The culmination of the Rapture legacy.
This add-on tells a new plot in lieu of BioShock 2's main narrative. The story follows Subject Sigma, a big daddy who traverses the decrepit, mysterious Minerva's Den, home to Rapture Central Computing, founded by partners Charles M. Porter and Reed Wahl. Porter created an artificial intelligence called "The Thinker", a system of which a conflict broke out between the two, and subsequently diminished their professional partnership. Banished by Wahl's allegation of treason, Porter assists Sigma on the journey to stop the delusions of Wahl and restore The Thinker back to its normal state. This is a solid story that introduces two more fleshed out characters. During the course of the add-on's 5 hour narrative, you'll discover parts of the characters' backstories, and be able to commit to the story. It's well written and ends with a smart, surprising twist that somewhat summarizes the charm and mystery of Rapture.
Minerva's Den looks great in the visual sense, and continues the trend of the series' signature art direction, which makes it one of the most distinct around. The city backdrops look memorable once more, and the assets of BioShock 2 are all identical in this add-on. The environments of Rapture Central Computing look good. However, there are many times when the framerate takes a hit, particularly in heated battle. This is a surprising element, considering the main game doesn't suffer from this issue. The texture pop-in remains, though, which is also a staple of the series.
The audio design is as strong as ever. The voice work from the main cast is great, and the dialogue is interesting. They also have something interesting to say, and the sound effects sound just as good as they did in BioShock 2. The ambience is intense, and the atmosphere is still one of the best around. You'll be immersed just exploring the hallways of this setting, and it really is a compelling place. The licensed soundtrack is also a good as always.
Minerva's Den plays identically to BioShock 2, with dual wielding plasmids and weapons. The controls work as excellent as they have in the main game, and there are some neat additions to the formula that regular players will appreciate. First, there is a new weapon called the Ion Laser – a rifle that fires heat beams at its target, with continuous fire becoming progressively powerful. This is a handy weapon when fighting the spider splicers. With that comes a new Big Daddy type – the Lancer. This Big Daddy is equipped with the Ion Laser, and also exudes a powerful, impairing flash of light which can seize Sigma for a couple of seconds. These fights prove challenging, and more skill-requiring than some of the fights in BioShock 2. There is also a Fiery Elite Brute, a powerful version of brute that inflict fire damage on Sigma. These are also challenging encounters.
During the course of the game, in addition to the default weapon set you will come across upgraded weapons, which have the pre-defined assignations. These make it easier to kill enemies, instead of finding upgrade stations. These are well-hidden, though, making exploration more rewarding. The level design is good, allowing for more open fights and some intense situations with Big Sisters when rescuing Little Sisters – which works the same in terms of ADAM extraction from corpses. Minerva's Den has a consistent pace that compliments its story nicely. You'll never be stranded, cut off from the narrative due to confusion, and there are signs placed around levels so that it doesn't become the case. There are a few problems I had with the gameplay, though they may be player preference. During the game's 4-5 hour run, there were only a few weapons I needed. I feel the inclusion of the normal weapon set – namely the Rivet Gun, Machine Gun and Missile Launcher – weren't needed because I had my preferred set at the ready. I'm not sure if other players felt this was an issue, but like I said it might just be a personal problem.
Minerva's Den is a sizeable add-on that will run between 4 to 5 hours. This is a great length for a game that doesn't feel overstretched or filler. The game has some hidden vacuum bots to search for, which contain items when destroyed. There are 10 in total which, in addition to rescuing all of the Little Sisters (which you will want to do) give you trophies for your troubles. There are also some secret audio diaries to find that continue to flesh out the personalities of this amazing city. I'm not sure if it is a DLC I will immediately return to, but there's a slight chance I may play it again. After all, it is Rapture!
All in all, Minerva's Den is an add-on you will definitely want to play. Not just to find its secrets and new weapons, enemies and areas, but to enjoy the worthwhile story that culminates this memorable city in positive fashion. Enjoy your short return to Rapture – one of the best game settings around.
Overall – 8.5/10