|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 2K Marin, 2K Australia, Digital Extremes, and 2K China||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb 9, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
December 21, 2009 - BioShock 2 is set to release upon the world in some 50 days. 2K Games afforded us the opportunity to sit down with some preview code in order to give y'all the skinny on what you can expect from the second entry in the company's gaming opus. We're happy to report, the game's coming along 'swimmingly' (sorry, I couldn't resist). After dealing out a lot of death (and suffering even more of our own) in both multiplayer and single-player, we know gamers are in for a real treat come February 9, 2010.
Getting the cart before the horse, I was wrangled into a press multiplayer session before I ever got the chance to play even a second of the single-player campaign. It didn't matter, though; hopping into the Plasmid-filled competitions was second nature. That's because the controls in BioShock 2 are identical to what they were in the original. Also, commands are mapped logically. So, if you've never played BioShock but you're familiar with FPS controls, it'll only take you a minute or two and a little wasted EVE to get the hang of the action.
The multiplayer side of BioShock 2 is surprisingly good. Even though the devs have tried tirelessly to communicate that it's more than just a tacked-on back-of-the-box entry, I was skeptical. After playing for a couple hours, I can confirm that familiar competitive and cooperative multiplayer game modes feel fresh and unique when contested in the halls of Rapture. For starters, the use of Plasmid abilities helps multiplayer standout. Freezing fools, lighting them on fire, and shocking them while filling them full of lead or a face full of 9-Iron is quality gaming. Combine these powers with environmental hazards (leaky pipes, pools of petrol, etc.), and you can turn a simple Plasmid ability into a truly lethal weapon. Unfortunately, I'm forbidden to go into depth on all the Plasmid abilities you'll have at your disposal, but just know these powers add a distinctive element to the gameplay.
Furthermore, you'll accrue new powers as you level up in multiplayer. This gives a whole lot of incentive to keep on playing it to unlock all of your characters' potential (we were able to choose from six pre-gen personages, each complete with their own back-story). In addition to Plasmids, Tonics (similar to perks) and varied weapon types (machine guns, revolvers, shotguns, etc.) will give your characters more options and enhanced performance. In order to keep them all organized, you'll be able to save a number of load-outs depending on which maps and game types your set to play in.
Multiplayer maps in BioShock 2 are quite different from the neglected, dilapidated zones found in single-player (more on that later). Multiplayer serves as something of a prequel to BioShock. Taking on the role of Plasmid test subjects for Sinclair Solutions, players will fight it out moments before the utter downfall of Ryan's social experiment due to a raging Civil War. As such, players will get to see Rapture in its full grandeur and splendor, except for a few strategically-placed gouts of water and flammable spills. Heading back into familiar areas such as Neptune's Bounty, Mercury Suites, and the Medical Pavilion, but in their heyday, is a visual treat that adds another layer of depth to the online action.
Game types in BioShock 2's multiplayer include Survival of the Fittest (free-for-all), Civil War (team-based Deathmatch), Capture the Sister (CTF but with a Little Sister instead of a flag), Turf War (zonal control), ADAM Grab/Team ADAM Grab (hold the Little Sister as long as you can), and Last Splicer Standing (team-based Elimination). Every one of these modes will be recognizable to any FPS enthusiast. Still, they play out in interesting ways due to the Plasmid-infused mechanics and the labyrinthine, lived-in map types. Plus, random Big Daddy suit drops across most multiplayer modes is a super-fun twist. The Big Daddy suit serves as a real boon or a mighty challenge depending upon which team you're on. Putting on the suit makes you a target, but mowing through competitors with the beefy buff is a giggle-inducing treat.
Multiplayer gameplay in BioShock 2 is fast and furious. In fact, it's much like the run-and-gun fun found in multiplayer titles such as Unreal Tournament. This is no coincidence, as Digital Extremes (which worked on entries in the Unreal series) was tapped by 2K Games to develop the multiplayer experience. Consequently, multiplayer shootouts are not particularly precise (like what you would find in the Modern Warfare series), but are quite satisfying, nonetheless. The hectic, claustrophobic feel of the multiplayer will definitely get your adrenaline pumping.
Of course, what would a sequel to BioShock be without an intense single-player campaign. Despite having logged a handful of hours in the story, I can only bring you information up to the Ryan Amusements segment of the game (something less than two hours in). While I wouldn't call these first moments a tutorial, players will become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of what they must do to survive in Rapture.
Taking place about 10 years after the events of the original BioShock, players will hop into the suit of the prototype Big Daddy - an un-handicapped model of Big Daddy that threatens a new menace in Rapture aligned against the player character. Players will find that they are much more resilient this time around. The prototype Big Daddy not only carries the iconic drill, but you can also equip a number of weapons and hacking tools to blast your way through the Splicers of Rapture. Best of all, Plasmids and Tonics are still at your disposal. In fact, players can now dual-wield both weapons and Plasmids.
Playing as a Big Daddy in BioShock is a different proposition - it'll likely keep the gameplay feeling fresh for most players. This is probably true even though the core mechanics of the original title, such as setting traps, puzzle-solving, killing Splicers creatively, picking up voice diaries, and looting the environment, are essentially identical. We'll have to wait and see what player reactions are, however, because I felt playing as a Big Daddy in single-player wasn't quite distinct enough - it often doesn't feel as if you're a lumbering hulk, just a more-powerful survivor.
One change to the formula, however, is that you'll now help a Little Sister to harvest ADAM, rather than choose to save or take her out. Helping her to reap brings you into set-piece shootouts, where waves of Splicers will be sent after you and the Little Sister. Another is the addition of a new foe in Rapture. While Big Daddies in the first game were benign until you decided to hurt their charge, the new Big Sisters will actively seek you out. These lithe creatures are undoubtedly the most powerful entities in Rapture, making Big Daddies seem like the docile whales their vocal affectations mimic.
BioShock 2 is nearly complete, and we had a great time with the preview code. We're very anxious to head back into Rapture, as the beauty, intensity, and creepiness of the game's predecessor is still fully intact. The addition of a controllable Big Daddy (in both single- and multiplayer), Big Sisters, and a new storyline should keep the BioShock faithful busy and happy this February. Stay tuned for our full review coverage in the next several weeks.
CCC Editor / News Director