Tag Archive: bioshock

A Shock to the System

Originally Published: February 25, 2010, on Examiner.com and 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

I had stated in several articles that my anticipation for Bioshock 2 would bring me to tears and hysterics in the halls of 1050 when it finally hit store shelves. Unfortunately, when a game is surrounded by so much hype, there is always the possibility that the high you think you will have ends up falling short. That disappointment is part of the reason why I’m only getting to this article now. It’s not to say that Bioshock 2 is a bad game. It just wasn’t what I was expecting on my return to Rapture.

Bioshock 2 sees a brand new protagonist familiar to the confines of the intended utopia beneath the sea. Simply known as “Subject: Delta”, you play as an early prototype of the famed Big Daddies from the first Bioshock who is “killed” in the final days leading up to Rapture’s fall. Your carcass is left to rot in the middle of the streets of Rapture where you remain undisturbed for 10 years. Somehow, someway, you are brought back to life and are now forced to wander around Rapture searching not only for your lost memories, but also for the original Little Sister you were sworn to protect.

The first thing you will notice is that the graphics are still just as sharp as they were in the first Bioshock. There are moments where you will jump at your own shadow, literally, as the lighting effects cast eerie outlines of your own form against walls and floors. It sometimes takes you a second to remember, that Big Daddy shadow, a figure ingrained into your memory as an enemy, is actually your own, which only adds to the creepy atmosphere of the dilapidated Rapture.

In terms of sound, something the first Bioshock was lauded for, Bioshock 2 is just as strong. Heart pounding atmospheric instrumentals mixed in with classic 40s and 50s tunes provides a dichotomy that shocks your system more than any plasmid you may find in the game. Rounding out the great peripherals is the tremendous voice acting throughout. Whether a meaningless thug splicer’s grunts of rage and desperation to the pleas of your original Little Sister all grown up, the voice acting is some of the best in gaming.

The plot is brilliant, but there is one question that plagued me through the entire game. If in the original Bioshock, Rapture was falling apart as was and this game takes place about eight years after those original events, how has most of the structure remained standing and that there are still humans around, whose fate you decide, who haven’t succumbed completely to the temptations of Adam (the substance that grants you the ability to splice your DNA and give you powers)? I felt this little hole wasn’t explained as fully as it could have been and will just have to be chalked up to some of the mysteries and wonder of Rapture will just have to remain unsolved.

As you move away from the creative aspects of the game, you start to see the cracks in the proverbial Big Daddy’s armor. The gameplay is very good, but even on the hardest difficulty, which wasn’t that hard because of no real penalties if you die, I blew through the entire game in what felt like no time at all. Then consider that the game removed the ability to backtrack into previous areas you’ve explored as you move through Rapture. This sense of exploration and being able to go back to collect audio files or collect Little Sisters you may have missed was a critical part of the original Bioshock‘s gameplay. Rapture felt a lot smaller and more restrictive this time around, even with being able to go into the ocean for short intervals, than in the first game, and I refuse to believe it was a creative decision to draw a parallel to you being trapped in the Big Daddy suit. You also have to remember to quick save a lot more often because the game froze at several key moments and needed to be rebooted. That is a huge glitch.

There were some new positives to the gameplay though. Using Little Sisters to harvest Adam from all the corpses around Rapture was this game’s masterstroke and using new weapons like the Trap Rivet and the Mini-Turret to help protect them forced you to come up with new and inventive strategies continuously if you wanted to get the game’s best ending (there are six in total depending on the decisions you make over the course of your adventure).

And you needed to think up new strategies constantly because the enemy A.I. is impressive. You light an enemy on fire and they will seek out water. You hack a camera or turret and they will avoid it as best they can once they find it. And add in new varieties of enemies like the hybrid Big Sisters and the plasmid overloaded Brute Splicers and at least you can say there was an effort to amp up the difficulty.

One of the reasons why the gameplay was lacking could have been that the inclusion of the new multiplayer mode simply took up too much space on the disc. The only real knock on the original Bioshock was a lack of multiplayer, so 2K made it a point to include one with Bioshock 2. Unfortunately, I would just rather have had more of the single-player mode if this was the best multiplayer 2K could have come up with. Being able to have up to 10 player death matches, team death matches, capture-the-flag with Little Sisters, and territorial control matches, you have a very basic multiplayer system. The problem is that players cannot take a lot of damage before they die so many matches, although competitive, really don’t require a lot of strategy as it is simply more a race to see who can light who on fire first and hack the handful of turrets scattered about each level.

Bioshock 2, although it didn’t move me to tears like I had anticipated, is a very solid game. It does a wonderful job for the most part of adding to the history of Rapture and its collapse as it develops new characters while adding shades of depth to characters long gone from Rapture. The multiplayer seemed thrown together and more of a move to pacify critics of the first game than anything else, and I would rather have seen the space used for the multiplayer used to be able to backtrack in a larger single player mode. Even with a couple of knocks on the gameplay and multiplayer, Bioshock 2 would be a solid choice for a purchase, especially if you are as big of a fan of the first game as I was.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: The graphics push the Xbox 360 to its limits with shadow and lighting effects that you just do not see in enough games. The details of the deformed remaining inhabitants of Rapture are shockingly clear and the overall theme of this sunken paradise is as sharp as can be and is enough to earn a perfect score for looks.

Audio: 10.0: Voice acting is such an underrated part of games sometimes, but great voice acting helps to keep you within the immersive experience that many games strive for and Bioshock 2 succeeds on every level. Add in great SFX like the pitter-patter of a leak on your iron helmet and critical atmosphere-setting instrumentals mixed with classic songs from the post-war period and I predict Bioshock 2 as my front-runner for best sounding game of the year, no matter what else will come out in the next 10 months.

Plot/Plot Development: 9.0: Bioshock 2‘s plot is a worthy addition to the mythos that was established in the first game. Aside from a couple of plot holes that I’m still not quite sure about, Bioshock 2 helps to develop some of your favorite characters from the first game as well as introduce some great new characters.

Gameplay: 6.5: The enemy A.I. is spectacular in its complexity and how it reacts to your moves. Unfortunately, not being able to backtrack into previous explored areas, not being penalized for dying, not being nearly as long as the first game, and the freezing that takes place about once per level, really knocks this score down to a barely passing level.

Replay Value: 5.0: One playthrough of the story mode is really all you need, especially if you get the best ending the first time through (like yours truly). The inclusion of a multiplayer bumps it up a couple of points, but not many because the multiplayer seemed thrown together and clearly takes up too much space on the disk. I was very disappointed with this attempt at fixing the first Bioshock’s most obvious flaw.

Overall (not an average): 8.5: Even with the gameplay flaws and real lack of replay value, this is still a very solid game. The story is compelling and this is one of the most visually stunning games to come out in some time. I hope that the folks at 2K take a look at this game very closely and fix these new problems they’ve created in time for Bioshock 3.

Bioshock 2 is out now for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: February 23, 2010, on Lundberg.me and SportsRev.TV

This week I reviewed Bioshock 2 and Spider-Man 1602 #5 (of 5). I also featured actress/model Estella Warren as my hot chick pick of the week.

Originally Published: December 31, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

As the year comes to an end, I think this is an opportune time to take a look forward at the year ahead in gaming. Last year we did this and the nine games we previewed were either awesome as expected (Ghostbusters, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Madworld, and Brutal Legend), pretty good (Punch-Out and Resident Evil 5), or delayed until early 2010 (Bioshock 2, God of War 3, and Dante’s Inferno). The three games delayed until early 2010 are basically shoe-ins for this year’s list as well because all the delays have done is make us salivate more as details leaked out to us. So with no further ado, here are the top 10 games to look forward to in 2010.

1. Bioshock 2: I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year: I will go screaming through the halls here at ESPN the day this comes out from sheer, overwhelming joy. With a lot more revealed in terms of the plot and gameplay, this easily tops my list as my most anticipated game as you return to Rapture and assume the role of a Big Daddy 10 years after the events of the first Bioshock. Along with this new twist from the first Bioshock, there is also a confirmed multiplayer mode and the ability to use your Big Daddy suit to explore the ocean immediately surrounding Rapture, which should allow for all kinds of new and creative ways to explore the once great cultural haven beneath the waves. Barring any last minute setbacks, expect Bioshock 2 to hit store shelves February 9, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

2. God of War 3: There are few trilogies in video games that are more celebrated than God of War and this is before the third one has even hit store shelves. Inspired by many classic stories from Greek mythology, you play as Kratos once more as you attempt to work out your anger issues with the gods for the last time. I had a chance to play an advanced demo of this (which I will post a special PS3 Q1 Preview video next week where I got to talk with some of the developers of God of War 3) and you will flip just like Kratos’ point of view seamlessly does in several epic boss battles as you should expect to start wrapping up this classic trilogy on your PS3 towards the end of March 2010.

3. Dante’s Inferno: Many are calling this a God of War rip-off, but I’m a firm believer that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this might be even better because it isn’t limited to just the PS3. Inspired by the part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy of the same name, if Kratos has anger management issues, Dante is the ultimate obsessive, smothering boyfriend as he is willing to fight through the nine layers of hell to save his girlfriend’s soul while having a tapestry depicting the holy cross stitched to his chest. Just like God of War, Dante’s Inferno mixes classic plot with tremendous, bloody action (and a little bit of nudity) and amazing, original monsters based on this classic work of literature to get any action/adventure fan’s blood pumping. Just like Bioshock 2, Dante’s Inferno hits store shelves on February 9, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PSP.

4. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Travis Touchdown returns with his beam katana (it’s a lightsaber, but that whole copyright thing can be such a pain sometimes) as he has gotten lazy and let his number one world assassin ranking drop all the way down to 51 (possibly in honor of game creator Suda 51?). When things get personal though, Travis once again hones his wrestling inspired moves and attempts to move back up the ladder to the number one spot with even more crazy, over the top boss battles that are even better than those from the first game. The sandbox system is gone to help save on time while you hunt down your quarry and travel from location to location by just going to a map menu now and since that was one of the major complaints from the first game, it looks like No More Heroes 2 could be another sleeper hit from the deranged mind of Suda 51 and his Grasshopper Studios. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a Wii exclusive and should hit store shelves January 28, 2010.

5. Dead Rising 2: The first Dead Rising broke new ground in zombie bashing by having an unheard of (for the time) amount of NPCs on screen at one time with no lag. And it was set in a mall allowing you to have a variety of weapons from food court table umbrellas to golf clubs to nerf guns. Dead Rising 2 takes several of the great elements from the first game (regular guy dropped into a zombie invasion) and puts a whole new twist on it that has me chomping at the bit as I count the days until this hits store shelves. Dead Rising 2 assumes you failed to completely contain the zombie virus at Willamette from the first Dead Rising and now there are zombie outbreaks all over the country. These zombie zones have been cordoned off by the government, but with times being tough, leave it to reality TV to step in to offer the masses a chance to risk life and limb for amazing prizes. “Terror is Reality” is one of these reality TV shows that asks people to help control the zombie population in new and inventive ways for the chance at huge piles of cash. Of course, you’re being dropped into these living nightmares with nothing but the clothes on your back, but it wouldn’t be a zombie game if you were given a gatling gun from the get go. Add in what could be the best online multiplayer of the year as Dead Rising 2 pits you against three other players in an American Gladiators meets Resident Evil scenario and sends you all on your merry competitive ways. Zombie bashing will never be the same again on your Xbox 360, PS3, and PC come the end of Q1.

6. DC Universe Online: It is hyped as what could be the greatest MMORPG of all-time as it allows you to interact with the best of the best of the DC Comics Universe with your own original character and with a member of current comic book royalty in Jim Lee serving as the Executive Creative Director, you know you are in good hands. Unfortunately, it has been delayed countless times and is a game on life support to say the least. DCU Online was supposed to come out last summer, but now we are still waiting to rub elbows with the Dark Knight and Man of Steel and take down the likes of Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze, the Joker, Bizarro, and many, many, many more as a loose Q3 2010 date has been set for this possible PS3 and PC powerhouse. If DCU Online doesn’t come out this year, I think the game will be completely scrapped because it has been in production for far too long for us to wait much longer for it.

7. Mafia 2: Another strong title on the horizon from the folks at 2K (why do they even bother with sports anymore when their shooters and action/adventure games are so awesome?) is Mafia 2. Set in a fictitious mob family in the late 1940s-early 1950s, Mafia 2 combines a GTA-style sandbox experience with a Hollywood-inspired cinematic driven plot as you play as Vito, a small-time hood trying his best to get his piece of the American dream in some less than savory ways. Add in some awesome action sequences and Martin Scorsese couldn’t have done a better job with this. Mafia 2 looks to be the strongest release due out in Q2 when it lands on store shelves May 3, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

8. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Every major attempt to bring the fabled history of Castlevania into the 3D realm has fallen flat on its face and the only thing keeping the series alive has been a successful run with the classic side scrolling action on handheld systems. Things may change come the next holiday season. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has you cast as the mysterious figure Gabriel as you fight through a massive world in the third person. Mix in some puzzles and some holy (or unholy) artifacts to help power up Gabriel and you have the base for a nice action/adventure game. There aren’t a lot of details out on this one yet in terms of how Gabriel fits in with the Belmont clan or if Dracula is even the main force of darkness here (although I’m sure he is because it wouldn’t be Castlevania if he wasn’t), but from what I’ve seen so far, this could be the best chance to FINALLY bring Castlevania successfully onto modern consoles especially with Hideo Kojima (of the Metal Gear Series) consulting on this project, Patrick Stewart serving as the narrator, and some God of War and Assassin’s Creed style gameplay mechanics shown in the early trailer. Expect Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to emerge from the darkness next holiday season for Xbox 360 and PS3.

9. Super Mario Galaxy 2: Everyone loves Mario, plain and simple. Another game expected to be released in time for the next holiday season, Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be the first direct sequel to another Mario game in a decade (since Super Mario World 2 back for the SNES). Add in that you are definitely going to be riding Yoshi around and I’m sure you’ll see the return of some other classic powers and this is another sure fire hit for Nintendo. Plus, don’t forget that you are sure to see a lot of classic Mario themes, enemies, and puzzles mixed in with the tremendous planetary exploration aspect introduced in the first Super Mario Galaxy and this will be another platforming gem from Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy 2 should be out in time for next holiday season and is, of course, a Nintendo exclusive.

10. Metroid: Other M: Nintendo has the strongest first party franchises out there and another one confirmed for next holiday season is Metroid: Other M. A lot like seeing Hideo Kojima’s production studio helping out with Castlevania, Team Ninja, best known for the Ninja Gaiden games, has stepped up to help give a bit of an anime style and storytelling flair to this newest Samus Aran adventure. Mixing some classic side-scrolling action and some 3D arena battles as you progress through the game and interchange between the two seamlessly should keep you on your toes and keep you from getting bored. Add in that at least Ridley has been confirmed as one of the boss battles and it should be interesting to see what Team Ninja can do with this beloved Nintendo franchise. Metroid: Other M is another Wii exclusive and should be out in time for the next holiday season.

So there is my top 10 for the coming year and it is one heck of a list. On top of these games, there are also lots of other games that I just could not take the time to go into right now, plus I did not feel they were worthy of the top 10. MAG, Heavy Rain, Bayonetta, Darksiders, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands (adding a 4th chapter to one of the better trilogies for the last generation of consoles was not necessary and is thus a major reason that Prince of Persia stayed off the list), Mass Effect 2, Just Cause 2, Epic Mickey, Red Steel 2, Mega Man 10, Gran Turismo 5, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and an unnamed Legend of Zelda title for the Wii (not enough info for me to be confident that this will make it in time for a 2010 release, but Nintendo is the best at keeping secrets) all deserve honorable mentions and should be awesome games in 2010, but these are my top 10 and I stand by them. It is going to be another great year for games and I cannot wait. Until then, have a great New Year and my resolution is that I will be sure to try my best to keep you informed over the course of 2010 just as I did over the course of 2009.

-Ray Carsillo

Somewhere, Across the Sea

Originally Published: September 8, 2009, on Examiner.com

Even though it has been pushed back to Q1 of 2010, that doesn’t mean you can’t grab the sweet sounds of the 50s and 60s and start to get ready to head back to Rapture right now.

With more and more details slowly coming to the surface as time goes on in terms of the plot of Bioshock 2, this is probably the biggest feature to be released to date considering the desire level for this from the first game.

As of Labor Day weekend, a multiplayer feature has been confirmed by 2K with 2 minutes worth of gameplay from the multiplayer mode being shown over at Gametrailers.com. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

Now, while the trailer is shown in classic Bioshock fashion (like a 1950s commercial) to tell you about this amazing new feature, the bits of gameplay featured are anything but.

All the old powers are featured along with a few new goodies like traps that can be specially set up for unsuspecting foes to wander into. There are turrets that can be hacked for your own offensive and defensive purposes and the arena looks like the ballroom that you entered when you first arrived at Rapture in the first Bioshock.

The big reveal with this trailer is that it shows you playing at times as a Big Daddy. If you’ve been following any of the news for Bioshock 2, you know that in the very beginning of the story mode you hop into a Big Daddy suit and spend most of the game in it so you’ll probably get used to it by the time you want to test the multiplayer feature.

The main question that comes along with this reveal is “How do you earn a Big Daddy suit in multiplayer?” because if it is an option at the beginning of the match everyone will just want to play in Big Daddy suits. Is it a special kind of match where the person who takes down the Big Daddy is the winner? Is it a Guardian style match like in Gears of War 2 where each team has a Big Daddy? Only time will tell, but it sure makes me excited thinking of all the possibilities.

Aside from the questions the trailer raises about the purpose of the Big Daddy in multiplayer, it raises many other standard multiplayer questions. Can you customize your powers before you spawn? How many powers can you wield at once? What kind of power-ups and weapons can you find in the level? How many arenas will there be? Not much else has been revealed in this trailer besides there will be some multiplayer mayhem in Bioshock 2. For the answers, I guess we’ll just have to wait (and speculate) for 6-8 more months for Bioshock 2’s release (and yes Gametrailers.com has it listed as a November release, but trust me, that has been pushed back).