Eight years after the spoiler-laden events of BioShock, Rapture is still standing on the ocean floor. The splicers that are still alive in what's left of Andrew Ryan's dream city are the hard-bitten, evolved survivors of a constant war of attrition, hyped up on plasmids and constant combat. Little Sisters still creep through the halls harvesting genetic material from the dead.
You wake up amidst all this, for no immediately apparent reason. In BioShock 2, you are the prototype unit that the Big Daddy is based upon: a giant mutant killing machine in a diving mask. You're faster and smarter than a Big Daddy, and you can use plasmids, but you can't take anywhere near as much punishment.
This is something that the Big Sisters are going to take full advantage of. Even the surviving splicers don't really pose much of a threat to you unless they attack en masse, and they usually will, but the Big Sisters are the agile, psychokinetic counterpart to the Big Daddies. Their motivations are presently unclear, but they seem to enjoy beating the hell out of you.
2K Games' developers recently showed off a custom demo level of BioShock 2 in San Francisco. It was a representative sample of gameplay rather than anything we could expect to see in the final game, and as you might expect, it raises more questions than it answers.
As a pre-Big Daddy (a Big Granddaddy?), you're strong enough to nonchalantly kick through doors or destroy obstacles. You're also already wearing a diving helmet, so going outside Rapture isn't a big deal; when a Big Sister blew out a window, getting back inside was just a question of finding an airlock. You're also equipped with a rivet gun and the Daddies' trademark pneumatic drill, which made any lone splicers' lives short and unfortunate.
When you encounter Little Sisters, you have a similar moral choice to the one you encountered in the original BioShock. You can either harvest their Adam right on the spot, or choose to adopt a Little Sister, serving as her protector in exchange for a cut of the Adam that she harvests. In the latter event, the Little Sisters aren't quite as durable as they once were, and so you'll need to take on any splicers or Big Sisters that come chasing after her.
Toward that end, you can use a new power, the Plasmid Trap, to plant a sort of telekinetic "mine" on the floor, which can then be charged with fire via Incinerate. That's enough to handle splicers, but the Big Sisters are fond of throwing bits of the landscape at you, and will take a lot more to bring down.
I'm one of the few people who had serious problems with BioShock, and I was told that two of my larger issues are being addressed. For one thing, there will be a wider moral spectrum presented when dealing with the Little Sisters, as well as other situations you encounter in Rapture; harvesting them versus protecting them will reportedly have genuine effects on the game, rather than the largely arbitrary choice it was in BioShock.
More importantly, the Vita Chambers are back in BioShock 2, but you can turn them off in the options screen before you ever start playing. Their presence in BioShock sucked most of the challenge and tension out of the game almost immediately, which undercut most of the admittedly phenomenal world-building.
2K Games was very frank about its intentions for this series, referring to BioShock 2 as "early in the franchise." I'm a bit cynical about how often they'll be able to reinvent this wheel; you can't keep going back to Rapture forever, after all. The first BioShock redefined the art of game narrative, so it's odd to think of it launching a lengthy series. Even if it doesn't manage to do that, though, at the very least you'll be able to hit splicers with a big drill, which is always good for a laugh.
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