Bioshock 2

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By Neil Schneider

  • Introduction
  • General Game Review
  • NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings
  • iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings
  • DDD Tridef Ignition Findings
  • Conclusion

    Introduction

    The original Bioshock was a memorable game which carried an Ayn Rand motif. You played an airline passenger who crash landed in the middle of the ocean and discovered a secret underwater city called Rapture. A twisted mix of nostalgia, plot lines, and scenic beauty; it scored very highly for gaming in stereoscopic 3D. In fact, I was so enamoured by it, I used it as part of a demonstration at SIGGRAPH 2008.


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    2K Games has released Bioshock 2. Taking place ten years after the first, Rapture is still very much intact, and this time, you play a Big Daddy who is on a special mission.

    Does it hold up to the original Bioshock? Will S-3D gamers be equally pleased? Let’s find out!



    General Game Review

    In the original game, you started off as a helpless visitor who grew more powerful as you injected yourself with genetic enhancements called "Plasmids" and acquired advanced weapons. Your main enemies were "splicers"; characters like yourself who took a few Plasmids too many, and went insane.

    Your biggest concern was the Big Daddy’s; heavily armoured scuba-monsters who protected "little sisters". The "little sisters" were the cultivators of "Adam", the resource used to make the genetic enhancements possible.


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    In Bioshock 2, YOU’RE a Big Daddy! Your history isn’t quite revealed at the beginning of the game, but the premise is that you are a Big Daddy prototype who was created by Dr. Sophia Lamb, Rapture’s current ruler. Dr. Lamb disapproved of your bond with a specific Little Sister, and through the power of suggestion, orders you to commit suicide...which you do. Years later, you awaken in a Vita Chamber (a cheat-death machine), and your adventure begins.

    The goal? Find your "little sister", and protect her from Dr. Lamb.

    If you think that being a Big Daddy is an easy job, you are sadly mistaken. While the original Big Daddies from the first Bioshock bordered on being impenetrable, you’re the one that was made with substandard parts. Splicers armed with wrenches can tear through you like tinfoil, so don’t walk into a room with a false sense of confidence.


    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision 196.21 Stereo Driver

    Fortunately, you can enhance your Big Daddy with a wide selection of weapons, genetic enhancements, and physical ability. This is what makes Bioshock 2 the most fun; the nearly limitless possibilities for diversified mayhem (or "unbridled enthusiasm", I forget which).


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    While it’s great to slap people silly, nothing is free. Your genetic enhancements need regular "Eve" injections to work, guns need ammo, and even your trusty arm-drill needs oil to run. Fortunately, most supplies are easy to find in the carnage you wield, in storage cabinets, and countless vending machines. Money is important too, so get as much as you can!

    There are some big advantages to being a Big Daddy. While the first game touched on this a bit, Bioshock 2 is much better at getting you to use your environment to work for you instead of against you. My favourite weapon is the remote hacker weapon that lets you shoot enemy cameras and turret guns, hack them remotely, and make them your gun toting servants.

    Even some of the Plasmids have some charming spells. When you are advanced enough, you can hypnotize splicers to attack each other, or even follow you around to fight cooperatively!


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    You are probably wondering why all this extra weaponry is necessary. I guess at some point, it may seem like the flimsy splicers are no match for you. WRONG. This game is as much about tactics as it is about firepower.

    In the original game, you just had to kill a Big Daddy, grab a "little sister", and harvest her to get the "Adam". In Bioshock 2, you have to kill the Big Daddy, bond with the "little sister", and protect her from the hoarding splicers while she is harvesting the "Adam" FOR you. As the game progresses, the Splicers get big and bad, so you will need every advantage you can get.


    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision 196.21 Stereo Driver

    Once your are done with that, you are A-OK, right? WRONG! Meet the "Big Sister". Armed to the teeth with weapons, agility, and hot chrome attitude, Big Sister doesn’t like it when you harvest Adam from the Little Sisters. With a Michael Jackson shriek (too soon?), Big Sister will be relentless in her efforts to rip you gear from gear.

    2K Games clearly wanted to try some new things with Bioshock 2, and one of the elements is the ability to walk outside the confines of Rapture. You won’t be able to shoot weapons, but walking underwater is pretty cool!

    The original Bioshock was just that: original. The look, the feel; everything was well crafted. Even the introduction sequence was breathtaking, as you got your first introduction to Rapture and its underwater glory.

    While Bioshock 2 is adventurous and visually interesting, I think the first was a bit sharper in this regard. I remember the first being visually beautiful because it regularly maintained an underwater component where you can look out into the ocean’s distance. This one, not so much.


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    If anything, I think they cut back. There is an underwater train that you take from station to station. Do you get an underwater tour of the city? No. The screen just fades to black, and you reappear at the next level. These are wasted visual opportunities.

    While Bioshock 2 does a great job of having different levels with unique scenery, the original was more theatrical and elaborate somehow. It’s almost as though Bioshock used up the best scene choices, and Bioshock 2 had to come up with creative ways to reinvent the wheel. It works, and you will enjoy the game; it’s just that some of the shine couldn’t be recreated.



    NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    NVIDIA specs:

    Maingear X-Cube
    Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ
    6GB RAM
    2 X GTX 275 (SLI)
    Windows 7 64 Bit
    NVIDIA 196.21 Stereo Driver
    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision / Samsung 2233RZ Monitor

    Once you get the game running, it’s pretty good. I preferred the original Bioshock because there were a lot of scenes where you could see the ocean in the windows, and everything had a breathtaking depth to it. Bioshock 2 seems a bit simpler in stereoscopic 3D, though it does work well.


    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision 196.21 Stereo Driver

    While NVIDIA supports DirectX 10 graphics in stereoscopic 3D on paper, this is not a competitive advantage with Bioshock 2. S-3D gamers must turn off "Advanced Post Processing Effects" to prevent 2D glow problems, and there is no solution to the cut-out shapes that appear around objects during underwater sequences.


    Video sample of Bioshock 2 in stereoscopic 3D

    NOTE: Visit the original YouTube page to view in stereoscopic 3D. Several S-3D viewing options are available. The audio cuts out in mid-video because of YouTube error - we can’t fix this.

    For some reason, the special stereo 3D mode offered in the Bioshock 2 settings menu doesn’t create a dynamic crosshair in the game either, so you will have to use NVIDIA’s laser sight add-on instead. These flaws are difficult to explain away because we gave NVIDIA seven days notice on February 9th that we would be doing this review, and through luck, it got postponed several weeks.


    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision 196.21 Stereo Driver

    To NVIDIA’s credit, you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, and I like that shadows are rendering at the correct 3D depth. This is hard to achieve for some.



    iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    The iZ3D System Specs Include:

    AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
    Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
    EVGA GTX285
    Windows 7 64 Bit
    Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
    iZ3D drivers 1.10

    While run in DirectX 9, the iZ3D results are nearly identical to that of NVIDIA’s. You can get a combined depth and pop-out effect, and using their "left shift" driver feature, you can use the in-game crosshair instead of their laser sight add-on.

    You will need to turn the "Advanced Post Processing" effects off with iZ3D because they too have glow effect problems. The shadows are also poorly rendered, so turn the "shadow maps" off too. On the plus side, there are no cut-out problems with underwater scenes which is good to see.

    If you download the game from Steam, it won’t work right away. You need to modify the shortcut to call up the game’s binary file directly, rather than working through Steam’s menu system or program link. Not all games can do this, so we were lucky with Bioshock 2.

    You will need to activate the "Simple Projection Method" in the Bioshock 2 iZ3D profile if you want to keep the weapons inside the screen, rather than floating in front of it.

    The performance is very good, and I would expect an NVIDIA 8800 series or ATI 3870 series or better would run fine at 1680X1050.

    Something to remember is the 1.10 iZ3D driver is months out of date, which is really something when you consider how much compatibility it manages with Bioshock 2.

    One of our policies when writing reviews is to not inform the driver developers what needs to be fixed ahead of time. We just give them seven days notice, advise the experiences we test for, and hope they know what to fix. While they could not share a profile update, iZ3D’s CTO, Vadim Asadov, told us that their next driver version has been tested with Bioshock 2 and works in DirectX 10.

    While we have a responsibility to confirm iZ3D’s results before jumping to conclusions, it does sound promising. In the meantime, we can’t share screenshots until iZ3D’s driver is updated. A driver bug prevents us from doing this.



    DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    The DDD System Specs Include:

    AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
    Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
    EVGA 285GTX
    Windows 7 64 Bit
    Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
    Tridef Experience 4.2 Package (with 2.5 Ignition drivers)

    It is very rare that we have a stand-out winner, but DDD got it bang on. After being informed of our review, DDD sent us an updated profile in two days, and it’s already available in their current driver release.


    DDD Tridef Ignition 2.5

    While it’s still not quite as good as the original Bioshock, the shadows are rendered in stereoscopic 3D, the light sources are rendered at the correct depth, and you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out effect. Yes, all settings can be left at full, too!

    While I prefer to have a combined depth and pop-out experience, I like to keep the guns and weapons inside the screen when possible. I guess it’s a matter of taste, but what matters most is you have the flexibility to adjust for this. The DDD profile I created for the game has been attached to the forum thread.

    Bioshock 2 must be run in DirectX 9 mode with DDD drivers, so make sure you put "-DX9" as a file parameter in the game’s shortcut, or the driver will give you an error.



    Conclusion

    Bioshock 2 was a worthy successor to the original. It’s a lot of fun, the weapons and tactics are a lot more varied, and you can tell that 2K Games really tried to beef up the story and environments to make it fresh. While they succeeded in most areas, the original still holds its ground in my eyes as an undefeated artistic achievement.

    For an S-3D gamer, Bioshock 2 is good, but not AS good as the first. While the results are reasonably positive with NVIDIA’s GeForce 3D Vision, they can’t claim top billing. 2K Games should have informed their customers that there are equally viable, and in this case, better options available. I’m sure even Andrew Ryan (still played by Armin Shimmerman!) appreciates that there are a lot of fish in the sea, and all solutions should have been supported equally.


    NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision 196.21 Stereo Driver

    Would you kindly share your thoughts on this review in our discussion forums, and be sure to check out our Bioshock 2 image gallery?

    Game Play
    8.5/10

    Sound
    9/10

    Presentation
    7.5/10

    Immersive Nature
    8/10

    How Memorable Is This Game
    7.5/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
    7.5/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
    7/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD
    9.5/10

    NVIDIA Overall Rating:
    8/10

    iZ3D Overall Rating:
    7.92/10

    DDD Overall Rating:
    8.33/10