Preview

Bioshock 2

BioShock 2: Hands-On Impressions
by Annette Gonzalez on Dec 21, 2009 at 05:00 AM
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

During our first trip to Rapture we merely got a taste of what it would be like to become a Big Daddy. In BioShock 2 the team behind the original’s Fort Frolic level, 2K Marin, have placed us in the diving suit of Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy, who has awakened after 10 years of unconsciousness. We recently spent a few hours in the post-Ryan underwater dystopia and can assure you that things have certainly changed.

Our latest visit to Rapture starts off at Adonis Luxury Resort, a once fabulous spa turned nightmare as heavily mutated Splicers destroy each other, and the environment, for Adam. Delta lies in a puddle near a Vita-Chamber and is awakened by the voice of Tenenbaum, who asks us to perform a few simple tasks. This level serves as a training ground for newcomers and a refresher course for players of the original.

One of our first tasks is to find a Plasmid. We use our drill to break past a barrier keeping us from the Gatherer’s Garden. As we approach the machine we see only the eyes of a girl followed by her voice. It’s Eleanor, one of Rapture’s sisters who is bonded to Delta and desperately needs you to find her. Our overarching goal in the preview build is to find Eleanor, but first we must complete other goals to progress. Audio diaries reveal Eleanor Lamb has ties to Rapture’s leader and Delta’s antagonist, Sofia Lamb, but little information has been revealed on how Delta and the Lamb’s are connected.

Eleanor leaves us a little gift at the Gatherer’s Garden—Electro Bolt. As we turn around a Little Sister tells us Delta has been sleeping a long time. “Eleanor misses you,” she says as a Big Sister runs past and knocks the little one down.

Our next task is to use the new Plasmid to power up a generator. Once we find the rusted machine and spark it up, the darkened rooms of Adonis light up while an old school lounge music plays in the background. Tenenbaum asks that we meet up with her at the Atlantic Train Station.

En route to the station we find an audio diary from Tenenbaum that reveals the reasoning for her return to Rapture. With the disappearance of children around the Atlantic she suspects someone may be trying to continue the work she regretfully started and wants to put a stop to it.

Up to this point we were only armed with the drill and Electro Bolt. While exploring Adonis’ various rooms, we find our first ranged weapon, the Rivet Gun, then enter a large room with a Little Sister gathering Adam from a Splicer’s corpse. She warns us of the wrath of Big Sister, and just like that, the twiggy, metallic beast unleashes an ear-piercing shriek just as she ambushes our Big Daddy. We hit her with the Rivet Gun and send shockwaves with Electro Bolt, but were no match for the Big Sister. She drains us of all our health and resources leaving us with just enough to live before she disappears.

In BioShock 2, damage is indicated by blood splatter on the sides of the screen that will remain until you find a health item. Thankfully the previous battle unearthed health and other replenishing items across the room. We were now prepared to follow the tiny terror and finish what we started.

We find the Big Sister in a banquet hall surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Instead of ambushing us once again, she smashes the surrounding windows turning Adonis into a fish tank. As the Atlantic quickly floods the space, helpless Splicers drown and banquet hall furniture loses all sense of gravity. Since your adversaries have drowned, you are immune to damage. The HUD disappears and you are free to explore within the safety of your diving suit.

We exit the flooded banquet hall and walk out onto the ocean floor. Out in the open we notice Adam slugs on various surfaces that we were able to pick up for a small dose. This is one of multiple ways the sequel allows you to attain the precious material. Walking past other Rapture establishments we peer into the windows and watch a Big Daddy take down a group of Splicers trying to snatch its Little Sister, then eventually walk toward a ledge and get to check out Rapture from the top down. The view is stunning with a sea of buildings and neon signs. A shark and a school of fish swim past as we get closer to the airlock control panel to drain Adonis. It’s quite the sight to behold.

The intro tutorials continue with the new metronome-like hacking mechanic and Hack Tool that we use to remotely open doors to progress. Once we arrive to the Atlantic Train Station’s ticket booth, we get our first face-to-face encounter with mother goose herself, Tenenbaum. BioShock 2 promises more interactions with non-spliced characters, and after our hands-on time we can certainly vouch for that.

Tenenbaum is hiding in an office with rescued Little Sisters and needs your help to fend off enemies so they can make a clean break. Once we succeed, she hands us over to businessman extraordinaire Augustus Sinclair.

Our last hands-on preview in issue 200 talked about Ryan Amusements, the next stop in our most recent playthrough, so we won’t retread too much. This place bears a striking resemblance to Fort Frolic, with its disturbing displays and immense variety from one room to the next. Ryan Amusements serves as a cathedral of sorts dedicated to the late Andrew Ryan, and is also a propaganda piece for Rapture. Its mission is to make the children of this underwater dystopia fear the surface, a message delivered by the level’s many displays. One animatronic display shows a family room with a happy couple and their son watching television. Ryan’s voice booms through speakers and says the parasites on the surface will send your son to war…where he will die. The lighting goes from white to red and a giant robotic hand appears that drags the little boy out of the scene. Amusing, and frightening nonetheless.

Most of our time in Ryan Amusements was spent gathering Adam with the help of Little Sisters after taking them from Big Daddies. The Little Sister is perched atop your shoulders and leads you in the direction of a ready corpse with a white, smoky pheromone trail. Upon reaching the glowing dead body it’s suggested you create a defensive perimeter to fend off the hordes of Splicers that will arrive as soon as you place the child down to work her harvesting needle. If you’ve played through the Proving Grounds in the original BioShock, the concept is similar. Fend off baddies until the Little Sister has finished harvesting Adam. A gauge indicates her progress. Whenever you choose to adopt a Little Sister after Big Daddy battle you’re required to harvest two Splicer corpses before dropping her off in her hidey hole. At this point you can do as you wish with the Little Sister depending on what sort of ending you’re going after. Once all Little Sisters are cleared from the level, a Big Sister will attack as the last line of defense for Rapture’s Adam supply. After defeating one of these Big Sisters (there is more than one) you can loot the body for items and an Adam slug for a small hit.

Throughout Ryan Amusements we receive radio feed from Sinclair and Lamb, as well as pick up audio diaries that reveal more information on Delta and Eleanor’s past. As we’re trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, we’ll spare you the details.

This is the part where we’d talk about the levels after Ryan Amusements, but we can’t…yet. For now, read on for our multiplayer impressions.

Multiplayer
The biggest change between the first and second BioShock is the inclusion of multiplayer in the sequel. Digital Extremes, the team behind Unreal, Unreal Tournament and the PS3 port of the original BioShock, is handling the multiplayer portion of the game. The team promises to deliver an experience that will feel familiar to BioShock and Rapture. After spending a few hours with the multiplayer campaign we’d say they’re on the right track.

When you first access the multiplayer menu you’ll have the option to watch a prologue that features Andrew Ryan wishing you an eventful New Year’s Eve as Rapture prepares for the onset of 1959, the year prior to the events of the original BioShock.

At the end of the message you’ll find yourself in your “apartment,” which is a hub to customize your chosen character. There are six characters to choose from, each with a different back story. From the dutiful housewife to the welder you’ll take control of Rapture’s denizens and turn them against your friends. At the hub you can customize your character’s appearance with different masks, or switch up their melee weapons, which include anything from a frying pan to the classic red wrench. When you’re ready to begin a match you can take a bathysphere to the player lobby and invite friends to join a match, or drop right in to an existing one.

At the time of our last hands-on preview only Capture the Sister, Survival of the Fittest and Civil War modes were announced. The other modes have finally been unveiled and include Turf War, Team Adam Grab, Adam Grab and Last Splicer Standing. In our latest multiplayer session, only Capture, Survival, Civil War and Turf War were available for play. Capture is similar to capture the flag (except there’s a small child at stake), Survival is a free-for-all, Civil War is a team deathmatch and Turf War requires teams to capture the most territories before time runs out (multiplayer modes last 15 minutes). Most modes support six to 10 players and take place across new and familiar Rapture environments.

During our hands-on time we saw Kashmir Restaurant, Farmers Market, Arcadia, Mercury Suites, Hephaestus, Fort Frolic and Point Prometheus as playable maps, all of which were levels in the original that have been expanded and optimized for multiplayer. There are new rooms added to make space for the extra turrets and vending machines that can be hacked to destroy your opponents. There are also EVE hypos and ammo scattered across levels to be picked up when you’re running low on resources. Health slowly regenerates from simply walking around. Levels also have an abundance of oil slicks and waterways to make clever use of your Plasmids as well. At the end of each match you’ll earn Adam based on your performance that will allow you to increase in Rank. These points can be earned by the number of kills, assists, number of hacks and research photos taken among other performance achievements.

Starting out you’ll be equipped with a simple Loadout that includes a Pistol and Electro Bolt that you can use against your opponents. When you increase in Rank you’ll unlock new weapons and Plasmids such as a Grenade Launcher, and Aero Dash that allows you to quickly evade or dash into enemies. Tonics can also be unlocked that can help decrease enemy turret accuracy and can cut the time it takes to snap research photos of felled enemies. As your Rank increases, you’ll be able to customize Loadouts to fit your play style with your favorite weapons, Plasmids and Tonics.

For even more Adam points you can complete Trials that gives the player tasks to complete for points in the same way Achievements or Trophies are awarded. For instance there is the Heavy Hitter trial that requires 30 kills over time with a melee weapon, or Master Electrician that requires 30 kills with Electro Bolt. Trials are compartmentalized within weapons, Plasmids and general categories with more than enough options to earn more Adam points.

Overall the multiplayer component is shaping up well. Even amid the chaos of grenade and Plasmid firing in deathmatches, the multiplayer campaign ran smoothly with no framerate issues. We were able to start matches and jump into existing matches without a hitch. Respawning takes mere seconds to quickly drop you back into gameplay so you don’t miss a beat. With familiar elements from the single-player experience and a multitude of ways to earn Adam regardless of skill level, BioShock 2’s multiplayer feature may be able to draw more players in than expected. We look forward to checking out the final product when the game ships in February.

For the second part of our extensive hands-on preview of BioShock 2, tune into gameinformer.com on January 11, when we’ll discuss new levels, gameplay changes, new characters, and more. For even more BioShock 2 details, check out our interviews with creative director Jordan Thomas and multiplayer team Digital Extremes. Also be sure to scroll through our media gallery for the latest screens.