BioShock 2 Impressions: Spoilers? What Spoilers?

How can you spoil BioShock 2? You already know the gameplay and setting from BioShock — or so you think.

Good thing the preview 2K showed was a "fake" level that won't appear in the final game, making it impossible to spoil BioShock 2 for anybody and focusing more on the game itself and less on the spoiling. But, if you're the sensitive type, you have been warned: *HERE BE SPOILERS*

"Hunting the Big Sister" is a short preview level that contains elements of BioShock 2 that will be in the final game. The first of those elements is obviously the protagonist – the original Big Daddy. See? Not a spoiler. Nothing new here, move along, move along.

It's 10 years after the events of the first game and for some reason, we're back in Rapture and not much has changed. The producers say there's a reason for this and that they don't want to presuppose a canon ending for the first game. Fingers crossed it's not "the first game was all a dream," because that would make both games terrible instead of just the sequel.

The demo level starts with your character coming to in a partially flooded chamber of Rapture as Tenenbaum orders you to get up. Since you are the first Big Daddy, you're not subject to the mind control the other Big Daddies suffer – but how can you refuse a beautiful woman with a German accent?

BioShock 2 Impressions: Spoilers? What Spoilers?

Tenenbaum tells you about the Big Sister – antagonist and second element of BioShock 2. She looks kind of like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, only made up of wire mesh and pipes. She also goes into murderous rages periodically, especially where Little Sisters are concerned. For whatever reason, Tenenbaum blames herself for all of this and enlists you to help her fix it/save it (sound familiar? Then it's not a spoiler!).

The fake level presents you with your first Big Sister encounter by having the rampaging thing blow open a wall of glass in one of Rapture's ocean-view rooms. This puts you at the bottom of the ocean surrounding Rapture; but because you're in a diving suit, this isn't a big deal for Big Daddy.

This third element of the game – the ocean explorer segments – is technically the only new thing I saw in the demo, since you really didn't get to wander around the ocean in the first game. But don't get too excited – 2K says you won't really get to wander around much in BioShock 2, either. The ocean segments are "guided experiences" where the Big Daddy is supposed to follow a mostly-linear path to an airlock to go back inside Rapture. It sounds like instead of having to build stuff to open doors, you'll be asked to find airlocks and go out into the ocean to find ways around locked doors.

Once back inside Rapture, the game introduces combat. No real spoilers here, since the only enemies around were Splicers. No explanation what they're still doing in Rapture after 10 years, but they're just as agro as ever – even considering that you're a Big Daddy with a drill for an arm. You come upon one or two of the whacked-out buggers and they immediately start mobbing you with about three more coming from nowhere to join the fray. You can drill them with the drill arm (big fun), use plasmids (new ones are promised, but we didn't get to see them) or firearms to kill them off (yay, magnum rivet gun!). But sometimes they run away so you can't kill them; and they might even be able to kill you in larger packs so think twice before charging after the ones that flee. Additionally, there will be "differentiated" enemy types to keep the playing field level – but we didn't get to see anything besides Splicers.

BioShock 2 Impressions: Spoilers? What Spoilers?

After the combat, we were shown another main element of the game that's supposed to be the big ticket item: the Little Sister interactions. It's tempting to say that this doesn't count as a spoiler since it looks almost exactly the same as it did in the first game – but I guess changing the word "Save" to "Adopt" is significant.

The producers are well aware that people didn't really like the Hitler/Jesus split endings in the last game (especially since they were practically the same and there was no significant payoff or penalty for choosing one over the other). To address that, they've made the Little Sister interactions more complex than just "Harvest" or not-Harvest. This will in theory impact the endings more profoundly and since there might be more than just two endings, this might actually matter.

When you "Adopt" a Little Sister, you carry her around a level with you and can deploy her to go gather Adam from corpses. But doing so agros pretty much every Splicer in the area and they all come running to kick the shit out of the Little Sister. Again, not really a spoiler, since this same mechanic went on in the later levels of BioShock. The difference here is that the Little Sister has a Harvest limit and once she's reached it, you have to send her back home via the little pipe system.

Or – and this is a spoiler and quite possibly the most interesting thing to say about BioShock 2 so far – you could Adopt her, max out her Adam limit and then Harvest her. If you really want to be a bastard, that is.

After we saw the Little Sister Harvest a corpse, the Big Sister showed up again to knock out the Big Daddy, thus ending the fake level presentation.

P.S., said the developers, there will be multiplayer, there will be side stories and audio logs and they promise not to apply retroactive continuity to the first game. But since we didn't get to see any of that, none of that counts as spoilers.

*END SPOILERS*

BioShock 2 Impressions: Spoilers? What Spoilers?

So here's what we don't know, even having played the first game, fantasized about a sequel and read every scrap of pre-preview coverage out there:

1) How are we back in Rapture? We know why we're back in Rapture: it's easier for the producers to work with. But how is this city still functioning after Jack supposedly liberated or enslaved it at the end of the first game?
2) Why are we a Big Daddy? Not that I'm complaining about having a huge drill arm – I'm just confused as to how a speechless dude in a diving suit is going to sustain an emotional connection for the player.
3) How many endings will there be? The producers won't say, but they did say that the whole game would be "a smidge more linear" while still "empowering exploration." Very cryptic.

Make of BioShock 2's early looks what you will. But I'm going to take a moment to remind you of another Sad Truth About Sequels: like a second bite of cookie, the second installment of any game is rarely ever quite as sweet as the first simply because it's no longer new. You've already been spoiled... get used to it.