We take a stroll (and a dive) through 2K Marin’s Rapture, and discover what’s new and what’s old about BioShock 2.

Being a Big Daddy should be a simple life. You stomp around Rapture, defending Little Sisters, drilling Splicers through the gut, never finding a moment to take your helmet off and catch a breath. So shouldn’t it be worrying that BioShock 2 puts you in the shoes of a Big Daddy? Compared to the enigmatic protagonist of the first game, what mystery is there in playing the role of a hulking behemoth with a giant drill?

Well, consider how the demonstration of BioShock 2 that 2K Marin recently gave me began: the Big Daddy’s lying in a puddle, his vision’s skewed sideways. Suddenly there’s radio static and chatter, and then the voice of Bridgette Tenenbaum urges him to get his metal ass in gear. He hauls himself up, pushes himself off the floor, but in that instant, sees his reflection in the water. It’s a striking moment: Recognizing what you are, suddenly things don’t seem so simple. You’re a Big Daddy, yeah, but what does that actually mean? Why are you listening to Tenenbaum? Why have you gone rogue? Who are you?

One thing’s clear, at least: being a Big Daddy means you’re a wrecking machine. In addition to the trademark drill, which can be charged up for a fierce lunging attack, and the return of customizable and upgradeable guns, you can use Plasmids: guns and weapons go in your right hand, while fire, electricity, and other Plasmids that return from the original fire from your left.

But if that makes you worried that your character in BioShock 2 is so powerful, keep in mind that the bad guys are tougher, as well. Enemy Big Daddies return, and 2K Marin has tweaked the Vitachamber mechanics so that they’re a lot harder “to cheap.” (Vitachambers can also be turned off entirely from the get go).

Meanwhile, the Splicers are as hungry as ever for that genetic crack otherwise known as ADAM, and they’re looking for it in the same place as before: the Little Sisters. As a Big Daddy, or, as the Sisters affectionately call you, “Mr. B,” you’re compelled to be an ally to these girls. Instead of choosing between harvesting or rescuing a Sister, though, in BioShock 2 you can either harvest or “adopt” them. After you adopt a Sister, they’ll heal you if you get hurt, and, moreover, they’ll help you search for “angels,” corpses lying around full of ADAM to be sucked out of them.

You can also adopt a Sister, have her get all full of ADAM from harvesting, and then kill her. But you’ve got to be cold as ice to do that.

Before you do that, though, what happens when you find an “angel” is the Sister will climb off your back and start harvesting ADAM from the corpse. In the demo, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Catching the scent of ADAM, the Splicers started swarming into the room. Here’s where the Big Daddy put some of his new tricks to use. Plasmids in BioShock 2 are deadly on their own, but they’re even more potent when combined. I watched as the Big Daddy placed cyclone traps all around the Little Sister and then switched to the Incinerate plasmid to set all the traps on fire. When the Splicers got close, they’d get sucked into mini-whirlwinds that lit their ragged duds aflame, leaving them easy targets for more Incinerate or a few bolts from a rivet gun.

This “dynamic siege,” as 2K Marin called it, looked like the Little Sister escort mission sections from the end of the first BioShock, except, you know, actually fun.

Splicers are just small time goons, though. The real monster at the heart of BioShock 2 is the enigmatic Big Sister. Acquire too much ADAM from Little Sisters directly or via angel harvesting, and this armor clad and Plasmid-capable hellion, the “boogeyman” of Rapture, comes a-hunting.

The first time we caught sight of the Big Sister, she sliced open a huge glass window with a single cut, flooding the room and sending our hapless Big Daddy into the ocean for some underwater exploration (2K Marin says swimming sections will provide “creepy” and “introspective” interludes in BioShock 2).

The second time was after our hero had finished fending off Splicers to protect the Little Sister. Bounding around the room like Spider-Man, the Big Sister used Telekinesis to send every spare object in the room flying into the Big Daddy’s face. She then pounced on him, raised up her giant needle, and plunged it right into Mr. B’s torso.

Did the Big Daddy survive? Probably. Who is the Big Sister, and what connection does she have to Rapture? Why does she hate the Big Daddy so much? What relationship does Tenenbaum have to her? Is she even a she?

BioShock 2, at this point, raises a whole bunch of questions but gives very few answers. The most important question, obviously, is whether or not it’s going to be worth playing. No answer to that one, either, but it looks as if 2K Marin’s added enough to the gameplay to make things relatively fresh, while the fact that they’ve even got me speculating about the plot shows that they’re doing something right when it comes to the story.

Turns out being a Big Daddy isn’t that easy, and a sequel to a beloved game’s a bit more complex than we’d initially imagined.

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