In our last hands-on preview we served as your guide through the first few hours of BioShock 2. With only a few weeks remaining until launch, we provide the final details of our hands-on time before the game hits shores. During our last episode, Delta was tasked with finding the Incinerate Plasmid in Ryan Amusements to melt a wall of ice blocking the path needed to progress. As soon as Delta incinerated the frozen bulkhead door, we hopped in a train car and continued on our journey to find Eleanor.
As soon as we hit full speed, there was news from Lamb that all rail commutes had been suspended, bringing our train car to a screeching halt and leaving us in Pauper’s Drop. This is about as lucky as your car breaking down in a sketchy neighborhood – one look at this environment and it becomes clear you’re in trouble. Pauper’s Drop has been trashed by its genetically mutated residents. Dilapidated structures reveal planks that allow you to traverse higher parts of the level in order to escape the madness on the main floor. Fires started by wild Splicers shine a light on Sofia Lamb posters plastered all over the walls, a woman they hold in high regard. She spoke to the residents on the radio, or as she calls them the “Rapture Family,” and turned them against our Big Daddy. Must. Escape.
In Pauper’s Drop we’re introduced to a new character, Grace Holloway, an ex-jazz singer blacklisted during Ryan’s reign for singing a song against him. We find that Ms. Holloway is responsible for the rail suspension. Our overarching goal is to fight our way through hordes of Splicers to find her and retrieve the override key. It’s not going to be easy as we discover Holloway has an impenetrable grudge against Delta, and has no problem sending Rapture’s most savage fiend to finish off our Big Daddy: the Brute Splicer.
Brute Splicers protect Holloway as we make our way closer to her location. This is the first time we’re able to face off against the Brute. These guys were part of a genetic experiment that seemed to involve an overdose of SportBoost tonic. The Brutes are swift despite their size and make excellent use of the environment. They will pick up and hurl just about anything within arm’s length. It takes a solid amount of hits and strategy to bring these beasts down. These encounters are on par with Big Daddy confrontations, except that their offense consists primarily of melee attacks.
When we came across our first Brute Splicer, we received a primer on the Research Camera that has been enhanced with video recording capabilities for the sequel. Start rolling the camera, then quickly fire weapons and Plasmids at your subject to study their attacks as you engage them in battle. To further mix things up, in order to research an already recorded adversary, you’ll have to switch your combat tactics to earn proper credit. In other words, you can’t defeat the enemy the same way twice. Not only does this help keep things fresh, but also earns major rewards to help defeat the enemy type in the future once enough research credit is earned.
In addition to changes to the Research Camera, we found differences in weapon upgrades as well. During our playthrough we found enough Power to the People machines to fully upgrade our Rivet Gun. Instead of just earning increased power, the fully upgraded Rivet also has the power to set enemies ablaze after multiple shots, similar to Incinerate. We’re curious as to what additional features other weapons will have when fully upgraded.
One new weapon we were able to pick up that is by far the most satisfying is the Spear Gun. Aim the weapon at a Splicer at the proper trajectory and give it a shot. The spear will then impale the Splicer, pinning them to a wall. Need more ammo? Approach the hanging Splicer to reclaim your bloodied spear for later use. We need everything we can get to make it out alive.
As we got closer to Holloway’s hideout, we navigated dark, narrow hallway passages with just a gleam of guiding light (obviously inspired by survival horror titles) and were surrounded with unsettling ambient noise. You’ll hear rumbling of Splicers or the sound of falling objects that have been knocked down by an unknown force around you. There was no telling when a Splicer playing dead on the floor would spring to life and attack. We admit it. We were afraid. Opening each door in that dark hall was a gamble, and the ambient noises certainly didn’t help.
Once we finally found our way toward the light we were in Holloway’s quarters. This was our next face-to-face interaction with a non-spliced character. The elderly, unarmed woman taunts you at which point you have the option to kill her for the override key, or spare her life and allow her to continue business as usual. We won’t tell you what decision we made, but our actions affected the remainder of our playthrough.
With key in hand we moved on to the next area, Siren Alley, an area you may be familiar with if you’ve seen the trailer. The alley is Rapture’s Red Light district, and is also home of Father Wales, a top follower of Sofia Lamb who you’ll later confront that also waxes on about the cult-ish Rapture Family. Wales was one of Rapture’s original architects, who later took the religious route. We won’t reveal much more, but as you probably already know based on the trailer, plenty of water will be involved.
Siren Alley is one of the most intense levels we’ve experienced. Even though BioShock 2 has added tough, new foes to the Rapture food chain (Big Sister, Brute Splicer, Rumbler Big Daddy), it’s worth noting that battling familiar Splicer types from the first game is no picnic, either.
In our playthrough we noticed enemy AI has significantly improved. Splicers are faster, stronger and more resourceful than ever before. Siren Alley specifically spans multiple floors, giving Splicers plenty of cover and vantage points, which they put to good use. Thuggish and Leadhead Splicers attack in droves from all angles, while Spider Splicers now throw blades in rapid succession as they scurry in and out of surrounding vents. Now it’s especially important to get security cameras, turrets and bots to lend a hand in these encounters. With frequent ambushes, just know you’ll need to be just as quick and ruthless as your foes to survive. In just the first few hours of BioShock 2, it felt as if we were playing the final few hours of the original. Be ready to hit the ground running.
So far BioShock 2 is shaping up to be more than just “more of the same.” Improved gameplay mechanics and creative, multi-tiered levels will give players plenty to explore and experiment with when the game ships in less than a month. As a technical feat, even as a preview build, the game ran smoothly, and we were impressed with the amazing lighting effects and improved graphics overall (only marred by slow-loading textures). What’s left to judge is BioShock 2’s story, which 2K has done a great job of keeping under wraps. We're definitely curious as to which direction the sequel's plot will take Rapture and all the new characters thrown into the mix, and we’re sure you feel the same way. In the meantime stay tuned to GameInformer.com for weekly exclusive features on the BioShock series leading up to launch.
Now on to multiplayer.
In our most recent multiplayer sessions we played a few rounds of the Civil War mode, that plays more like team deathmatch. Team with the most kills win. Pretty simple concept. In each mode a Big Daddy suit randomly spawns at different parts of the level. You’ll know someone has claimed it because you’ll hear the signature Big Daddy groan. If you’re the lucky player to find it, you’ll see the suit pile glowing on the ground that you can pick up to wreak havoc on your enemies. When an opponent is the Big Daddy, you’ll usually have to call upon your teammates to help bring the beast down. You’ll want to stay out of its line of fire because it will bring you down fairly quickly. On the flipside, if you’re wearing the suit, your speed is reduced to account for the weight. However, your health bar expands and with your gun you'll be able to shoot standard ammo and proximity mines. The two drawbacks are the inability to use plasmids and the inability to regenerate health. On the plus side, you’ll gain a major point bonus just for finding the suit and can rack up the kills against your helpless opponents.
For brand new screens and media for both single- and multiplayer modes of BioShock 2, click here.