Xbox bioshock-2-preview

Published on January 22nd, 2010 | by prime


BioShock 2 – Preview

If Bioshock’s defining moment came late in its objectivist tale of greed and control, then it’s possible that this nervously anticipated sequel has its own within the first 10 minutes. A staggering reveal of a dilapidated, coral-covered Rapture, seen submerged from the edge of a continental shelf and through the visor of a clunking, hulking Big Daddy suit. Jaws drop. Mouths agape.

Any worries about a sequel that mistook the original’s successes are instantly allayed as soon as you make your return to Rapture. You’re the original Big Daddy, back in Andrew Ryan’s underwater metropolis for reasons yet unknown, and that familiar mix of dread, queasiness and cautious awe creeps and crawls under your skin. For all the talk of its brilliant design, it’s easy to forget that Rapture is actually a horrible place to be.

The story doesn’t bother with exposition, dropping your pretty much straight into the action with no protracted cutscenes or overwrought explanation to be found anywhere. You see, 2K Marin knows that no one would be listening anyways, as the chances are that they’re probably going to be far too interested in the rather large drill that’s hogging the bottom right corner of the screen.

Amazingly, even more atmospheric than the original

You are a Big Daddy, and that drill can be used to devastating effect. Holding the right trigger spins the sharpened tool and soaks up fuel, but even if you’re dry you can smack a splicer in the head with a devastating melee attack.

Before long, the traditional BioShock tropes start to appear. Plasmids are vital to both the fiction and the combat. The Adam-obsessed denizens of Rapture hunger for them, as will you. And the Plasmid add-on are slicker this time, with no need to put your weapon away as you torch someone with incinerate or electrify a pool of water with Electro Bolt. It’s part of a process that has tightened up the most maligned aspect of the original.

Battles are still chaotic against Splicers and tense against Big Daddies, but there’s now a few elements to contend with. The first and most obvious are Big Sisters, the amazingly agile and powerful female divers who arrive at the most inopportune times, accompanied by a deafening shriek which sounds like a thousand factory machines breaking down at once.

To best Big Sister, you’ll need accuracy and skill, but also a keen commandment of everything around you. Security cameras and droids can be hacked using a mightily handy remote hacking tool, complete with new golf-swing mini game, rewarding you with allies in the ever-more chaotic skirmishes. Traps can be set with the ‘trap rivet’ ammunition in the other classic Big Daddy weapon, the rivet gun. When you factor in the hundreds of possible combinations of Plasmids, upgrade tonics and weapon power ups that you’ll come across throughout the course of the game, BioShock 2’s gunplay is a marked step up from that of the original.

In many ways though, that was the worry – that a focus on blasting would mean losing sight on what made BioShock a subversive masterpiece in the first place, namely the moments where you weren’t shooting. If anything though, the atmosphere and sense of place is amplified here. Perhaps being able to see Rapture from the outside during the staggeringly well-realized ocean walks lends it a deeper coherence, making more sense of its network of hubs and aquarium-style tubes.

Regardless, BioShock 2’s Rapture is an even nastier place than you remember. Pauper’s Drop, the dilapidated hotel that hosts the first proper plot details, is a genuinely unpleasant example of an objectivist dream turned into a realist nightmare. It houses a fanatical religious group known as The Family, and tales of despair and gut-wrenching remorse lie hauntingly around every corner.

BioShock 2’s Rapture is an even nastier place than you remember

In BioShock 2, as before, the devil is in the details. It’s in the hopeless scrawling on a distant wall, in the dashed hope of an audio log, in the very creaking and heaving of the city itself, weighed down under the pressure of the ocean and its own fatal shortcomings.

And then, of course, there’s the little Sisters. The lifeblood of Rapture, and once again the center of this second story. The choice to rescue or harvest them in a moral dilemma once more, but do you have the heart to murder a child when she’s sat on your shoulders and called you Daddy? Maybe in the murky depths of post Ryan Rapture, you do. It’s just that kind of place, and to be totally honest, we can’t wait to go back.

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