BioShock 2 Story and Multiplayer Hands-On Impressions

We spend a few hours exploring the new and old Rapture, learning about the new villain, her effects on the city, and what splicers were like before the first game.

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BioShock was an artistically daring game that explored a lot of mature themes, but among the most important was the idea that utopian societies don't tend to stay utopian for long. And as anyone who played BioShock knows, Rapture certainly fit that bill. This once beautiful underwater city was founded by Andrew Ryan as a place for people to pursue their own self-interests without the slightest trace of government or religious authority, but greed and unchecked scientific research soon created a population of citizens whose addiction to genetic alterations drove them to the fringes of sanity. In the upcoming sequel, you will have the opportunity to see the downfall of Rapture from both ends of the BioShock timeline. The single-player campaign is set 10 years after the original and explores what would happen to the city if left festering for another decade, while the multiplayer side will look at Rapture a year prior to the first game to see what people were like during that initial slip into madness. [Spoiler Warning: You'll want to have completed BioShock before reading any further.]

Those who have been following BioShock 2's development will by now know that the protagonist is no longer an outsider making his way into Rapture. Now, you're playing as the original Big Daddy after he has regained his free will. After having lived the life of a mindless drone for all these years, he is suddenly able to think for himself. This newfound clarity leads him to wonder what exactly has happened to Rapture, and in his confused state, the only thing he can think to do is find the Little Sister he was originally paired with. The journey isn't an easy one, though, because while Andrew Ryan may be gone, there's a new villain in control of the city.

See, a lot has changed in the 10 years since the original game. With Andrew Ryan out of the picture--insofar as someone whose face is plastered all over the city can be considered out of the picture--one of his old political rivals has assumed control of the city. Her name is Sofia Lamb, and she's someone whose ideas reside on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ryan's. She's an altruist with the motto "make the world your family" and believes that it's everyone's duty and obligation to help out the world around them with no regard for their own desires. That's all well and good, but like Ryan, she takes that stance a bit too far and ends up on the extreme end of the spectrum. According to creative director Jordan Thomas, she has taken control of the city by "spinning a collectivist philosophy into a religion for recruitment purposes."

Thomas led a demo focusing on a particularly interesting recruited figure. His name is Father Simon Wales, and he's an Irish priest who has joined Lamb's ranks to help spread her extreme beliefs. Naturally, this is quite a departure from the era of Andrew Ryan, who railed against religion in seemingly every audio log or propaganda poster found in the original game. But like the scientists and artists from the first game, Wales' original intentions became corrupted over time--something visually manifested in his dark, twisted church. From the ravaged altar to the hundreds of candles illuminating incoherent messages on the walls, it's clear that Wales' days as a legitimate priest are long gone, and he has become more of a crazed cult leader than anything else. Wales had evidently been splicing up, too, because he proved quite a challenge during this boss encounter. But thankfully, even the most genetically enhanced priest is no match for telekinesis plasmids and a gun that fires rockets on spears.

After this boss fight came a message from Sofia Lamb. The quick version was that she wasn't going to tolerate anyone going after her associates, so to prove her point, she tried to flush the player out by…literally flushing the player out. Lamb remotely triggered a flood to sweep through the Siren Alley area of Rapture--the city's red-light district, essentially--in an effort to drown the player. This sort of desperate act is a clear sign of what has happened to Rapture since the original game. No longer is Andrew Ryan in charge, still clinging to the hope that his life's work will turn into something great. Instead, we have Sofia Lamb, who's perfectly willing to ravage the city at all costs in order to achieve her goal. As scary as Rapture was then, it's a scarier place now.

Meet the new Brute splicer. He's not a happy fellow.

That's about where Thomas' demo ended, but we soon had the chance to pick up a controller and play through a roughly hour-long section from much earlier in the game. Our objective was a simple one: obtain the incinerate plasmid in order to melt a block of ice blocking a train car taking us where we needed to go. To do so, we had to make our way through an area called Ryan Amusements, a theme park filled with run-down animatronics displays. The park was originally designed to convince children that the outside world is a terrifying place and that they should never leave Rapture, conveying this message with scenes of families having their homes torn apart by the ominous hand of the government, scientists having their work destroyed, or farmers toiling in the hot sun. But over time, the park has become an eerie shadow of its former self, with once-smiling families strung up on nooses and display figures charred from fire.

We began our quest with nothing more than a rivet gun, a remote hacking tool (which lets you hack cameras and turrets from afar), and a Big Daddy drill, but soon we added to our arsenal by finding a machine gun and a spear gun. Like in the first game, each of these guns can be upgraded either with special ammo or by taking them to the Power to the People upgrade stations. But in the sequel, these stations will not only upgrade your ammo efficiency and power, but will also grant a brand-new function to a given weapon once those other traits are maxed out. For example, the rivet gun can be upgraded to fire white-hot rivets that set their targets on fire, while the drill can be upgraded to deflect all incoming projectiles while spinning. We didn't get a chance to upgrade the spear gun, but even in its default state--which fires spears that pin splicers to a wall for an instant kill--it's already quite powerful.

Over the course of our search for the incinerate plasmid, we managed to get tangled up in a fight against another Big Daddy. These are consensual encounters in which he won't fight you until you attack him, but once you do it's a tough fight. New Big Daddies like the Rumbler are capable of laying down defensive turrets and firing rockets, but thankfully ours was an old-school bouncer model from the original game. After taking him down, we elected to temporarily adopt his Little Sister so that she could guide us around to corpses filled with ADAM, which was what we needed to collect in order to purchase the incinerate plasmid. Once she guides you to the right corpse and starts harvesting, swarms of splicers will attack you and you need to defend her while she does her work. But you can't keep her on your shoulder forever; you'll eventually have to decide whether to harvest or release her.

Soon after picking up the incinerate plasmid, we were greeted by one of the Big Sister characters. These are former Little Sisters who have taken salvaged Big Daddy parts and built their own formidable suits of armor, and they dart around Rapture doing Sofia Lamb's dirty work. They're far more quick and agile than a Big Daddy, making for a different sort of battle. But in our personal experience, they tend to go down much more quickly, as we were able to defeat the one we encountered fairly easily by repeatedly blasting her with incinerate while attempting to keep a good distance between us.

Lastly, there's BioShock 2's multiplayer, which we also had a chance to play. This part of the game takes place a year before the original BioShock and has you playing as a cast of characters who worked as plasmid testers back when the gene-altering technology was still in its infancy. But as these things tend to do, that testing process went awry and turned these people into violent fiends. There are six total characters you can play as in the competitive multiplayer, each with his or her own backstory. There's Jacob Norris, the welder; Danny Wilkins, the dashing former football star; and Barbara Johnson, the widowed housewife. Each can be customized in terms of appearance and weapon loadout, which includes gun upgrades, two slots for plasmids, and three slots for tonics.

It's Team Atlas vs. Team Ryan in multiplayer.

The multiplayer itself is a much more fast-paced combat style than the single-player campaign. As best we can tell, that seems to be a product of modest-sized maps and the borderline zany amount of action going on at any given moment. Some common sights include a player tramping around as a Big Daddy (a special defensive player in the Capture the Sister mode); people suddenly leaping from hidden pathways such as air vents; jets of water shooting from the ground from someone using the geyser trap plasmid; and people whipping out cameras to snap photos of dead bodies to upgrade their future damage against that particular enemy. And of course, there are plenty of guns too. It almost feels like an episode of COPS, if someone forgot to call the police. Think drug-addled crazies running around beating the pulp out of each other so they can get their hands on more gene-altering substances. It's an ugly scene, but, we'll admit, it's a good bit of fun.

No matter which side of Rapture's descent you're looking to see, it seems that BioShock 2 has you covered. Whether it's that eruption of chaos during the early days, or the steady continuation of decay a decade after the original game, you should be able to get a good idea of just how nasty of a place Rapture really is. Expect more coverage leading up to BioShock 2's February 9 release.

Discussion

253 comments
78thefly
78thefly

@psychokillaz why you even in here? go to your own ps3 no mates page xbox owns! coming in here with your 2bit comments, if i wanted to read your comments i would have a ps3 and like you no mates

Psychokillaz
Psychokillaz

If your a serious gamer & not a young buck, if you like to play online get the better system. The PS3.

robdar602
robdar602

AWESOME!! Can't wait! What if the Little sister you're trying to reunite with ends up being the final boss, sort of like how Atlas turned out to be Fontaine?

Omaciel
Omaciel

@Djin ok explain to me what more you can do on Xbox live than PS3 online cuz i see no difference. You sign in, you play online with other people and you buy stuff in the marketplace. it sure seems to be the same stuff to me but I would like to know the differences. to repeat the last sentence of my last comment this game is getting RAPED.

Djin
Djin

@Omaciel I own both the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3. I never play on-line with the Playstation 3, ever. It just doesn't feel as "fluid" and well put together as it is on the XBOX 360. I know if all you have is a PS3, than it will be a more welcomed view, but for the extra few dollars you pay, you can do a lot more on XBOX Live than PS3 online. Also your last sentence makes no sence whatsoever.

Omaciel
Omaciel

@Djin its not a rant its the truth and i know how to spell so chill with that and Xbox is not better online its the same balogne. Oh and this game is so getting raped

Djin
Djin

@Omaciel Learn to spell if you want people to actually read your rant. I see your point, you make 'some' valid suggestions, but personally [note word] I believe that XBOX has an overall better on-line community than PS3. This isn't about who has a better on-line, but if I had to pick, it would be XBOX hands down. I don't mind paying for a service when the service is well done... I have a PS3 and all I use it for is Blue-Ray.

Djin
Djin

@warspain, What does that mean? You cannot compare this game to Fallout 3. It's not even in the same genre. Wow, you're really ignorant. If you don't want to play a FIRST PERSON SHOOTER, then don't. Stick to your ROLE PLAYING game.

lucitribal
lucitribal

This game is going to be awesome.(I remember clues and references leading the priest in bioshock 1 so the story fits in really well)

warspain
warspain

sigh......Oh well....back to fallout 3

Geek12
Geek12

I can't wait for this game.

Omaciel
Omaciel

OH yeah Serentor dont even try saying that Xbox has better games cuz thats bull too cuz both systems have great titles and if you have had both systems you would know that the online gameplay is the same in both Xbox and PS3 which is why i never freaking understand y Xbox even charges people for online play i mean cmon another thing i have to worry about paying

Omaciel
Omaciel

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH KKKKKKKKKKKK ummmm no thats bull and you know it everyones Xbox has broken thats y thay sell more Xboxs cuz people whose break rebuy them DUHHHHHHHH and sorry i didnt know surfing the web on a ps3 was a bad thing i thought it was just convenient and the bluetooth works on my freakin cell phone so its not just a HEADSET PS3 is just looking out for people and saving me money cuz thats wat it comes down too and it plays freaking blu ray man really i mean when DVD become obselete wat are you gonna do GOSH dont take it up the butt im just saying that PS3 looks out for peoples interests and you know im right so dont come at me like "OHHHHHHH i dont need that or this or i have a PC it does all that " but think about this wouldnt you want a machine that does all of this BUT NOOOOOOOOO ur too hard headed

Omaciel
Omaciel

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Omaciel
Omaciel

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Omaciel
Omaciel

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Serentor
Serentor

@Omaciel If you say so, thats your problem, but theres some of us whos xbox has never broken before because we actually take care of it. Why do you need the web, the ps3 one sucks, just use the PC. Blueray is good and fine, but half the dvds I own didnt work normally on the ps3 so that sucks. Bluetooth? Whats so great about using that -.- I got my xbox connected with my pc and stream just everything i want to. Just as good.

Omaciel
Omaciel

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Omaciel
Omaciel

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

stalexmilk
stalexmilk

@theironduke111 you should get it for xbox!!!! xbox>ps3

gfnx
gfnx

This game will be massive! The main idea is pretty similar as the one of the first game, thought it probably be one of the best games of 2010.

dantespower
dantespower

DEAD SPACE !!! DEAD SPACE!!!! is much better and I KNOW its not a fisrt person shooter

dantespower
dantespower

the hands don' t move or what???? do domething DAMMIT!!

joevit
joevit

I loved the first one, and this is a must have.

tobelight
tobelight

well part 2 when it comes out i meant

tobelight
tobelight

Bioshock and pretty sure can confidently say Bioshock 2 are the best horror fps games out hands down

mbrown726
mbrown726

I can't wait any longer. I bought the 360 & PC version of Bioshock. I can't get enough of the storyline.

SgtNemo
SgtNemo

The story is only getting better :D

E74N01
E74N01

What a great soundtrack. Kind of disappointed they changed the story, though.

tmthywtsn
tmthywtsn

YAAAAY it's gonna be awesome

Gotteencs
Gotteencs

I can't wait!!!! Bioshock is my favorite game

tim_kkhanna
tim_kkhanna

Two words for 2K to take into account: SOUND ENGINE

TTShlo74
TTShlo74

Can't wait!!!!! I love Bioshock... what a game.

theironduke111
theironduke111

Don't know whether to get this on PS3 or Xbox, what ye reckon?

HighRisk12345
HighRisk12345

bioshock 2 is sounding good & i will get it. but i would of thought bioshock 2 would of got a face lift.

Ice2005
Ice2005

Bioshock 1 was great .... but this is ...wwwwooooowwww .... :D !!! .. nice preview !!! waiting for the game !

SmartGhost
SmartGhost

best interview ive seen in a long time cant wait

Ghostquote44
Ghostquote44

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Asheileon
Asheileon

The graphics of the first were sooo good, but this... looks soooooooooooo good that I just can't........ aaaaaahhhh!!!!!!!!!!! sorry I just had to scream.

noulen
noulen

bioshock is a great game,darknes, mystirious......i cant wait for 2.......

LXIndustries
LXIndustries

This makes me want to give Bioshock 1 another go =)

Scarcrow84
Scarcrow84

Bioshock was, and is the best game I`ve ever played, im so looking forward for number 2....

green_dominator
green_dominator

The first game was so.....dark and violent, the ending was a surprise to say the least...... Bioshock 2 looks really good so far, I can't wait to walk the halls of Rapture again.......