It took a while, but the BioShock 2 Short Script is finally up. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and while its story wasn't quite as engaging as that of its predecessor, its gameplay mechanics felt a lot more solid and worked out (the story does get points for not forcing a big reveal on itself just because BioShock had one). This once again underlines the importance of putting gameplay before story
. BioShock 2 has been called "a most unnecessary sequel", but I think 2K Marin did an admirable job. Had it been the original game, the enthusiasm of 2007 would have been no lesser.
It struck me as an inspired design decision to have the choices the player makes in the game resonate through a dedicated character. Eleanor Lamb's entire persona is shaped in a "lead by example" fashion, where she ends up doing as the player did. While still considerably dualistic (she can either be a merciful saint or a vengeful monster), the player's behaviour towards certain NPCs is also introduced as a variable which leads to a set of possible endings that don't necessarily fall into one end of the moral spectrum. All in all, it's a good way to make a player's choices feel like they have an immediate and lasting effect, even if it still comes down to a simplified grasp on a quantifiable version of morality.
The gathering mechanic (where the player has to protect a Little Sister from hoards of Splicers while she extracts ADAM from a corpse) introduces a consistent element of area defence to the gameplay. That type of gameplay is usually hit-or-miss, but BioShock 2 provides a vast array of weapons and tools to make these battles fiercely enjoyable. Especially the interactions between different plasmids and the possibility for combinations demonstrate that 2K Marin finetuned these set pieces with a spirit of accountability, where each experiment is seemingly covered.
With the recent announcement of BioShock: Infinite, which has Ken Levine back at the helm, I'm curious to see if he can now push through some of the elements he had to alter or drop from BioShock. I definitely noticed some elements from BioShock's original design document being picked up for BioShock 2 (like the religious cult and increased potential for player customisation). You can find that document here
. It's a very interesting read, precisely because the scant details currently known about BioShock: Infinite make it seem like Levine is now closely adhering to his original vision. Just compare their respective premises:
BioShock (original pitch): "Carlos Cuello, a cult deprogrammer, is sent to an island to find and rescue a wealthy heiress, who is in the thrall of a religious group there."
BioShock: Infinite: "Booker Dewitt, a former Pinkerton agent, is sent to a city in the clouds to find and rescue Elizabeth, who is at the centre of a conflict there."