Bioshock 2 Preview

[[The Rapture Family]]

It's New Year's Eve, 1970, ten years after you last visited Rapture. Last game, we learned the dangers of underwater living when the dystopian society was run by objectivist Andrew Ryan. This time, Rapture is under the control of Sofia Lamb, a crazed commie whose views are the exact opposite of Ryan's. Rather than praising the power of the individual, Lamb promotes group efforts and togetherness. Yes, Altruism is the new Objectivism. Just in case you doubted Rapture's potential to be just as effed up as it was in the last game, a cult has risen up around Dr. Lamb called The Rapture Family. This charming club is led by Lamb's lieutenant, Father Wales. We have a feeling that underwater '70s communism will fare just as poorly as it did in the rest of the world, but who knows: you could spend the duration of BioShock 2 peacefully reading Tolstoy while spooning with Lenin on a Siberian bearskin rug.

You won't be going underwater as a milquetoast human. Instead, you'll don the massive, intimidating dive suit of a Big Daddy. This Big Daddy is the original model; the prototype for the Big Daddies seen in the first game. Despite being a prototype (code name: Subject Delta), you have free will and are smarter, faster, and stronger than your brethren. You've awoken on New Year's Eve 1970 with no recollection of what has happened during the past ten years, and your first course of action is to seek out the Little Sister you were originally paired with. Realizing quickly that you won't find the Little Sister right away, you turn your attention toward ending Lamb's destructive reign, which won't be easy. That's because Lamb has herself a veritable army made up of Big Sisters, an enemy new to the series.

Big Sisters are Little Sisters all grown up, but instead of getting ready for their first dates and learning how to put on make-up, these maniacal teens have copped a serious attitude and assembled Big Daddy-like suits out of scrap. Seems that Lamb has instructed them to search the Atlantic coastlines for little girls to abduct and bring back to Rapture.

In order to save the little girls and stop Lamb, you'll need to make a few alliances along the way. If you played through the first title, your allies may be familiar to you. Most notably, you'll be teaming up with Dr. Bridgette Tenenbaum, a geneticist who helped to originally develop ADAM (the raw genetic material that allows for new abilities and attributes; it's also used as currency for the game's vending machines) and Augustus Sinclair, former CEO of plasmid company Sinclair Solutions and inventor of the Vita-Chamber. Like your allies in the first game, they'll be helping you out over the radio.


You'll be facing the same enemies you did in the first iteration of this FPS, with a few new additions. Splicers (the basic baddies that attack in droves) will be more powerful than in the first game, having years more splicing experience under their mutated belts. Revisiting Rapture will be Leadhead Splicers (carrying pistols or machine guns) and Nitro Splicers (grenade-throwing foes), who we encountered in the first title. There are new Splicers in BS2, although not all of them are known. The new, bile-tinted Brute Splicer is bigger, stronger, and harder to kill than his comrades. He fights like an agile Big Daddy and should make for a mini-boss to be reckoned with. BS2 adds a new Big Daddy type called the Rumbler. The Rumbler is a combat specialist who unleashes maximum firepower at the expense of armor. Get ready to face turrets and RPGs when you mess with him.

Not all available weapons in BioShock 2 have been revealed as of yet, but we do know of a few that will be making an appearance. Your Big Daddy drill will replace the wrench as your basic melee weapon. A medium-range Rivet Gun replaces the pistol. Rounding out the confirmed arsenal is a Gatling Gun, Double Barrel Shotgun, Cannon, and Spear Gun (which comes with a scope). As in the first title, it will be up to you how you want to use these weapons. Should you run in guns blazing, or find cover and use the environment to set up traps? One of the reasons this series is so brilliant is that it allows the player to play the game their way.

[[Multiplayer modes]]

Unlike BioShock 1, BioShock 2 is getting multiplayer. Not just your typical tacked-on deathmatch and capture-the-flag affair, BioShock 2's multiplayer is built around an entirely new story.

Set in 1959 (one year before the events of the original BioShock), multiplayer pits players against one another in Rapture's civil war. You are participating in a consumer rewards program sponsored by Sinclair Solutions, where you'll be able to test out their weapons, Plasmids, and Tonics.

Multiplayer will have the leveling hardcore fiends have come to expect from games like Halo and Call of Duty. As you level up, you'll not only unlock new goodies from Sinclair, but you'll progress the story of the Rapture Civil War. Your character will also become more deformed as you level up and collect more ADAM. Players can climb through the ranks all the way to Level 40. There are four "clubs" as well, which seem to be larger-scale rankings. Only two are known thus far: the Bronze Club and the Silver Society. Besides simply leveling, players will be challenged with "trials," which require them to complete specific tasks like killing a number of enemies with a certain weapon. These trials get more difficult as you progress through their levels. It is unclear exactly how trials will affect clubs and rankings.

Your personal, interactive apartment will serve as the multiplayer menu in the game. As your rank increases, new items in your apartment like phone messages become available to give you unique insight into Rapture.

Seven different multiplayer game modes will grace BioShock 2 out of the gate. Survival of the Fittest, a game Andrew Ryan surely approves of, is your standard everyone-versus-everyone deathmatch. Last Splicer Standing abides by the same basic principles, except players do not respawn. Whoever is left standing at the end of the game is the winner. ADAM Grab tasks players with holding on to the map's Little Sister for as long as possible, harvesting ADAM the entire time. Whoever holds onto her for the longest wins.

In squad-based play, teams will be divided into Andrew Ryan supporters and Frank Fontaine supporters. Andrew Ryan was the objectivist, individualist overlord of the underwater habitat Rapture in the first game, and Frank Fontaine was his vocal opponent.

Civil War is team deathmatch: whatever side racks up the most kills wins. Capture the Sister is BS2's take on Capture the Flag. One player from each team will be chosen at random to be the Big Daddy, protecting the AI Little Sister. Your goal is to capture the other team's Little Sister and lead her back to your base. Whatever team scores the most captures wins the game. Team ADAM Grab is, you guessed it, ADAM Grab with teams. ADAM harvested from the Little Sister is accumulated as a team; the team with the most ADAM wins. Finally, Turf War is the game's take on King of the Hill. Teams hold on to set territories for as long as they can to win the game.

So, none of the game modes are really unique, but no one ever said you had to be original to be a good time. Until we actually get our hands on BS2 multiplayer, we can't tell whether or not it will take you away from Modern Warfare 2 for more than five minutes.

[[Maps, Weapons and playable characters]]

Six playable characters will be available to choose from. Each has their own backstory and related melee weapon. Jacob Norris is a welder who was instrumental in building Rapture's physical foundations. He carries a wrench. Barbara Johnson, appropriately wielding a frying pan, originally went to Rapture to escape the malaise of being a '50s housewife. Professional football player Danny Wilkins was the star of the Ryan's Raiders team. He now enjoys splicing and cracking skulls with one of his many trophies. Buck Raleigh, essential Mad Men businessman, made a killing in bourbon. Now he's making a killing underwater with the help of a lethal golf club. Apparently inspired by Amelia Earhart, lady pilot Naledi Atkins can do anything as well as a man can…including murder. Finally, mystic Suresh Sheti carries a magician's cane and uses Plasmids to expand his mind.

Preordering the game from GameStop will net you access to two additional characters: Zigo d'Acosta, a husky fisherman born aboard a whaling ship and armed with a wooden club; and Mademoiselle Blanche de Glace, an actress straight out of the glamorous days of Grace Kelly and Lana Turner. No word on what Blanche's melee weapon is, but here's hoping it's one of those two foot-long cigarette holders. Very suitable for eye-pokin'.

Ten maps have been confirmed so far for multiplayer, with discussions of possible DLC potentially revealing more maps to be released in the future. So far, the following areas have been confirmed as multiplayer maps: Arcadia (a tranquil area with living plant life), Fontaine's Home for the Poor, Hephaestus (Rapture's main power production facility), Kashmir Restaurant, Neptune's Bounty (the main fishery), and Mercury Suites (a residential area for Rapture's very wealthy). These areas will generally look like they did in the original BioShock. If you recall, the original BioShock was slated to have multiplayer, which eventually was removed from the game in order to focus on building a perfect single-player experience (a successful endeavor, that one). It is entirely possible that BioShock 2 was built on the work the developer had already done on BioShock multiplayer, which explains the choice to base the story around the time of the first game. Other multiplayer maps are rumored to be located in and around the Medical Pavilion, the Farmers Market, Fort Frolic (an adult Pleasure Island), and Point Prometheus (the first game's final level).

In addition to the weapons available in the original BioShock, BS2 multiplayer will feature new multiplayer-exclusive weapons. So far, the following weapons are confirmed: pistol, machine gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, chemical thrower (napalm had yet to go out of style in 1959, baby!), research camera, and crossbow. Players will always have the research camera on hand (yeah, we thought it would make a crappy main weapon, too) and can use it to take pictures of dead bodies. Grab a successful snapshot and receive bonus damage against that enemy for the duration of the game.

Plasmids (special serums made of ADAM that allow for genetic modification) making confirmed appearances in BioShock 2 multiplayer include old friends Electrobolt, Incinerate, Winter Blast, and Telekinesis. There will be multiplayer-only plasmids, which we can't wait to test out. Geyser Trap shoots out a blast of water, sending enemies into the air or serving as a launch pad for your own character. Aero Dash thrusts players forward at a high-speed, knocking enemies aside with a stiff elbow. Finally, the Houdini Plasmid lets you turn invisible. No new plasmids have been announced for single player so far.

The ultimate power-up in BioShock 2 multiplayer comes in the form of a familiar hunk of metal. In a random location on each level, a Rosie suit will spawn. Find it and climb on in, because you'll be able to take advantage of a Rivet Gun (Rosie the Riveter, get it?) and Proximity Mines, as well as a stomping move that stuns all enemies within a certain radius. Killing you won't be easy because your health will get a huge boost (however, it won't recharge after you take damage), but the reward may be worth it: Rosie carries a heaping helping of ADAM which will help you level up fast. It isn't clear if this suit will only appear in certain game modes or if it will spawn across all games, but it is clear that we'll be camping near it and waiting for you.

[[Back on Top?]]

Original BioShock ingénue Ken Levine is officially not involved with this project (although with all the "is he or isn't he?" floating around, who knows what really goes on). When we first heard that the sequel would be built without its visionary, we were skeptical about the series' fate. Would BioShock 2 drown in the bargain bin? For some who caught wind of the fact that it isn't technically using a current-gen graphics engine, it seemed like that might be the case.

Like the original, BioShock 2 is built on a modified and improved version of the Unreal Engine 2.5. Although a superior version has long been available in the shape of the Unreal Engine 3, using the modified version of the 2.5 went a long way towards getting the game done faster. And you can't argue with results: despite the initial backlash to the news, you have to agree that the game looks better than most games made with the Unreal Engine 3. Think of it as a souped-up '70s GTO versus a stock 2009 Mustang. Still, one can't help but wonder what might have been had the game been in development an extra year with UE3. But such is business.

After getting a good look at the game, we're confident it could be just as good as the original. Only the final retail build holds the answer, so prepare your face for splicing deformities and your wetsuit for an accident on February 9, 2010.

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