Previews

BioShock 2 Hands-On Preview

Welcome home Daddy...

That's our first bit of bad news. Big Sister, who was previously presented as BioShock 2's hyper-agile, Terminator-unstoppable, main villain - isn't alone. Worse, she's part of an army of Big Sisters. Plural. But the really bad news is that they're being led by an all-new, previously secret, villain, Sophia Lamb, a political rival of... Andrew Ryan, one of the main antagonists of the original game. But can a second visit to Rapture be as, well, rapturous? Our exclusive hands-on - in San Francisco, home of its developer 2K Marin - suggests the sequel still has the capacity to thrill.

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If you thought Rapture was a mess the first time you battled through its gloomy tunnels, you should see it now. The splicers are even more grotesquely mutated - one new type, the Brute, can hit you like a train, smashing even your bulky body across large rooms, the sea is reclaiming entire sections of the city as it falls into disrepair, and a battle is raging between the Big Daddies and a group of Big Sisters and splicers under the command of the aforementioned new villain Sophia Lamb.

Her motives are unclear, but we do know that she wants to take control of Rapture and, in the same way founder Andrew Ryan did, use it as her own personal utopia, where everyone lives by her ideals. But, at the beginning of the game at least, this isn't your concern. So what is your part in this horrifying play?

You are Delta: the original Big Daddy. You were the first lumbering, diving suit-wearing hulk in Rapture. You've awoken with one goal; find your Little Sister; the ADAM harvester (ADAM is the miracle material that lets you 'splice' your genes to wield godly powers) you were charged with protecting when you were first created. Sadly, Lamb's followers are also after her - convinced that she's the next step in mankind's evolution.

So while a lot about BioShock 2 is familiar - from the setting to the art design and core gameplay - it's a very different beast. The story is less about a single man and more about the fate of the entire city. And as a character, prototype Big Daddy is a lot more robust than Jack ever was. He can use Plasmids and weapons at the same time, comes equipped with an enormous drill and can take a beating.

The level we played takes place about an hour into the game. As we hunt for our Little Sister, we're led through Ryan Amusements, a theme park designed by Andrew Ryan to teach quizzical children born in Rapture about the city's creation, and what's on the surface above it. And as you'd expect, it's a thinly-veiled excuse for Ryan to spout propaganda and his paranoid political views through a series of interactive 'exhibits'. As you play through the level you hear more about his grand philosophies and details about how Rapture was built.

We're aboard an express train (bathyspheres are no longer the only way to travel), but the path is blocked by an iced-up door. A voice crackles on a radio, that of plasmid designer Sinclair (who sponsors your multi-player character and offers them in game rewards for 'testing' Sinclair Solutions weapons and tonics), telling us that we need to find some ADAM and buy the 'Incinerate' plasmid from a vending machine to melt the ice. The structure is very similar to the first game; as you make your way through the city, areas will be blocked requiring a detour through splicer-infested areas to continue.

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We find another Big Daddy protecting a Little Sister. This one is a new type of 'Daddy - a Rumbler. He can deploy turrets, and shoot rockets from the cavernous shoulder-mounted launcher on his shoulder. However, we've got the smarts to beat him, using our Telekinesis Plasmid to send almost every rocket right back at him. This is what BioShock 2 is all about: getting creative with a bunch of brilliant new powers and weapons. We approach the now guardianless Little Sister, but this time we get the opportunity to adopt her as our own.

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