After BioShock 2 was announced (as BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams, no longer the title), hardcore fans were concerned about a sequel without writer Ken Levine on the project. It looks like the game is in good hands at 2K Marin, with a team comprised of veterans from the first game and newcomers alike. Initially thought to be a prequel, BioShock 2 will take players back to Rapture eight to ten years after the events of the first game. What you find when you arrive might not be what you remember.
Players will step into the diving bell of the first ever Big Daddy. You are the prototype for what we know and love and have a lot more freedom than the run-of-the-mill Big Daddy’s, namely: the ability to use plasmids and freedom from the mind control that dictates the behavior of the others. While powerful, you aren't the biggest fish in town. At the top of the food chain is the Big Sister (pictured above), an extremely agile adversary armored in her own diving bell suit. She keeps Rapture in balance. Whether or not this “balance” is a good thing is another question.
You might be wondering: "If you're the first Big Daddy, where were you during the events of BioShock?" I was wondering the same thing and asked the developers. They laughed and asked if I really wanted the game spoiled for me the first time I saw it in action? Answers will be coming!
The demo level I saw suggested that you’ll be teaming up with Tenenbaum, who originally discovered ADAM and created the Little Sisters. ADAM, you’ll recall, is the currency in the economy of Rapture. When you find a Little Sister (and the "regular" Big Daddy protecting her) you’ll have the option of harvesting her like the first game or adopting her. This new adoption system provides some new gameplay opportunities.
Keep reading for the rest of our first look at BioShock 2.
You’ll prop the Little Sister up on your shoulder and search the halls of Rapture for bodies full of ADAM. After finding one, the Sister will begin to harvest the corpse. This brings tons of Splicers out of hiding and creates a scenario that requires you to defend the Little Sister while she works. If you successfully defend her, you’ll get a cut of the ADAM and go look for the next body.
Not every corpse will hold precious ADAM. According to the developers, these harvest sequences that require the player to defend a Little Sister will not be scripted. That is, the Splicers won't come from specified places. I'm not fully convinced, however, as the bodies can be set in specific locations thereby creating a controlled environment for the developers to work within. Hopefully, the final game will feature randomly placed bodies for harvesting that bring randomly generated enemies so every encounter is different.
After the Little Sister has harvested a set amount of ADAM, the player is given an additional choice. At this point, you can still harvest her and get more ADAM (in addition to the kickbacks you received for protected her while harvesting) or deliver her to Tenenbaum. It’s the same type of moral choice from the original BioShock, but now there are two choices. Yes, it’s possible to be even more evil than just harvesting a Little Sister. Why not let her do some work before killing her?
As for the gameplay, you’ll be significantly more powerful than Jack from BioShock. It makes sense, as you are inside a Big Daddy suit. Thankfully, you are a lot more mobile than the regular Big Daddy’s, but still extremely powerful. You’ll also get to use the pneumatic drill, which is a pretty brutal way to kill a Splicer. As mentioned, you’ll get to use Plasmids and they can now be used simultaneously with a weapon. There will be new guns and weapons, which will be “Big Daddy-ized” in some way. Plasmids will also combine to create new effects and powers. For example, the cyclone trap can be combined with fire to create an inferno that will launch an enemy into the air while burning them when stepped on.
So if you're so powerful, what's going to stop you? Expect to fight many more Splicers simultaneously compared to the first game. There will also be new enemies and regular Big Daddy's will still hit hard. Your toughest adversary, of course, is the Big Sister. She will stalk you throughout Rapture and periodically make an appearance. At first, you'll hear noises and maybe catch some quick movement on the corner of the screen. Eventually, you'll see the red glow of her diving bell as she jumps from wall to wall.
In the demo, the player enters a beautiful room with a large window looking out into the ocean after seeing signs of the Big Sister. Initially it's quiet, but then she appears out of nowhere and runs across a window, slicing it as she moves. It begins to crack and the eventually shatters, filling the room with water. What to do now?
For the first time, the player will be taken outside the walls of rapture and walk on the ocean floor. Remember, you’re in a diving-suit. There won’t be any combat during these sequences, but it will let the player move between the buildings of Rapture and give you a true sense of what the underwater city looks like. It’s basically like downtown Manhattan, but on the sea floor. Debris from Rapture have been sucked out into the sea and the player walks along the floor to a nearby airlock. It’s incredibly calming and represents a nice change of pace from the previous scene. I just hope this aspect isn’t overused in the game -- or just a device for travel to go from area to area -- as it would reduce the impact as a whole.
Graphically, the game uses the BioShock engine, which is based on Unreal Engine 2.5 (with some in-house tweaks). BioShock 2 looks roughly the same as the original, but the animation has been greatly enhanced. Specifically, the Big Sister moves with a ridiculous amount of fluidity. The texture fidelity also seems to match the quality of the PC version of BioShock, which looked better than the console versions.
BioShock 2 is planned for a Fall 2009 release and will hopefully offer even more great gameplay and storytelling. Thankfully, everybody will get a chance to play it as it will get a simultaneous release for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Oh, mild spoiler alert for BioShock, but if you're confused about which ending from the first game is considered canon, you aren't going to get an answer just yet. The developers want to avoid making that choice for the player. This will probably make it tough for Jack to appear in BioShock 2, at least eight to ten years after he left Rapture, but I'm guessing he'll appear in flashbacks or audio logs in some way. Also, the developers assure me that Jack's influence on Rapture will definitely be felt in BioShock 2. He's made an impact on the place, so to speak.