Well after months and months of waiting, its finally here. Bioshock 2, 2K Marin’s second first-person shooter set in the dystopian underwater city of Rapture, was released yesterday and yours truly took it for a spin, with my trusty notebook in tow.
It’s been nearly three years since we first stepped foot in Rapture but the old place looks no less impressive. A lot of the original visual elements, such as the ocean and Rapture’s many tall buildings seen through windows and portholes, have been drastically overhauled to look much clearer and the 2K team have done a great job crafting environments that feel familiar to players of the original game but still look brand new. The games primary antagonist, Dr. Sofia Lamb, is introduced to the player in the opening cutscene and then never leaves you alone. It becomes apparent very quickly the impact she has had on Rapture since last we were there. Her slogans can be found on most every wall and her quasi-philosophical propaganda being pumped through the PA system makes for a very eerie setting. Although you only get a brief glimpse of Subject Delta’s handsome face at the beginning of the game the sound and effects go along way to establishing you as a Big Daddy, with your character roaring with every hit taken and the ground shaking with every jump. Being a Big Daddy doesn’t make you invincible however and when you start all you have for defence is your trusty drill, with very limited fuel. It’s not all bad though as everyones favourite sea slug slicing sweet girl splicing German doctor Tenenbaum is back and she guides you to your first Plasmid of the game, electrobolt. The Plasmids have also been redone in this game and come far deadlier to your average Splicer, what’s more you start the game with three Plasmid slots instead of the two available at the start of Bioshock. If your anything like me I know what your thinking, “I didn’t use Plasmids last game”. Well I guarantee you will in this game as guns and ammo just isn’t enough and your drills fuel runs out far too quickly. Couple this with the fact that in this game Splicers attack you in much larger groups(due to your new Big Daddy status) and you’ll be thankful for every drop of EVE you get. Especially as you’ve got your first ‘boss’ battle a little up the way, Big Sister is coming.
The Big Sister is the main muscle of Lamb’s deranged army and will attack you whenever you finish your dealings with one of the Little Sisters(which we’ll come to later) as well as at random points throughout the games story. They boast all the abilities of a regular Big Daddy but move with the speed and agility of an Olympically trained cheetah. As if that wasn’t bad enough they also sport an impressive health bar. Put this together and you got a formidable opponent(and you didn’t believe me about Plasmids being a necessity). “What’s in it for me?” I hear you ask. Well bring down one of these monsters and in addition to the money and ammo you can pillage from them you also get a cool 40 ADAM to spend on upgrades at the nearest Gatherers Garden, see its not so bad after all. As I briefly mentioned back there the Big Sister attacks are linked to your actions with the Little Sisters but the Little Sisters themselves have changed so much in this game that I think they deserve a paragraph of their own, so…
Little Sisters are, as you may remember, those adorable little tykes carrying those less than adorable blood filled syringes. Everybody wants them because of the precious ADAM they hold but to get to them you’ve gotta go through the Big Daddy. Whilst Big Daddies have always been big and made lots of noise, in the first game that’s fundamentally all they could do. I admit the Bouncers charge attack could come a bit sharp but all in all the Big Daddies were push overs. Not anymore. In Bioshock 2 the Big Daddies have been remade to be twice as deadly as before. Their attacks now do considerably more damage to the player and they have a lot more health. The two daddies of the original game, namely the Bouncer and the Rosie, return but there joined by a new friend called the Rumbler. The Rumbler is bigger, meaner and stronger than the other two and keeping with this personality, favours heavier weapons. He comes equipped with a rocket launcher and can deploy “mini-turrets”, little cannons that home in on the player and open fire. Scary no? well I hope not as you’ll need to defeat plenty of these to get to the Little Sisters and believe me, you want to get to the Little Sisters. In Bioshock when a Big Daddy died you were left with two choices either rescue the Little Sister and turn her human, or kill her and harvest the sweet sweet ADAM. Well Bioshock 2 expands on the system by instead allowing you to adopt a Little Sister once her daddys been dealt with(you don’t have to though, the option to simply “harvest” them remains). Once adopted the Little Sister can be dropped off at any of the fresh, ADAM filled corpses marked on your map and told to go to town with her pointy implement. Lovely. While she’s doing that you must hold off waves and waves of Splicers and stop them from getting to her, to this end the game devs supplied you with plenty of new area defence weapons such as the trap rivet and the cyclone plasmid. Before you put the girl down set up your perimeter using all the options available to you, then when the horde comes you should be ready and left with the easy task of mopping up the survivors. Simple enough and if any of your trap rivets or proximity mines didn’t go off, well then you pick them up and use them later. Successfully protect the Little Sister through the process and you net yourself another 60 ADAM. This can be repeated twice with each sister but after that she has to go, little girls need there rest after all. Take your sister to the nearest vent and you will be given the two options you were in the previous game, rescue or harvest. As before rescuing provides less ADAM than harvesting but the choices you make will effect the game so choose carefully. Every level of the game(save for the ending levels) has a certain number of Little Sisters to rescue or harvest, make sure you get them all before leaving as backtracking is not an option in this game. Now we move onto a most touchy subject, Bioshock 2′s multiplayer.
When you hit the multiplayer option for the first time your given a choice of 6 spliced up characters to choose from, each with there own backstory. After choosing your taken to the main multiplayer menu and a giant exclamation mark makes it clear that you should hit the ‘prologue’ option. The prologue begins with a brief cutscene of Andrew Ryan talking to the player through the TV and establishing the scene. It’s 1959 and your working as a product tester for Sinclair Solutions, this job involves you taking weapons and plasmids out into the street and killing other ‘testers’ such as yourself. Fun business to be in. After the cutscene you get to walk around your apartment and inspect all manner of things, such as the Gene Bank where you can pick your loadout and the wardrobe where you can(ever so slightly) customize your character. Then when your ready you step into the bathysphere and begin your first match. Well you step into the bathysphere, wait 5 minutes, then start your first match. Finding a match seems to take a while but this may just be because of how new the game is. Bioshock 2′s multiplayer includes 7 game modes, none of which are exactly revolutionary but they all offer a Rapture-esque take on old ideas. First up is Survival of The Fittest – a free for all deathmatch mode. Then Civil War – a team deathmatch. Capture The Sister is essentially capture the flag, except the flag is a little girl. There’s also Turf War – a team based Territories game and Last Splicer Standing a team deathmatch with elimination style rules. Finally there’s Adam Grab a free for all game similar in style to Halo’s oddball where players must retrieve the Little Sister and hold her for as long as possible and its team based version, Team Adam Grab. Online play handles the same as offline play with limited ammo and limited EVE, however health recharges over time. Through kills and winning matches players earn ADAM which allows them to rank up. With certain ranks comes access to new weapons and plasmids and ultimately players unlock tonics and tonic tracks to augment there characters. Players can only ever carry two weapons and two plasmids though. All in all the multiplayer is – dare I say it – not bad. Instead of getting a tacked on badly handled mess as I was expecting, what we have is a pretty well made multiplayer that is actually kind of fun to play. Admittedly its not COD standard but it does the job it was intended to and does it well. Also as players rank up they unlock audio tapes, that can be listened to in the apartment, that tell the story of the civil war in Rapture and establish more details about the characters. Very nice idea and makes playing the multiplayer worthwhile to fans of the main story.
Well that about does it. Awful lot to take in isn’t it – and still Bioshock 2 brings more. I haven’t even mentioned the underwater sequences shown in all the earlier demos(they look stunning by the way) or the new enemy the “Brute Splicer”(think big, strong gorilla looking man. Now picture this man throwing a piano at you). How about the new hacking system that replaces that annoying old pipe game? or the new hacking tool that goes with it? or the new research camera? I’d be here all day listing off all the new features Bioshock 2 brings to the table so if you really want to know your gonna have to go buy it. Trust me, its worth it. I’m not going to lie, the story is not as thrilling the second time around but the cast of characters is just as varied and insane as before and gameplay has vastly improved. Plus all the new tonics included in this game mean you can really be tactical about how you play. Personally I despise rating systems but if the original Bioshock was a 10 out of 10, I’d say Bioshock 2′s gotta at least sit on the 8 or 9 area of the chart.