I finished Bioshock 2’s single-player campaign today, and wanted to give my commentary without getting into spoiler territory for those of you playing it, or considering picking it up.

I loved the original Bioshock. For a game set in a first-person setting, it would be easy to dismiss it as another shooter, when it has more in common with the Metroid Prime series. The first game was a brilliant morality play based on the freedom of free will and choice, all set in an art deco-styled dystopian madhouse. The game said what it needed to, and if it had remained a standalone entry, I would have been fine with it. But it was popular, and sold well, and in the world of video gaming, that means “sequel”.

Naturally, I was hesitant about the return to Rapture. After all, what more could be said? And the sequel had players in the diving suit of a Big Daddy, no less. The title’s mindless, yet tragic behemoth. How could playing as a mentally neutered brute maintain the intrigue of the original title without it resorting to a free for all of mindless violence?

I’ll be damned. They found a way.

This is a different story. The understanding of the Big Daddy/Little Sister relationship in an entirely new way. You play the role of protector (or executor, in some choices), bound deeper than ever to the decaying madness around you.

Set eight years later, Rapture is even less polished. It’s remaining citizens more insane. But there’s still a hauntingly beautiful level design involved. There is a feeling of “been here before” that can’t be avoided, but the game does introduce new areas of the city to explore, new characters to deal with, and new twists. The setting and bosses (outside of the Big Sister) are familiar and well-worn, and yet tells a new story of what choices make up a person. In some ways, the story is more personal, and the way I played the game, the choices became more clear on what needs to be done. Oh sure, you can be evil same as the first game, but there are more payouts for showing mercy. You aren’t in this for solving a mystery, or saving Rapture. It’s a story about saving yourself, and how those decisions can affect others. Man… or monster?

Personally, I didn’t think 2K could do it a second time. I thought they should have left well enough alone, and I was hesitant about tarnishing the image of the original game. But this not only tells a new story. It fills in a lot of background information about the first game, considering it begins before Rapture descends into its initial Hell.

There’s talk of a Part 3, and again, I think they should leave well enough alone. I don’t want to get to the point of “Okay, this needs to stop” because the two times I’ve visited Rapture have been unique. Some games deserve sequels. Some most definitely don’t. Others just need to rest on their accomplishments and simply know that they’ve done good.

But if there is a third story to be told, I just don’t want to see a Big Daddy in a go-kart.

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