I have always looked back a lot more positively on Bioshock 1 over Bioshock 2, but it has been a long time since I played both. It was also quite a gap between playing the first Bioshock over the second. Nostalgia has always altered my opinions when it comes to games, so this is never a subject I could accurately speak about before now. After purchasing Bioshock The Collection I have had a nice opportunity to play both games back to back with an equal visual standing. Now is no better time than any to compare both games by putting Bioshock 1 vs Bioshock 2.
Rapture is such an unusual location. The story is what makes this game so special and is most definitely the reason I loved the first 2 games so much. Bioshock 1 definitely had a lot more mystery to it, but of course it would, it was the first time we visited the city. I think Bioshock 2 did a very good job at providing a new an interesting story in a world we have already visited. While both stories were good, Bioshock 2 fell short when it came to filling the shoes of Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontane. Andrew Ryan was such an interesting man who had such an incredible vision.
Sofia Lamb was also a great character in the context of the story for Bioshock 2, but she didn’t build the same sense of power and control. Ryan felt like powerful character who looked down upon you, he was the king of the castle. The scene where you met him was not only a great scene in the game, but it was also a fantastic speech, “A man chooses, a slave obeys”. Sofia Lamb on the other hand gave off no sense of power and control. She was desperately trying to escape and prevent you from getting to her. She did not have the grace and sophistication that we got from Ryan.
I think that Bioshock 2 did a much better job at giving you some understanding of right and wrong. There were almost no consequences for harvesting the little sisters in Bioshock 1. A different cinematic ending and that was about it. In Bioshock 2 I ended up feeling bad and regretted my decision to harvest the sisters. This came down to the choice being a last minute decision that the publisher forced upon Bioshock 1. It wasn’t in the original plan for there to be an alternate ending and is still something that Ken Levine is unhappy about having to do.
Bioshock 2 was created with the intention that it would not mimic Bioshock 1. It would be a completely different story that was just set in the same location. In terms of fulfilling this goal, they get 10/10 for this. The issue is that all of the best parts and characters within Rapture were in the first game. By excluding this, there was not a lot of grade A material to work with. Bioshock 2 is by no means a bad game, but the story is not as good as Bioshock 1. In fact, I found Minervas Den DLC to be better than Bioshock 2, but that’s a different subject.
The gameplay in both games is identical, the only difference is you are a bigger and stronger character in Bioshock 2. A big daddy can hold a shotgun with one hand and use a plasmid with the other. This option was really cool. The 1-2 punch was possible with all kinds of weapons and plasmid combos. Being a Big Daddy also comes with a certain sense of power. The weapons and plasmids were pretty much the same across both games, with the exception of the plasmid in Bioshock 2 that let you call Elanor. Bioshock 2 took all the fun parts of Bioshock 1 and made them better.
The little sister of being a Big Daddy was also interesting. It was a great decision not to force it upon you. If you want to just harvest every sister, then you can do it without any issue. You also have the option to adopt her and be a Bid Daddy for a while. A really cool an interesting option to allow. It was implemented very well and making it optional was the best possible decision they could have made.
The locations you visit in Bioshock 1 are almost entirely flawless in my opinion. I love the retro vibe of everything. To build a city beneath the sea, you need some high end technology. They had this tech, but it was a world of retro futurism. A 1930s vision of what is possible in the future. Using trees to supply oxygen to rapture is a prime example of this. Unrealistic solution, but it is based on some logic and I loved this. All of the locations you visit throughout the bathysphere routes are all fitting this same retro vibe. Things felt like they were so classy back in the day. I spent so much time wondering what it would have been like to go to these locations before Rapture went to hell.
Bioshock 2 felt a little out of place at times. It felt more like Gotham city rather than Rapture. There are several locations where you forget you are even below the sea. Grubby, run-down locations that look like slums in Gotham City. It does not give off the same level of class that we got from Bioshock 1. The amazing part of Bioshock 1 was how it was so retro yet futuristic. The locations, while run down, were rich and classy. Bioshock 2 felt nothing like this quite a lot. Admittedly there were some really cool locations that fit the Rapture vibe, but overall I think Bioshock 2 fell very very short in this area. Rapture is below the sea, this needs to be taken advantage of with lots of windows, not concrete jungles. This to me was the biggest downfall of Bioshock 2.
Both Bioshock games did a great job at bringing the deep and interesting story of Rapture to life. Bioshock did a much better job at this and stayed true to itself from start to finish. Solid locations, characters and story. Bioshock 2 had some very strong qualities, but it did not stay true to the universe. It felt as though it fell into different worlds at times. Never let people forget they are in Rapture, its too good to leave out. This is why the winner of Bioshock 1 vs Bioshock 2 has to be Bioshock 1.