- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2010

I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at some of the latest titles from the electronic entertainment industry in Video Game Bytes.

BioShock 2 (2K Games, rated M for mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99) - It’s time to return to everyone’s favorite decaying and dysfunctional dystopia to take part in a first-person shooting event that has little chance of living up to its original.

Yes, the next chapter of BioShock lives on in computers and home entertainment consoles and offers more EVE injections, juicy ADAM upgrades, security bots and plenty of insane splicers to keep solo warriors busy.

Through a story that takes place 10 years after the first, it finds a player in control of one of the famed bulking enforcers dressed in armor that resembles deep-sea diving gear.

Specifically, instead of being a confused plane-wreck survivor stuck in the underwater city of Rapture, the player is a Big Daddy, code-named subject Delta, a more spry brute than his behemoth brethren.

This tough guy is distinguished as being the first to bond with a conditioned female child, a member of the Little Sisters.

A sequel is always dangerous territory, and that is never more apparent than here.

The story complexity and shock value of the first can never be re-created, so developers just offer better game mechanics, such as dual-wield weapons and more extras to make up for the loss in plot punch.

Still, I am happy to be part of the experience.

Rapture’s art-deco destruco-infused wonderland never stops dazzling with a high creep factor found in those roaming, savage, ADAM-addicted, rambling zombie splicers and a constant infusion of 1940s musical ditties to set a mood.

The high production values remain a shining example of a potent, interactive package sucking the player into the story and becoming part of Rapture’s mythology.

Be it a constant stream of collectible radio broadcasts from curse characters, or your quavering right hand, itching to freeze, electrocute or incinerate on command, or subtle shadow effects plucked right from a haunted house, it’s captivating.

Big Daddy Delta packs one heck of a punch for both hands this time out. From a massive drill to a shotgun with phosphorus buckshot to hacking darts and those right-hand powers, as long as the player manages to keep a supply of found or bought munitions and a power serum called EVE, he is nearly invincible.

The player’s major mission is to reunite with his favorite Little Sister, a female child named Eleanor, while basically surviving. The addition of a new hybrid enemy makes visiting the Vita-Chamber (a re-spawning mechanism) a regular occurrence.

For those unaware of the power of this bond between Daddy and Sister, decisions based on how a player interacts with his new female friends determine the epic’s outcome.

Those moral choices are as grisly and visual as ever. Get to know a Little Sister as she responds, “You’ll protect me from those monsters, Daddy?” Have her crawl on your back. Let her inject a big needle from a couple of dead Splicers to harvest ADAM.

Now, let her escape through the vent and collect a modest amount of ADAM - or harvest the little pest, complete with holding a gooey slug pulled from her, listen to the screams, and collect a bountiful amount of ADAM.

It’s as disturbingly uncomfortable as the last game and guaranteed to invoke a deep reaction from folks just watching.

Also new is a multiplayer extravaganza.

I understand 2K Games’ “bigger and better mentality” but found little interest in the option. BioShock is such an atmospheric, personal experience for a player that I had little reason to want to share.

* Visit Zadzooks at The Washington Times’ Community pages (https://communities.washingtontimes.com).

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