Last week saw the release of the in the form of the new Protectors Trials DLC for BioShock 2. It’s probably worth getting out of the way up front that if you found the “fight off enemies while your Little Sister collects Adam” gameplay from the story mode to be tiresome, frustrating, and/or annoying, stay far away from BioShock 2’s Protector Trials, the first single-player downloadable content for the horror-shooter sequel. For everyone else, read on.
This $4.99/400 Microsoft Point add-on casts players as an Alpha series Big Daddy tasked with helping Little Sisters collect that oh-so-precious Adam, all under the watchful eye of Dr. Tenenbaum. Doing so follows the same formula as in the single-player: place a Little Sister on a corpse, and protect her against waves of enemies until her gathering is complete. To help differentiate the trials from what players have experienced already, 2K Marin gave each trial a specific loadout for weapons, plasmids, and tonics.
So for instance, instead of simply being able to rely on Incinerate and heat-seeking rockets, you have to use Decoy, Swarm and the spear gun, or whatever the combination might be. Not only does this ensure each trial plays out differently (aside from the fact that you’re basically just fending off swarms of enemies each time), but it also means you will most likely be forced to use weapons and plasmids (or just plasmids in the case of one particularly great trial) that you completely ignored in the story mode.
The trials play out across six arenas based on various Rapture locales including Pauper’s Drop, Adonis’ Baths, and Simon Wales’ Church. Each arena has three trials, ranked one, two, or three stars, and for every three stars you earn, you unlock bonus content like storyboards, animatics, and concept art. You also need to gain stars to unlock new arenas. Funnily enough, the three star challenges were oftentimes easier than the one star ones. Probably because the fewer weapons you have, the easier it is to manage your money and resources.
Speaking of which, a great deal of the trials’ intensity, or frustration depending on what kind of player you are, comes from having to constantly run back and forth from vending machines to replenish your supplies. You earn cash by killing enemies, so you’d think you’d have a constant stream of cash coming in, but money flies out of your Big Daddy pockets faster than cash at a cash flying convention, which adds quite a bit of suspense to the already overwhelming scenarios.
There are a few odd elements in the trials, like why does every round start with the Little Sister at most three feet from the corpse she’s going to drain? It just looks ridiculous having the whole “pick up” animation sequence only to take two steps and put her down again. Also, you can hack vending machines and health stations before each round begins, but why is it even an option? It should just start at the reduced price so I don’t have to waste time every single round hacking both machines to get the reduced price. The hack doesn’t even include the bonus blue section (even though a little placard comes up after each hack telling me about the benefits of hitting the blue section while hacking!), or any real consequence for failing.
Minor quibbles aside, Protector Trials provides a few hours of intense and (mostly) enjoyable gameplay that will definitely open your eyes to the awesome potential of weapons and plasmids that you might have otherwise continued to underestimate. It’s definitely intended for the combat-loving BioShock 2-ers out there, but everyone else will definitely want to save their cash for the upcoming narrative-expanding Minerva's Den DLC.