Is Bioshock 2 actually the best of the series?

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(Courtesy of 2K)

A POINT of contention between many who know their games is that of the Bioshock trilogy.

The debate of course relates to which of the three is the best title; original, 2 or Infinite.

No one ums or ahs at their answer, everyone that I have asked has their definite reply readily prepared.

Bioshock or Bioshock Infinite. Bioshock, for it’s creepy design and ground breaking visuals (compared to its contemporaries) or Infinite for its fast paced combat and grandiose final act.

Bioshock 2 is always written off as a sequel from a different developer that punches just short of the legacy.

I think this is wrong.

I was spurred to write this piece by finding an empty few days in the diary that ended with me playing the trilogy in sequence on a nostalgia trip.

When they are put next to each other so closely, their differences become so much more noticeable.

I shall start by saying that Infinite is extremely over rated and shot itself in the foot with years of hype; promising the Nirvana of shooters while ultimately providing an airborne Thorpe Park.

Where Bioshock 2 has been criticised for lacking innovation, that is also true for Infinite.

The weapons, tonics/vigors and enemies are all just re-skinned ideas from Bioshock 1.

In the build up to Infinite, each of the ‘big’ enemies was given a highlight trailer to get people excited. They all look cool, but their functions are so similar to past baddies.

The Fireman dudes are just a guy that shoots fire, several enemies did that in Bioshock 1. The Crows are the same as Houdini Splicers, Handymen and Clockwork Patriots are just Big Daddy variants, Boys of Silence have the same function as security cameras and the Siren enemy is only used once in the entire game.

My biggest criticism about the enemies though is that the biggest, meanest monster, drummed up across an eight hour campaign, is killed off in a cut scene.

The fight you spend so long waiting for never comes.

The plot is given precedence over gameplay. Instead of that punishing final boss fight against a giant flying Big Daddy, the story takes over to disappear up its own arse with the multi-world plot twist.
The story is interesting, I’ll admit. But it wasn’t as shocking as the “would you kindly” moment. Anyone that’s ever read a comic book will have seen the multi-verse reveal from a mile.

In terms of setting, Rapture trumps Colombia.

The rail-rides strewn through Infinite certainly speed up the combat for larger arenas, but they don’t improve it.

Bioshock is at its strongest in the middle of a close quarters fire-fight, forcing you to utilise as many tonics and weapons as possible with a dozen enemies closing in. The option to monorail out of there to snipe from a balcony takes the urgency out of a situation.

Both places are cool, but creepy and claustrophobic wins.

Now, enough on Infinite, here’s why Bioshock 2 is my favourite.
I loved the original Bioshock and have played it to the point that I don’t know how many times I have seen the credits.

Yet it had problems.

Switching between plasmids and weapons was tedious, the hacking mini-game was jarringly slow paced, enemies only get easier to beat past the half-way mark and it just didn’t show me enough of this amazing location.

I wanted more of Rapture and that’s exactly what Bioshock 2 delivered.

It didn’t feel like an original sequel, but that’s not a bad thing. It felt like a polished continuation of the series, like a talented team had been given the assets and just gone nuts.

Similar to those many Doom WADs out there. 2K took the foundation that Irrational Games laid down and built something immense.

For me, Bioshock 2 fed all my cravings from the original.

The approximation of what it’s like to be a Big Daddy was patchy in Bioshock 1. This was fully addressed in 2, making you feel like a daunting Goliath yet somehow still vulnerable.

The most welcome change was the ability to wield weapons and plasmids simultaneously, the alternate ammunitions are also more satisfying (and useful) than those in the original.

A sad loss in Infinite was the ability to carry all of the guns, switching to the popular 2 weapon capacity.

This is a purposeful decision to make you move more to find the ammo you require or a new gun.

Yet this makes upgrading weapons feel like a waste of time.

You will dedicate a lot of money to upgrading a gun you like, so it’s a kick in the teeth when enemies only drop guns you detest such as the Hail Fire.

It would have served Infinite better to let us carry all of the weapons and then simply restrict ammo availability where necessary.

 

Infinite also went too far to simplify the upgrade mechanics. Where Bioshock 2 introduced new layers to the system as a Big Daddy, Infinite removed it completely in another effort to streamline itself. You just find bottles for an instant upgrade to one of three stats instead.

 

As the credits rolled after Booker and Elizabeth’s last scene together I had made up my mind once and for all.

Bioshock and Infinite definitely had the better plots. But Bioshock 2 was easily the most enjoyable to play, and that is what I prioritise in a videogame.

 

 

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