published Saturday, Jan 05th
Bioshock, an ambitious title from 2K Games mixing shooting, strategy and RPG elements, was arguably the landmark title of 2007.
The journey to the subaquatic dystopia of Rapture was a refreshing one from the identikit first-person shooters that came before it. For instance, wandering through the decaying art deco locales of one man’s dream gone horribly wrong, encountering and fending off the physically – and mentally – twisted Splicer population and the occasional monstrous Big Daddy.
It was fresh and invigorating. The gunplay was perfectly complemented by the range of plasmids you could augment yourself with, combining straight-up shooting with an elemental twist, along with the numerous traps you could set for your frenzied foes. Its frantic action and wonderfully emergent storytelling cemented its place as one of the finest games of this generation.
The announcement of a sequel, Bioshock 2, was roundly met with reservations: was there really a need for a second tale set in Rapture and if so, how could it possibly outdo, let alone match the brilliance of the original tale? Worrying is futile, though, as 2K have created a title that is thrilling, emotional and most importantly worthy of the Bioshock name.
Eight years have passed since protagonist Jack liberated the underwater hell that is Rapture (for better or worse). The reins, formally held by Andrew Ryan, have transferred from one tyrant to another with Sofia Lamb, an equality fanatic, instigating a regime change from extreme capitalism to extreme communism. Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy successfully bonded with an ADAM-collecting Little Sister, has awoken from a coma. The coma was induced by Lamb as she abducted his owner, Eleanor, almost a decade ago. In order to save Eleanor (and redeem himself in the process), Delta must come to her rescue and finish Sofia Lamb and her oppressive regime once and for all.
After a rather impressive opening cutscene (in which you violently stomp a splicer’s head), you’ll begin exploring new areas of Rapture, getting used to wielding weapons and plasmids simultaneously while drilling holes in Splicers. You’ll be having a great deal of fun, although you’ll be haunted by the nagging feeling that you’ve played all this before.
The storytelling, the greatest feather in the original’s cap, soon begins to kick in. You’ll quickly be reunited with Brigid Tennanbaum, still furiously attempting to save the Little Sisters from their dreadful fate, before meeting Sinclair, your new host and greatest ally in your quest to rescue Eleanor.
Once again, you’ll stumble across personal diaries scattered throughout the dystopia that reveal the background behind some of the city’s key events. The concept of finding diaries is a gaming cliché nowadays, but Bioshock started the trend and still proves to be the ‘big daddy’ when it comes to drip-feeding players a captivating and frightening story.
Moral choices make their reappearance; the majority of them once again concerning Little Sisters. After defeating a Big Daddy, you can ‘adopt’ their Little Sister, taking her to an ADAM-filled corpse and thus protecting her from the depraved Splicers. Afterwards, you can either save her, giving her a chance of a normal life, or violently taking all the essence from her body and killing her in the process. These moral choices, along with other decisions, have stronger implications this time, affecting the latter part of the story and determines the ending you will receive.
However, no matter how you deal with the Sisters, you’ll attract the attention of the ferocious Big Sisters – the female counterparts to the Big Daddy golems. The Big Sisters are the strongest, most agile and most dangerous foes in all of Rapture. Skirmishes with them are intense, resourcefully draining affairs, making the euphoria and relief that follows their defeat a suitable reward for winning the encounter and one of the high points of the title.
Like most current games, Bioshock 2 features a multiplayer mode which, rather than being an unappealing, tacked-on last-minute affair to increase longevity, is actually a surprisingly playable addition.
Inspiringly set in a civil war preceding the events of the original, you’re free to explore your apartment and customise your player and weapon choices before embarking out into one of several game modes (such as Capture the Sister and ADAM Grab).
Although the shooting mechanics are solid with a range of weapons and plasmids to be unlocked, there’s nothing new on offer to match the multiplayer of other titles. Though there is some great attention to detail, such as diary entries for the individual characters and your visual appearance becoming more spliced and horrific as you level up. Your mileage may vary, but you’re guaranteed to get at least a little fun out of the online element.
Nothing can recapture the feeling of exploring it for the first time, but nevertheless Rapture retains its status as one of the most astounding game environments of the last few years. It plays host to a variety of eerie characters, some frantically creative battles and a fantastic story. Bioshock 2 incorporates a pulse-pounding mad dash to the conclusion, offering possibly the most horrifying and disturbing set-pieces to ever feature in a videogame.
So should Bioshock 2 even exist? The answer is a resounding yes. A worthy sequel to such an influential title, where Rapture failed, Bioshock 2 doesn’t.
We’re here, we’ve counted down from 50-31 and 30-11 and now we’ve reached the best 10 games of the last decade. Whatever your opinion on the final standings there is no doubting these titles are some of the best to grace consoles, ever.
Here’s to the next ten years.
10 – LittleBigPlanet
LittleBigPlanet can safely put itself up there with the elite titles – those that not only stand out amongst the crowd, but also change the games that follow it. LittleBigPlanet changes things not via its satisfying platforming, but by also using its heavy emphasis on customisation – not just in the small scale of character looks but also in the capacity to create levels from scratch to build the game how you see fit. Placing the creativity in gamer’s hands was massively innovative and although it may not has been the first to offer the ability to create custom gaming experiences, it certainly made it far more accessible than ever before.
Platform: PlayStation 3 Developer: Media Molecule Year: 2008
9 – Guitar Hero
Almost single handedly reinventing the rhythm game genre and the first in line in the series, Guitar Hero was a sleeper hit. With over 1.5 million sales on release the arguably small genre hit big in the living room. Pioneering with an actual guitar controller, it paved the way to 13 other titles in the franchise to date, and inspired many others to follow suit. It also made everyone feel like they could play guitar. Almost.
Platform: PlayStation 2 Developer: Harmonix Music System Year: 2006
8 – Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The top selling game of 2007, Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a shooter that included a well written and intense storyline with realistic graphics and an incredible online experience. This game saw Infinity Ward turn the series from World War 2 based to a more modern, gritty gaming experience which gave us a realistic look at the brutality of modern war. Add to that a well crafted multiplayer and you
have one of the best first person shooters ever.
Platform: Multi Developer: Infinity Ward Year: 2007
7 – Halo 3
Finish the Fight. In what may have been the most hyped game – and some might say over hyped – to ever grace a console, in the final instalment of the Master Chief’s fight against the Covenant and the flood, you finally get to the end of an emotional roller-coaster ride to the climax. Along with its single player campaign, Halo 3 also greatly expanded upon the popular – and still played today – Halo 2 multiplayer. With brand new maps, weapons and tweaks in the dynamics Halo 3 definitely improved upon its predecessor, and has been the most played game on Xbox Live of 2007, 2008 and even 2009. So, Call of Duty? Eat your heart out.
Platform: Xbox 360 Developer: Bungie Year: 2007
6 – Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 could be the most anticipated game of all time. It has certainly lived up to the hype. Infinity Ward took everything that made the first Modern Warfare so great and stepped it up a notch. It provides the player with an over the top, explosion heavy, gun blazing single player. Surpassing that though is it’s fast pace, challenging and more importantly rewarding multiplayer, which is almost perfect.
Platform: Multi Developer: Infinity Ward Year: 2009
5 – Half-Life 2
Half Life 2 saw the return of Gordon Freeman, a scientist from City 17 fighting for his life to survive. Building upon its predecessor, this game gave the fans everything they wanted, from cutting edge graphics to an incredibly engaging single player campaign. The detail and perfection found in every aspect of this game ensures that it will become a timeless title.
Platform: Multi Developer: Valve Year: 2004
4 – Gears Of War
While Gears Of War certianly didn’t bring anything new to the table it did refine already existing aspects to create one of the perfecylt crafted titles of the last decade. It’s cover system was without fault, it’s shooting system had the realistic feel that is often lacked and it’s story provide the hook that brought it all together. If you could forgive the clunky-ness it’s multiplayer also provided hours of gory fun. A special mention should also go to the chainsaw. Best weapon ever.
Platform: Xbox 360 and PC Developer: Epic Games Year: 2006
3 – Portal
“Welcome to the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center.” Are the first words you’ll hear when you first play this game – bar some cheesy yet catchy music out of a radio. Portal is a First Person Puzzle game in which you have a gun called the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, or “Portal Gun.” This gun has the ability to shoot two portals – an entrance and an exit Portal – that you need to use in order to traverse the various levels of the game. And did I mention you have a slightly psychotic AI guiding you called GLaDOS? Portal is an immensely fun game and most definitely worth a play for all game lovers out there. Oh and by the way… the cake is NOT a lie.
Platform: Multi Developer: Valve Year: 2007
2 – Bioshock
One of the most beautiful games created last decade, Bioshock, spiritual successor to 1994’s System Shock, mixed lush Art Deco-inspired surroundings with a strong sense of unease and discomfort to devastating effect. The sub-aquatic dystopia of Rapture is both absorbing and agitating, since any one of the city’s monstrous inhabitants could jump out at you at any time. Hugely post-modern, Bioshock contains some of the most memorable characters in videogame history, alongside perhaps the most shockingly brilliant plot twist ever to be found in any form of media. The thinking person’s shooter, Bioshock thoroughly deserves its place near the top of the list.
Platform: Multi Developer: Irrational Games Year: 2007
1 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has been the winner of numerous Game of the Year Awards in 2009, including our very own, and has become widely regarded as having the best graphics to come out of a console so far. In the main protagonist’s second outing, you follow Nathan drake on his quest to find the ancient city of Shambhala in his quest for the Cintamani stone. Going from a war-torn Nepal to the heights of the Himalayas you jump, climb and fight your way to find out the dark secrets contained within the ancient city. If that wasn’t enough, Uncharted 2 offers 5v5 multiplayer action and a 3 player co-op objective style game play. All in all, Uncharted 2 is a masterpiece and technical marvel of what the PS3 can do. With a story worthy of those multi-million dollar Hollywood films – along with the cheesy jokes to go with it – this game definitely deserved every single bit of praise it received.
Platform: PlayStation 3 Developer: Naughty Dog Year: 2009