previews\ Nov 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Bioshock 2 - 360 - Preview 2

One of the highest rated games of all time, the original Bioshock was a phenomenal shooter, combining great gameplay with a truly unique and an impeccably designed universe. The game was a huge success both commercially and critically, meaning that it was only a matter of time before a sequel was put into development.

Now, the highly-anticipated follow-up, Bioshock 2, is nearly upon us. The sequel is poised to make some key changes to the overall Bioshock formula, presenting new plasmids, new environments, and awesome new multiplayer modes. Bioshock has undergone some changes, but this still stands to be a game that fans of the first will not want to miss out on.

The underwater city of Rapture is a very different place from the one presented in the first game. With Andrew Ryan no longer in power, a vacuum has taken over the city, leading a character named Sophia Lamb to take over. Cut to you, a prototype Big Daddy, who is awakened ten years after the events in the first game to the new Rapture. Unlike others of your kind, you’re imbued with free will, allowing you to right some wrongs on the troubled landscape.

Bioshock 2 Xbox 360 screenshots

If “Objectivism” was the word of the day in the old Rapture, then the goal of Sophia Lamb’s is altruism. Lamb is focusing, so she claims, on the greater good, sacrificing the good of the one for the good of the many. The loudspeaker announcements, graffiti propaganda, and storyline do a fine job of accentuating this new direction for the city, without giving any more details away.

Aside from the customary new weapons and plasmids, there have been some nice changes made to the overall gameplay. For starters, you now dual-wield your weapon and plasmids at the same time, and therefore aren’t required to cumbersomely switch between the two. The hacking mechanic has also been completely overhauled, meaning no “Pipe Dream”-inspired mini-game, just a quick reflex-based mini-game. Additionally, you can combine plasmids now for massive damage. For example, freezing an enemy and then setting a whirlwind off underneath them will cause them to shoot into the ceiling and burst into tiny pieces, which looks great.

There are some new enemies thrown into the mix as well, including huge Brute Splicers. However, the biggest new addition to the enemy roster is the Big Sister. Similar to the Big Daddy but slightly weaker, the Big Sisters have a command of a variety of plasmids, move very quickly, and will take you down if you’re not ready for them.

Bioshock 2 Xbox 360 screenshots

The “harvest/rescue” mechanic for Little Sisters has returned from the first game, but with some key changes. Whereas the harvest option has been largely unchanged (aside from a more disturbing animation when you pull it off, sicko), rescue yields more gameplay elements. When you decide to rescue a Little Sister, you’ll become her surrogate Big Daddy, allowing you to use her to hunt down more ADAM. When you find a suitable source, she’ll go down to harvest it. However, as she’s performing the task, splicers will come out of the woodwork to attack her, requiring you to fend them off until she finishes. This is a great mechanic, and utilizing strategy to set up traps for the splicer onslaught is a fun addition to the Bioshock formula.

The game’s environments are also very well done. The great art direction of the original game carries through to the sequel. One area on display from the single-player campaign was a rundown amusement park created for Rapture’s children to warn them of the threats of the world. It was great to walk through the displays and see the giant hand of “Washington” or the “Vatican” pulling animatronic children out of their living rooms, or stealing the roof off of a poor farmer’s shack.

Bioshock 2 is turning out to be a fine follow-up to its landmark predecessor, offering more great story elements, cool new areas to check out, and some fine additions to the gameplay formula.

Check out Bioshock 2’s new multiplayer elements.

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