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16 October 2012 @ 09:49 pm
I finished Bioshock 2 last night, and under the cut are my thoughts on the game. Spoiler laden for both Bioshock games, and very tl;dr, you've been warned:

So I finished Bioshock 2 last night. Well, at about 5:30am having stayed up all night to finish it. Honestly, I love it almost as much as the first one. There's some parts of it I like even more than the first one. I felt like I could relate to Delta much more as a character than I did Jack - yes, the whole reveal about Jack's identity and how Atlas has used this to his advantage is a major plot twist in the first game, but the first time you play it through, it can make him seem very bland and non-existent in a way? I think part of this is because he's surrounded by so many amazing characters that I just find him forgettable, as well. But Delta - the whole game revolves around the bond between Delta and Eleanor, and it is such a beautiful, meaningful bond. I found myself getting so invested in both of them, and at one point towards the end, where Lamb suffocates Eleanor in an attempt to kill Delta, I actually did start crying a little, that's how invested in it I got. And I was pretty sleep deprived by that point, but anyway.

From a gameplay perspective, there were things about the second one that I much preferred. Hacking, for one thing. The game with the pipes in the first one got old quickly. Hacking was much simpler and felt a lot more fluid with the gameplay in the second one. I loved the changes they made to the research camera, too, it flowed much more with the combat rather than having to pause and de-equip it like in the first one. Other changes I wasn't as keen on. The fact that they changed round the harvest and rescue buttons, for one. Luckily I was warned about that when I started playing, or I would have ended up getting them confused all the way through. From the point of view of storytelling, I liked it because it added to the first game, expanded Rapture and its' backstory. It made the whole place seem richer. Even though Andrew Ryan is dead and gone, the amount of audio diaries you find by him in the second game (as well as the Ryan robots in Journey to the Surface - my absolute favourite area of the game XD) make it feel like he's still there in a way. This was my biggest hesitation before I played the second one, I was like "well I bashed in his head with a golf club, and it won't be the same without him ;_;"

I missed Fontaine, too, devious bastard that he is. There were a couple of Fontaine audio diaries, but not anywhere near as many as I would have liked. But with the clash of the Ryan-Lamb ideologies taking centre stage in this one (I'll get to Lamb in a minute), things may have got a little too confusing with Fontaine thrown into the mix as well. Speaking of Fontaine, one of my favourite moments in the game is exploring his office in Fontaine Futuristics and finding the audio diary where he becomes Atlas for the first time. That Irish accent is even more hokey there XD I totally chilled in his office and drank all of his expensive booze, too. Thanks for that, Fontaine XD I also desperately missed Sander Cohen, who was hands down my favourite part of the first game. We did have Gil Alexander - sorry, Alex the Great - to maintain the levels of batshit this time round, and I enjoyed him a lot, but he was no Sander Cohen.

Anyway, Sofia Lamb. I hate her. I want to slap her sanctimonious face. With Ryan, even though I disagree with the extremes he's taken his ideology to, I never got angry with him the way I do with Lamb. I've always seen Ryan as a tragic figure doomed to destroy himself. But Lamb makes my blood boil. I think it's partly because I'm something of a collectivist anyway, so seeing her take it to that extreme and twist it into something as frightful as the Rapture Family makes me very angry anyway. And just how awful she is to Delta, who I have so many feels over that it's ridiculous. Once some of my anger towards her (particularly what she did to my sweetheart Sinclair, but more on him later) has ebbed and I replay it, I will probably come to see her as a good character, at least, but right now I just hate her.

One thing I love about these games is how the expectations about the protagonists are completely turned upside down. Look at Jack - until a good way through the game, you think he's your average guy, doing everything he can to get himself away from this crazy place he's found himself in. But - surprise! He was brainwashed into following every command from a seemingly innocuous triggering phrase, and the whole game you've been following orders. On the other hand, you have Delta. A Big Daddy - hulking, lumbering, brutes brainwashed to follow a single command - to protect their little sister - and completely devoid of humanity. But - surprise! He is driven by his compassion towards other people, and trying desperately to maintain his freedom to choose, and to escape this crazy place that he found himself in. Honestly, the expectations you have of both characters actually fit the other of them better. Bioshock 2 is all about choice, even more than the first game is. While you do choose whether to harvest or save the little sisters in the first game, it's not necessarily Jack's compassion that makes that choice - Tenenbaum promises to make it worth his while, after all. But Delta's choices serve him no benefit, really (apart from the benefit that you as a player get from the game mechanics of saving vs. harvesting). And what's more, Delta's choices extend not just to the sisters, but to Grace Holloway, Stanley Poole, and Gil Alexander, too. There is a good reason to kill every one of them, yet Delta is given the choice. As Andrew Ryan would say, "We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us." And Delta's choices do indeed make him, they prove Lamb wrong in her bigoted assumptions about him just because he's a Daddy. And they teach Eleanor forgiveness. They make the bond between them, that they are striving to protect, even more beautiful, because it becomes based around compassion and forgiveness and love. I think this is why I love Delta so much? There's no real reason for him to save any of these people, but he does it anyway. Because he can. Because he has the power to make that choice. Because he's a man, not a slave.

Then there's Sinclair. I ... have the biggest crush on Sinclair, it's ridiculous. Part of it is his delicious Southern accent that makes me melt a little every time I hear it, and part of it is his fate in the game. When I first met him, I was like, "You're going to be the Atlas of this game, there's no way I'm trusting you," but then he was so genial (and his beautiful velvet voice helped a lot too), and I just liked him from the get-go, really. The game gives you every reason not to trust you. They give you Sinclair exactly as he is - a ruthless businessman who's out to take everything from Rapture that he can; sat carving wooden nickels while Ryan destroys himself. Which makes what happens to him at the end of the game so poignant. When he becomes Omega, there's no reason for him to continue helping Delta. Until that point, you think that he's helping you so that you can go to the surface together and he can sell the best of Rapture and retire to a tropical island somewhere. But after he becomes Omega, he continues to do everything that he can to help Delta. Part of this is his desperate attempts to preserve his own freedom for as long as he can in the face of Lamb's control over him, but part of it, too, is that the friendship that he and Delta build over the course of the game is a true one. Sinclair basically sacrifices himself in a way, but he does everything in his power to make sure that Delta can get out of Rapture, can take Eleanor to the surface, it's his dying wish. I love Sinclair. He made the whole game for me.

Did I find the sequel good as the first one? Not quite. But mostly that's because of the ingenuity of the first game, especially the WYK plot twist, which uses the whole format of video game storytelling as part of the twist and does it so well. But the second one makes the world of Rapture much richer, and the relationships between Delta and Eleanor, and Delta and Sinclair, are the most emotionally invested I've got in a game in a good while.