BioShock 2 is Criminally Underrated

BioShock: The Collection is a meaty experience that comprises all three games and two meaty expansions, Minerva’s Den and Burial at Sea. As such, we’re taking our time to comb all the content of the remasters before we post our review. In the meantime, please enjoy these previews detailing some of our experiences with the final product.

What do BioShock 2, Batman: Arkham Origins, Halo 4 and Call of Duty: World at War all have in common? Each of these games was developed by a team other than the original team. Warner Bros. Montreal took over from Rocksteady for Origins, 343 Industries took over from Bungie and Treyarch took over from Infinity Ward every other year (they started with Call of Duty 3). Each of these other games has something in common; while critical and fan appeal was not the highest at launch, they’ve all been better received later in time. This applies to BioShock 2.

Developed by 2K Marin, BioShock 2 was not as well received as the original game upon release. Many took issue with the fact that Rapture was not as magical a setting the second time around, that Sofia Lamb was not as great an antagonist as Andrew Ryan, and that the multiplayer felt tacked on. While that last part may be true, the others aren’t. The intro where we first see Rapture may not be as jaw-dropping as the first game, but exploring a different side of it is just as fascinating. On top of this, Sofia Lamb is just as impressive of an antagonist as Ryan.

Sinking hours into BioShock 2 Remastered has only solidified just how excellent, and in many cases, better, BioShock 2 is compared to its predecessor and successor. The gameplay in BioShock 2 is probably the best it’s ever been, fixing many of the problems from the original game. As Subject Delta, players could now wield Plasmids and weapons at the same time, eliminating the juggling act from BioShock. The shooting controls were tightened, and players got to enjoy the arsenal of a Big Daddy. Even though BioShock Infinite is newer, BioShock 2 still plays well compared to it, especially since Infinite axed the weapon wheel.

What makes BioShock 2 stand out is its story and the themes that surround it. While BioShock focused heavily on libertarianism and the philosophies of Ayn Rand, BioShock 2 focuses on collectivism and the philosophies of Karl Marx. While Andrew Ryan is content with letting things play out in Rapture as is, Sofia Lamb is more concerned about creating a collective whole. It’s entirely fascinating to look at these two characters, their extreme beliefs, and how each impacts Rapture and its denizens. As different as Sofia is from Andrew, she is every big just as fascinating of a character. Picking up audio diaries throughout BioShock 2 reveals clever insight into both character’s philosophies and how they interacted together.

BioShock 2 was also a far more personal game with more individual choice. As Subject Delta, you were stripped of your Little Sister, and forced to commit suicide while she watched. Throughout the game, Delta faces off against three humans who had done him wrong in some way. Given this information, players are asked to make the ultimate choice; forgive or revenge. Whereas BioShock was all about putting players in a blank shell and making them feel like they had no individual liberty, BioShock 2 was about giving players an identity and a choice.

Finally, and most importantly, BioShock 2 is a story about a Big Daddy and his love for his Little Sister. A Big Daddy’s willingness, and dependence on a Little Sister is not only an important story component for BioShock 2 but also for BioShock Infinite. The Big Daddy is specifically motivated to find Eleanor not only because he would he’d die if he didn’t, but because he views her as his daughter. Likewise, Eleanor feels the same, and at the end, depending on if Delta forgives or takes revenge, is shaped by the actions of her “father.” This critical relationship would be revisited in BioShock Infinite between Songbird and Elizabeth.

For as much as people grumble about other studios developing entries in their favorite franchise, BioShock 2 turned out excellent. Sure, it has moments where things become slow, but that’s a shared problem. Both BioShock and BioShock Infinite had moments where the game slowed to a crawl. No, BioShock 2 is not as revolutionary as the original game, but neither was Infinite. Did we need multiplayer? No, but we still got a meaty single player campaign with an in-depth story.

In the end, that’s what we want out of a BioShock game — a deep story that hits important themes and makes players think. That is exactly what BioShock 2 delivers and why it should be held in the same regard as BioShock and BioShock Infinite and not below them.

Be sure to check back soon for our full review of BioShock: The Collection.