Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Last week CC2K looked back at what made Bioshock such a great game. This week we look forward and preview Bioshock 2: Sea of Dreams.
The past month has been an exciting time for Bioshock fans. The most recent issue of Game Informer magazine featured an extensive preview of the highly anticipated sequel to the 2007 Game of the Year. And just last week the first gameplay footage debuted online, which you'll get to see in a sec. I don't want to simply reiterate what was covered so well in the Game Informer article, but I do want to talk about some of what we can expect and what has me so excited for the release of Bioshock 2.
First, check out the gameplay video that debuted last week, would you kindly?
Crom, that shit is righteous. Okay, there's lots in that gameplay footage to talk about. First of all, if it's not obvious from the footage, you will be playing as a Big Daddy. These are the lumbering behemoths that serve as guardians to the Little Sisters. But you won't be playing as just any Big Daddy. No sir. Evidently you will be the first Big Daddy ever created. This means lots of cool things for the gameplay. Let's start with something more basic. In the first game you had a modest arsenal of weapons and firearms ranging from a wrench to a crossbow that you could use in combination with a variety of offensive plasmids like Incinerate! and Telekinesis. As a Big Daddy, we see that you apparently will use the Drill as your primary melee weapon and the Rivet Gun as your primary ranged weapon. If Bioshock 2 follows its predecessor you should also be able to throw grenades as a Big Daddy (whereas your character from the first game had to rely on a grenade launcher). Are there going to be other weapons available to you? At this point we don't know, but that raises an interesting challenge to the developers.
Many FPS games are built around an arsenal of ever-increasingly powerful weapons that you encounter as the game progresses. I realize I'm showing my age here, but think back to Doom. You started out with the Pistol, then found the Shotgun, followed by the Chain Gun, Rocket Launcher, Plasma Rifle, and finally(!) the BFG 9000. More recent games have offered little real deviation from this formula. Would it be possible to create an FPS with a single melee weapon and just one ranged weapon? You might scoff at the idea initially, but it really isn't all that unreasonable. For all the guns most FPS games offer, we tend to stick with one or two that we like the best. In Halo 3 I mostly waged war on the Covenant with the Battle Rifle. In Gears of War 2 I carried the Lancer and the Longshot as much as possible. For all the guns in Fallout 3, I find myself using 'Ol Painless more than any other. Of course, other gamers very well may call me crazy for my choices and prefer other options. Different guns often suit different situations and varying combat styles. The real challenge in limiting players to a single gun would be making it versatile enough for all encounters and customizable enough to match different styles of play. That certainly seems possible in Bioshock 2, what with the different ammo types that make an appearance in the above gameplay footage, as well as the Power to the People weapon enhancement stations in the first game that I imagine will be reappearing in the second.
Another exciting new development of Bioshock 2 is the ability to dual-wield plasmids and weapons. In the first game you had to switch back and forth between them, never able to have both active and ready at the same time. This should allow for more and better combination attacks, making you even more deadly. Additionally, it appears that upgrading offensive plasmids will not only make them more potent, but will also change their properties. For example, while the base level Incinerate! will be much like in the first game where a snap of your fingers engulfs an enemy in a fiery explosion, upgrading Incinerate! appears to make it function more as a destructive jet of flame. If some of the other plasmids work the same way, this could allow for plasmids to essentially replace the chemical thrower found in the first game. By making the plasmids more powerful and more versatile, as well as adding new ones could supplement your arsenal and make the idea of having just one gun throughout the game more feasible. One final new feature seen in the footage that displays just how different it might be to play as a Big Daddy is the suit all Big Daddies wear, which allows you to breathe underwater. I recall at least one Big Daddy in the first game venturing out to the ocean floor. Will gamers get to do the same in the sequel?
Okay, back to the footage. See that glowing red circle of light that darts in and out of the darkness in the first half of the video? And the svelte, agile, vaguely Big Daddy-looking form attached to it? That my dear readers is Big Sister. Evidently we are going to be seeing a lot of her in Bioshock 2. Though at this point her story is still murky, we know that Big Sister is a grown-up Little Sister (duh, right?), and apparently is the same young woman seen in the image on the left clutching the Big Daddy doll standing on the beach. Why has she returned to Rapture? What are her motivations? Will she be taking the place of Frank Fontaine as the main antagonist of Bioshock 2? All good questions, and I have no answers. Regardless, I'm stoked about this for a couple of reasons. By bringing back one of the Little Sisters rescued in the first game, it shows a devotion to the story and continued enrichment of what the developers built the first time around. Additionally, most FPS/action games establish a strong main, playable character upon which a franchise is built (Master Chief, Marcus Fenix, Solid Snake, Kratos), yet Bioshock 2 marks a departure from this formula. The character you played as in the first game was shown to have died from old age in post-game cut scenes. The only returning characters are this anonymous Little Sister, Dr. Tenebaum (seen in the gameplay footage reprising her role as an ally, apparently), and the city of Rapture of course.
"It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the ocean. It was impossible to build it anywhere else." Words spoken by Andrew Ryan, the designer and driving force of this underwater Metropolis. If I may paraphrase, it was not impossible to make a sequel to Bioshock. It was impossible to set it anywhere other than Rapture. Part of what made Bioshock so unique, so special was its setting. Rapture was a character in and of itself, and the brilliance is that we saw only a small portion of the city. In a way, Rapture becomes the strong character, the foundation upon which the franchise of Bioshock is being built. Even after we play through the sequel I'm sure there will still be plenty of Rapture left unexplored, places that can be visited in a second sequel. And with these new environs, might we discover new and even more disturbing denizens than the menagerie of Splicers that populated the first game? Crom, I hope so.
I'd like to close this preview with a list of what I'd like to see in Bioshock 2:
Ocean Floor Excursions –
As I mentioned earlier, one of the cool things about being a Big Daddy is that you're in a self-contained suit that allows you to breathe underwater. That opens the possibility of not being confined to the city of Rapture, but being able to venture out into open water and explore the ocean floor surrounding the city. I'd love to see a level/mission set in such an environment, or lots of opportunities to take it outside, so to speak.
A Zoo Level –
I recall reading that developers were plannig to include a zoo in the first game, but had to scrap it due to time constraints. How cool would it be to have a level set in a zoo? And what if that zoo were run by a Sander Cohen type, someone completely insane who decided to start splicing various animals in the zoo? How fucking cool would that be? Think of the possibilities! Alligators with active camoflauge that could turn invisible! Tigers that could teleport! Monkeys that could fling flaming poop!
New Plasmids –
During a recent second play-through I discovered that I had downloaded some new plasmids made available via a DLC package. I'd love to see more of these in the second game. What about a Water Control plasmid, that would let you (what else?) control water sort of like the aliens in The Abyss? You could make the standing pools of water throughout Rapture deadly weapons by drowning an enemy in a block of water. Or maybe a Sunburst plasmid that could function like a flashbang and temporarily blind opponents? I hope the developers let their imaginations run wild in coming up with new plasmids for us to play with.
New Splicer Variants –
Aside from Big Daddies, Splicers (humans who've genetically modified themselves to points beyond sanity) were the antagonistic staple of the first game. Certainly I'd love to see some new enemies appear in the sequel, but undoubtedly Splicers will again be a mainstay, and I'd love to see new variants debut. How about Amphibious Splicers that can breathe underwater? They could appear in the open water portions of the game armed with harpoon guns. Or maybe a population of Splicers that live in and around the zoo that have mixed their genetic code with different animal species, sort of like The Island of Dr. Moreau? Again, anything goes and the more the merrier.
Little Sister Interactions –
In the first game when you caught hold of a Little Sister after defeating her Big Daddy, you had the option of either rescuing her or harvesting her. In a screenshot from the sequel that appeared in Game Informer, you appear to have the option of either harvesting a Little Sister or adopting her (you're a Big Daddy yourself, remember). What will it mean to adopt a Little Sister? In the first game Big Daddies simply followed Little Sisters around, guaranteeing them safe passage and protection while they harvested ADAM from corpses. Will we have to carry out this same function in the sequel? I don't know, but I'd love to see this idea of interacting with an adopted Little Sister explored and fleshed out in the sequel.
DLC (Downloadable Content) –
Obviously expansions along the lines of new missions and mini-quests are more easy to create for open-world games such as Fable 2, GTA IV, and Fallout 3, and are more challenging for more linear games like Halo and Bioshock. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see some sweet DLC for Bioshock 2. Given that the sequel will rectify what many gamers saw as a disappointment, if not an outright flaw, in that Bioshock 2 will have a mulitplayer component, it's almost certain that developers will go the way of Halo 3 and Gears of War 2 and release new multiplayer maps after release of the game. That would be great, but what I'd really like to see is DLC geared more toward the single-player experience. Just because it's a challenge doesn't mean it's impossible.
In closing, earlier this year I released my list of games due out in 2009 that I'm anticipating more than any others. Bioshock 2 came in at #2 on that list. Given everything I've discussed here, that placement is well justified. September 30th can't get here fast enough!