BioShock 2 Update: Single- Player From the Start... Almost

We return to Rapture in 2K Marin's BioShock sequel and get a pretty deadly homecoming.

As we get closer to BioShock 2's February release, 2K Marin is finally opening up a bit about its upcoming sequel to BioShock. The original game was a careful balance of stunning design, rich story, and solid gameplay that surprised and delighted players. This time out there's a slightly different mix to the qualities that made the original game special. While there's still gorgeous design, the city of Rapture feels like a familiar place. While there are still some very cool things to surprise and delight players, a fair amount of BioShock 2's punch is going to come from its story, which we can say, now that we've played a bunch of the game, is rich and disturbing. The downside to this is that previews will be spoiler minefields from here on out. We'll go ahead and drop a spoiler warning here and say that while we'll try to be sensitive, expect spoilage ahead.

Our look at the Xbox 360 version of the game started up right after the game's opening cinematic (which 2K is still keeping under wraps), in a sequence titled "10 Years Later". While the basic opening is similar to what we saw back in April for our first look, the sequence was now properly dropping into the game as opposed to a demo of edited gameplay designed to showcase various aspects of BioShock 2. You'll still be roused to consciousness by Dr. Tennenbaum, last seen in the original game, who still hasn't quite gotten her people skills down. You'll get a quick, inelegant rundown of your situation: You're a big daddy that has had his free will restored, and Tennenbaum needs you to haul tail to reach her. Your journey will send you through parts of Rapture that have never been seen, to find her in the old mass-transit terminal.

Your trek starts in the Adonis Luxury Resort, which has clearly seen better days. The once-fabulous spa is now run-down and awash with hazards in the form of splicers. While they are a problem, the splicers aren't the life-threatening issue you faced at the start of the original game, but they do have numbers on their side, so some caution is required. This early part of the game is the tutorial to get you reacquainted with the core gameplay and introduce you to the special hotness of the big daddy, such as the assorted weapons you can use and your drill. The early section also introduces the new hacking mechanic in the form of the hacking dart, which lets you use a funky rabbit-eared contraption to hack mechanisms. The device lets you go into the new hacking minigame by targeting a lock or machine or by getting up close to it, which will let you call up the minigame interface. This time out the minigame has been changed up some and requires timed button presses. You'll need to stop a needle that's moving side to side on green or blue patches on a meter. If you can stop the needle on the blue patches, you'll get a bonus of some kind depending on what you're hacking, such as an extra item from a vending machine or increased damage for security bots.

The early run through the resort also lays out quite a bit of story groundwork via the many voice recorders you'll discover. As before, you'll hear from a diverse array of voices from assorted Rapture residents who, as before, have felt compelled to record their personal thoughts on recorders. The picture that's painted from these recordings is, unsurprisingly, a troubled one. You'll hear pedestrian concerns about someone's day-to-day job or one side of a bickering couple. While all this is an expected storytelling mechanic, there's a new thing that happens as you explore, which piqued our interest. You'll be addressed by the apparition of a young girl named Eleanor, who, you'll discover, is the little sister you've been bonded to. She communicates in visions that yield useful info or items but that make clear she is calling for you as well as guiding you to escape Rapture.

This unique new element to the narrative raises a wealth of questions that, in some cases, only raise more questions when you get answers. For example, Eleanor's full name is Eleanor Lamb, which makes her relationship to the game's new villain, Sofia Lamb, pretty clear…or so it seems. Without spoiling too much, we'll just say that if you thought the Ryan family tree was messed up in the last game, the Lambs are the kind of next level of crazy you'd find on The Jerry Springer Show. Beyond that, it's clear that Eleanor's pretty different from the other little sisters, which is saying something considering what a "normal" little sister is like. More importantly, the residents of Rapture have a very unhealthy fixation on her.

Some of Rapture's finest congregate to discuss worldly matters.

But while the family-tree shenanigans are a big part of the BioShock 2 story experience, the larger issue is the big sister, the big-daddy-killing adolescent terminatrix that we've seen since the game was announced. Our time in the game led us to a confrontation with her that resulted in a window-smashing flood that let us walk outside Rapture for a bit and check out the awesome sights of the city from another perspective. In speaking with 2K Marin reps during our demo, it turns out that this sister is one of several bosses you'll face, although one in particular is going to be a distinct, possibly recurring, problem for you that you'll deal with over the course of the game.

Following the big sister battle and underwater stroll, you'll wind up back in Rapture, again guided by Tennenbaum, and headed for the Atlantic Express section, which houses the city's old mass-transit system. It seems Lamb's rise to power has resulted in a distinct drop in bathysphere usage, mostly because she's having them destroyed, which leaves the subway system one of your only options. The main terminal is where Tennenbaum is hanging out. We're not entirely sure why Lamb doesn't have her taken out, but we expect that's one more thing to discover over the course of the game. The journey to Tennenbaum also introduces you to the various ammo types and weapon upgrades that will be available. We're pretty taken with the trap rivets, which are essentially proximity-sensitive damage dealers you can leave behind to take out enemies. These become key when you're using an adopted little sister to harvest ADAM from a corpse. The rush of enemies that storm you when you set her down and she goes about her business is pretty rough, despite your plasmids and arsenal of weapons, even early in the game. As a result, you'll need trap rivets, upgraded weapons, and security bots in play to survive. We can only imagine it will be tougher farther in, so fans should brace for that.

Our demo ended with a meeting with Tennenbaum, who is holed up in one of the offices in the station with a group of freed little sisters. The pushy doctor is clearly not big on thanks and sends you on your way to another part of the city. The journey dovetails into the Ryan Amusements level we saw not too long ago. The last batch of voice recorders we hit prior to the end of the section of the game that we saw raised some pretty provocative questions about your identity, above and beyond being a big daddy prototype. Much like how Eleanor seems a bit off from her peers, you're a pretty unique individual too, which left us wondering how bad (or good) a thing that is going to turn out to be.

We've waxed poetic on the visuals in BioShock 2 before, so we won't dwell on them too much. The game looks pretty fantastic thanks to the smart marriage of tech and art direction. You'll see a ton of detail complemented by moody lighting and water effects. Your view of the world as a big daddy doesn't differ too much from the original BioShock, although there are new effects in play when your adopted little sister is guiding you to an ADAM-rich corpse for harvesting. There's also a satisfying array of special effects for weapon and plasmid fire, as well as your trusty drill. In our incomplete version of the game, the action zipped along at a good clip regardless of how nutty the action got onscreen.

Even with a drill for a hand, we're still a little freaked out here.

BioShock 2's audio is sticking well in line with the high standard set by the original game. The voice acting is top-notch. The music and ambient audio are sounding great and, as before, are used effectively in combination with good old-fashioned silence to set the mood. The score has a nice mournful tinge to it that fits comfortably with what we played. There have been some tweaks to the audio effects that change things up a little. For example, we noticed that once you hack a security bot to follow you around, the incessant buzzing has been toned down considerably. We were also digging the sound warping that happens when you're walking on the ocean floor or submerged. So far we have to say we're pleased with where the game's audio is going.

Based on what we played, BioShock 2 is looking like the sort of follow-up fans of the original game will want. There's plenty of quality time to be spent going through Rapture and plenty of new locations to creep you out as you explore. More importantly, the story seems to be balancing a faithful nod to what has gone before but is taking it into some richly messed-up territory. Like its predecessor, BioShock 2 seems tailor-made to put those thinking of starting up their own utopian society right off the notion. We've definitely been left wanting more, and we expect fans will too. Look for more on BioShock 2 in the weeks leading to its February release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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Discussion

270 comments
8JimmyJazz
8JimmyJazz

When is GameSpot going to stop disregarding PC players?! It is enough that the whole gaming industry does it; what's so dificult in publishing the PC and Xbox reviews at the same time ffs. I am outa here.

cherryonion
cherryonion

absolutely miserable compared to system shock

yamato_musashi
yamato_musashi

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

yamato_musashi
yamato_musashi

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

InnaSpace
InnaSpace

This game looks really creepy... Might buy it though.

Gooshnads
Gooshnads

Ever realize... Lamb... Butterfly shape Silence of the Lambs... Butterfly on mouth... creepy ?

Ochitsuite
Ochitsuite

Cannot wait for this game. I just got into this game and it's really good. I should have the first beaten buy the time this comes out. :P

makhlouta
makhlouta

anyone else concerned that this and dante's inferno come out the same day? i mean... although i def prefer the dante's inferno kind of game i think it's gona be tempting to start with one or the other thank god i still didn't start mass effect 2 coz i'm playing darksiders...wow lots of games this year haha

KalamitySpace
KalamitySpace

longtonguecat Posted Feb 1, 2010 8:49 am GMT Sounds great, weird that they didn't mention the PC release in the last sentence. =P ============================================ Guess that they hate the PC for some reason ...........

Dantefan1
Dantefan1

NUH UH! I only beat the first game SIX times!

longtonguecat
longtonguecat

Sounds great, weird that they didn't mention the PC release in the last sentence. =P

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Looking forward to it....except for one thing, I hope they don't have the same DRM problem that they had with the first one.

Venomkringe
Venomkringe

@thenephariousone umm the multiplayer and single-player components are being handled by separate teams, so the single player wont suffer for the multiplayer and vice versa.

GenericUser12
GenericUser12

wow, this looks amazing. I still haven't played the first one, but I think I'm gonna pick it up this weekend.

Mister-Lee
Mister-Lee

those who haven't played the original game should definetely pick it up before the sequel arrives. bioshock was a truly unique fps matched only by the half life series when it came to narrative and atmosphere. true, it was a fairly linear game. but when a game draws you in that much who cares? bioshock2 doesn't look like it adds anything radically new, but all i want is more of the same! the only complaint i have is that i wont have time for both bioshock2 and mass effect2 :[ ok.. heads, i quit my job. tails, i lose the girlfriend

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Although im really looking forward to this, i only hope the single player campaign has not been compromised for (what is in my opinion) a poor multiplayer component.

Xbox360Gamer15
Xbox360Gamer15

I havent even gotten the first one yet....well i bought the first one off ebay so it will maybe come tomarrow but this one looks awesome and spooky like the first.

78thefly
78thefly

yeah played the first one and was blown away, really like this game and should be even better now that there is some multiplayer so looking forward to this one. roll on feb :)

THESEL
THESEL

I'm avoiding all spoilers and I don't need a demo. Can't wait!

Jock9
Jock9

Cannot wait for Bioshock 2, I loved the original so much I seeked it out brand new so I could own it. I play it all the time, disturbing and of course important gaming experience for the world

EricShadow366
EricShadow366

This looks fantastic, where the hecks the demo?

dj-armeliaz
dj-armeliaz

Hope they release a demo before the full ver.

yerocsirrah
yerocsirrah

I just finished Bioshock and I'm definitely getting the second one. I'm not much of a gamer like I used to be, so if a game can hold my attention for a week like Bioshock did, then I'm sure the sequel will too. Would you kindly make Bioshock 2 even more creepy and disturbing?

kostoar
kostoar

would ya kindly hurry up and release this i want it!!

solomn6rundy
solomn6rundy

Anybody else reminded of gray fox/cyborg ninja from MGS1 by the big sister?

dobermuffn
dobermuffn

The only thing I'm worried about is that it won't be as scary as the first game. The first one, at least the 1st time through, was terrifying. You're just an average guy thrown into a world of genetically modified superheros, and you're forced to taint your own DNA to survive. Gore abounded, and you never felt totally safe, particularly when you see a big daddy step on one of your mines and his eye glow red. The sequel, you are the big daddy. You're an absolute beast (which I usually love being,), and the one thing that they say is superior to you doesn't even come up that often. What happened to the terrified feeling that you're in way over your head?

advocacy
advocacy

This is going to be the best shooter next year, yes, even better I bet than Halo Reach.

sub-raid
sub-raid

The first bioshock game was one of my favorite games, i'm sure this will be too.

crzy_ruroo
crzy_ruroo

OMG i need to get it...i was in love with the first one:):)

godsend1989
godsend1989

cant wait to get my hands on it, i loved the first one this one is looking way better then first, this game atmosphere ROCKS.

Ca9ine
Ca9ine

The original Bioshock left me... satisfied and somewhat in awe when I finished it. Great game and very different. Look like Bioschock 2 will surpass this by far! I'll reinstall Bioshock now...

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

Wow, looks amazing. I was expecting Bioshock 2 it be average, but it looks good.

Ghostquote44
Ghostquote44

My love for the first will fuel my desire for this one. I will come upon this game like the devil upon a thousand sons! Yes, I'm a poet... I will get this game... looks effin' awesome... yeah.

TheRogueNinja
TheRogueNinja

i think this will be a good game because the first one was good and now ur a f*¿kin big daddy!!

BIOJECT
BIOJECT

It seems there is a tradeoff in Bioshock 2. The enemies are easier to kill, but you probably can't use a vita chamber anymore. I think that's a cool idea if it's true.

Cratespoof
Cratespoof

this comment is useless and a waste of my time

edgewalker16
edgewalker16

To everyone who's crying OMGWTFBBQ SPOILERS (!!!), let me just tell you this. I made the stupid move to surf forums outside GS with Bioshock as it's subject and got THE BIGGEST twist of the game spoiled. I was pissed off for so long after that, but I bought the game and, even though I knew a big part of it (not every twist mind you) I still thought the game was fantastic. Seriously. So everyone who thinks that ****SPOILER*** Eleanor being connected to the antagonist in some way/shape/form is a big "turn-off" spoiler, don't worry about it. ***END SPOILER*** Honestly, if it were the main premise behind B2 then I don't think the developers would be so stupid as to blatantly say it out loud. (Just don't go surfing "Bioshock 2" threads on every website and you'll be ok.) @ z Aero z: Can you provide some evidence or a link where it talks about the new vita-chamber system? I'm curious to find out where you got that information.

sivasiva
sivasiva

To say that Bioshock 2 will be GOTY is simply ridiculous especially when we are so early in the year when the game releases. But of course, Bioshock 2 is GOTY material but there are definitely other games worthy of GOTY, such as Mass Effect 2 and SC:Conviction.