Review: BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den

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It is both a sad time and a happy time to be a BioShock 2 fan. Sad because Minerva’s Den, the new single-player DLC side story to the BioShock 2 campaign, is said to be the last piece of DLC 2K will release for the game (and who knows, with BioShock Infinite coming up this may just be our last chance to visit Rapture…for a while at least). But happy too because Minerva’s Den just so happens to be the deepest, most substantial BioShock 2 add-on yet, not to mention one of the best all-around DLC releases for any game, period.

The numbers really say it all. For the $9.99 / 800 MS Point price, Minerva’s Den expands BioShock 2 with three new areas of Rapture to explore — each one seemingly just as large as any area from the main game — six more Little Sisters to rescue/harvest and 12 more Adam gathers to defend them in; two more Big Sisters to contend with; 10 Vacuum Bots to find and crack open (think of them as Rapture’s version of secret treasure chests); and eight additional Trophies/Achievements.

On top of all that good stuff, a new weapon, the Ion Laser, and a new mini-black-hole-generating plasmid, Gravity Well, have also been added to jazz up the existing arsenal of weapons and plasmids Rapture denizens are already familiar with – and they both do just that, although the developers certainly could have been a bit more creative with their puzzle designs involving the Gravity Well plasmid. To get to the Little Sisters, you’ll also have to contend with new Lancer Big Daddies equipped with Ion Lasers of their own, and new security bots capable of firing zaps of electricity and rockets can be hacked to help out in tough battles. There’s even a bonus arcade shooter game to dabble with called Spitfire.

Altogether that amounts to roughly five or six hours of extra gameplay — perhaps one or two more if you’re an obsessive completionist (like me!) who has to scour every nook and cranny of Rapture, as to be sure not to miss a single audio diary, lootable object or secret room. Minerva’s Den may be DLC, but in many ways it feels like a complete game.

Beyond the numbers, Minerva’s Den consists of a gripping side story paralleling the events of the main BioShock 2 narrative. As Subject Sigma, you are placed inside the deep sea diving suit of another alpha series Big Daddy, this time on a mission to print out the operating code for The Thinker, the AI mainframe controlling all technology in Rapture, and return it to the surface. Charles Milton Porter and Reed Wahl, co-creators of The Thinker, are introduced as the two lead characters, with Porter guiding you along via radio transmission as the good guy and Wahl, who has spliced himself mad, serving as the maniacal antagonist.

Compared to the original BioShock, BioShock 2’s character cast wasn’t quite as interesting or memorable. But this side story changes that, as Porter and Wahl are characters you want to get to know, and their rivalry is highly entertaining to be party to. There’s a clever twist that’ll truly surprise you too, and — I’m not sure if this was intentional on the developers’ part or not — the closing moments play out like one last stroll through Rapture, capping off this part of the BioShock narrative on an emotional high.

As happened in the early hours of BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den can feel all too familiar at times as you go through the usual progression of collecting audio diaries, finding weapons and plasmids, and using Adam to upgrade plasmids and grow your Big Daddy with gene tonics. But to me it’s a good familiarity, because even though the scenery doesn’t really change, Rapture is a game world I never tire of immersing myself in.

BioShock 2 initially caught flack for being an “unnecessary sequel,” and to be honest, I felt that way at first too. But after playing through Minerva’s Den and reflecting back on my time spent plowing through the full game, I’ve developed even more respect and admiration for the game (the multiplayer mode was and still is completely unnecessary though). BioShock was a difficult game to succeed, and while BioShock 2’s storyline doesn’t resonate quite as much as the original’s, it still tells an engaging underwater tale — and I don’t think anyone can argue that the gameplay isn’t a vast improvement. Minerva’s Den only reinforces this, and should this wind up being the last time we get to stomp around in Rapture, it pleases me to see the underwater city close up shop on such a graceful note.

So, would you kindly buy Minerva’s Den and celebrate BioShock 2 as it deserves to be celebrated?

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Pros:
+ Thoughtfully fleshes out the BioShock narrative
+ Interesting story twists and memorable new characters
+ Ion Laser and Gravity Well plasmid are fun new toys to play with
+ Hours of new gameplay and content rivaling some full-priced, standalone games
+ Closes the book on BioShock 2 with a bang

Cons:
– No more BioShock 2 DLC after this

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and coming soon to PC
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Release Date: 8/31/2010 (PC release date still TBD)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!