Perhaps one of the most anticipated games coming out this year, BioShock 2 is on display at E3 2009, and though it's not here in any playable form, we did get to see a trailer of the single-player mode in action and, surprisingly, a good chunk of the multiplayer. First, the single-player mode in BioShock 2 takes place 10 years after the events that transpired in the original game, which means that Rapture has fallen into a state of decay as the ocean continues to reclaim it and its inhabitants. The focus of the single-player mode, in terms of its lead character, was to change it from the perspective of an outsider to that of a resident of Rapture, and in particular someone who plays an important role in the overall framework of the city.
That new lead character is the original Big Daddy--the very first to don the massive diving suit in the city of Rapture. But he's different from the single-purpose drones that roam around in the original game. He has regained his free will, which also happens to make him faster and more agile than other Big Daddies. Additionally, he can use a variety of weapons, ranging from the massive Big Daddy drill and a rivet gun to all-new plasmids, which have been tweaked to make them even more effective in combat. But more importantly, the original Big Daddy can make one decision that the others cannot: He can choose to protect the Little Sisters and continue to let them harvest Adam from fallen splicers or he can harvest them and take their Adam.
After we viewed a brief trailer of BioShock's lead character in action (which you can view above), representatives from Digital Extremes took to the front of the room to give a deeper look at the multiplayer component in BioShock 2. Unlike the single-player campaign, BioShock 2's multiplayer component takes place a year before the original game, during the civil war that initiated the downfall of Rapture and Andrew Ryan's underwater utopia. What's interesting is that there are actually two very different methods for jumping into a multiplayer game. There's a standard menu option and then there's Jacob Morris' (the lead character in multiplayer and a welder who may have even helped build Rapture) apartment, which is a visual representation of all of the multiplayer options and information presented in spectacular Art Deco Rapture style. You even have your own bathysphere to launch you into a multiplayer match.
The apartment, or safe house, is also where you can build loadouts for Jacob before joining a match. You can mix certain types of weapons with certain plasmids, so that you can immediately access those combinations without having to go back into a menu. (You can also select from your list of loadouts after dying in a match.) And if you're wondering how a lowly welder gets access to weapons and plasmids, a group named Sinclair Solutions provides you with them because they have a vested interest in the outcome of Rapture's civil war (you might remember that there was a bar in the original BioShock called Sinclair Spirits). But Sinclair's involvement doesn't end there. At the end of every match, the company will assess your performance and potentially promote your ranking, which essentially grants you access to more weapons and more plasmids. It's similar to what was done in Modern Warfare, only dressed in the BioShock universe, and should make it easier to create matches for players of similar skill.
This particular demo was of the Free for Fall mode, and it supports up to 10 players like the other multiplayer modes. The map is the Kashmir Restaurant, an area from the original game. Digital Extremes points out that because the game takes place just one year before the original, it makes sense to use some of the same areas, but they've been reimagined to make them more balanced for multiplayer. During the early minutes of the match, we find out that plasmids also have two different types of attacks: a quick fire and a charge fire. Obviously, the quick fire lets you shoot more quickly, but it's less powerful. Conversely, a charge attack is much more powerful and extends its damage, but it also leaves you open to attack from other players because it takes a few seconds to charge. Of course, either kind of attack still costs Eve, which is why you visit can the Circus of Value vending machines scattered about each map. Digital Extremes doesn't want to break the flow of the action, so all you have to do is walk up to it and get your Eve replenished. Similarly, the hacking of turrets (which is especially useful in multiplayer because they can help wrack up some kills) is also vastly easier than it was in BioShock. All you have to do is walk up to the turret, hack it, wait a few seconds for a gauge to fill, and it's yours.
But though you may be busy hacking some turrets, another player might be searching for something else: the diving suit for the Big Daddy. Yes, it's possible to play as the Big Daddy in BioShock 2 multiplayer by finding the diving suit in the map, but he doesn't quite function the same way as the Big Daddy in the single-player game. These are the slow, plodding sort, but what they lack in speed, they make up for in brute strength and endurance, and they're incredibly difficult to take down if you're on your own. On the flip side of that, if you become the Big Daddy then chances are that you'll also be the new focal point of the match as other players come to take you down, and you won't have plasmid powers to help you, either.
The action in the multiplayer mode looks pretty hectic, and when the Big Daddy shows up, it just gets crazy. But what really strikes us most about BioShock 2's multiplayer mode, at this point, is just how much effort Digital Extremes and 2K have put into making it an interesting part of the BioShock universe, and the fact that it's just not a multiplayer version of the single-player game. There's an entire narrative designed around the multiplayer, explaining why all of these people are fighting and how you have access to weapons and plasmids. It makes us interested to see other facets of the multiplayer, including the other modes, Survival of the Fittest and a team-based match called Civil War. BioShock 2 is scheduled for release in November, but check back for more coverage on the game in the near future.