous inclusion) on corpses to get a damage bonus. You can collect raw ADAM to aid levelling up, don a Big Daddy suit as a power-up and use gene-tonics and customised loadouts to give you a further boost.

So, you can do all that and so can everyone else. The result is a frankly fatiguing game of ‘guess what everyone else has equipped’ where, more often than not, automated turrets are the difference between win and lose. The multiplayer is packed with the hallmark features of an intelligent shooter, but battles flow at a speed where you can’t really stop to think or adapt. It all gets undoubtedly easier once you’ve spent a few hours getting to grips with it all and you’ve unlocked the basic upgrades and weapons to customise your character how you wish – but on the whole (and definitely to start with) BioShock 2’s multiplayer is frankly unwieldy and overwhelming.
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