By Sherwin Loh
|» Price: $79.90 (PS3), $69.90 (Xbox 360), $59.90 (PC)
» Genre: First-person shooter
» Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
» Rating: 9/10
THREE years ago, Bioshock was Digital Life's choice for Game of the Year.
The good news is a second tour of the underwater city of Rapture is just as enriching, if not more dangerous, as before.
Set eight years after the events of the first game, original hero Jack is gone, this time replaced by a newly awakened Big Daddy, a series of big, bad monsters in diving suits from Bioshock.
Rather than a mindless hulk, this is the first thinking Big Daddy of his kind who has been sworn to protect his charge, Little Sister Eleanor, who has called on him for help.
As it turns out, psychiatrist Sophia Lamb has been kidnapping and brainwashing Little Sisters and grooming them to become her unquestioning army of Big Sisters when they grow up - faster and more ferocious killers than any Big Daddy.
If you thought that fighting Big Daddy was tough, wait till you meet the deadlier female version.
The sequel does little to change the mood of Rapture, which is a good thing since the city itself is a huge character in the game. Fans of the original would find familiar settings, enemies and artifacts - from splicers to haunting voiceovers to special attributes.
In fact, things were so similar, my wife thought I was playing the original game as she walked past me.
The use of weapons and plasmids, which grant users fire, electricity and telekinesis, are also back in great form, and it was not too long before I was frying and toasting freak survivors in Rapture.
If anything, the game is now a little harder to beat. Previously, you could kill a Big Daddy and opt to be bad or good when it comes to each accompanying Little Sister.
To be bad, you would harvest Adam - the fuel or energy source of your special abilities - from the Little Sisters, thus killing them outright. To be good, you would adopt them but get less Adam for her.
Now, if you choose to adopt a Little Sister, she will lead you to gather Adam from dead splicers but the catch is, she takes forever to extract Adam.
In that time, splicers will be drawn towards you and will attack in waves.
Getting killed just when the Adam bar was filled up made me regret not harvesting Little Sisters the first time.
The hacking mini-game - to unlock safes, disable security devices and open vending machines - has also been tweaked. From the pipe flow element that paused the game to a new real-time trigger, things move towards a more dangerous Rapture.
Then there is the multiplayer mode which takes players to the time before the madness of genetic manipulation gripped the futuristic city of Rapture during a time of civil war.
With new weapons and plasmids, a new layer has been added to the game for those who feel the need for a new environment to master and destroy.
All in all, this is a more massive and immersive game than the original, slightly diluted only by the fact that fans already know about the horrors and terrors in Rapture and its inhabitants.
That removes some of the mystic, but thankfully, none of the excitement.
When Big Daddy takes a fall, he is revived in a nearby Vita-Chamber.
The interesting thing is, the enemies do not move or regenerate their health, so you can wear them down by hammering them repeatedly until you are the last person standing.
The above tip, however, does not work when a Little Sister is harvesting Adam. If you die, she will stop harvesting to look for you in the Vita-Chamber and the whole process of harvesting needs to start from the beginning again.
This will prove difficult since you are slowly watching your ammunition and health drain away, while still having to fight the same number of splicers who are drawn to her.
Hack a Med Station to pay less for healing and, when you plan to leave the area, destroy a Med Station to earn you one Med Pack, which you can keep in your inventory.
Just make sure you have cleared the area since a Med Station is a very important machine you want operating while you fight.
This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life.
For more The Straits Times stories, click here.