Given how much I adored the first Bioshock, I was a little anxious when firing up the sequel – it had been developed by a different team, there was a new focus on multiplayer – but any doubts were swept away almost from the get-go. I’m about 10 hours in now after a bit of a marathon session, and it really is just superb.
The main change affecting gameplay is the player character being a "Big Daddy" – meaning you begin the game as a hulking, metal-plated behemoth rather than an unarmed and unarmored civilian – and the addition of new, stronger enemies. Chief amongst these are the "Big Sisters", who will pursue you relentlessly as you endeavor to save the "Little Sisters" who are dotted around the city. A new regular foe, the "Splicer Brute" has also been added to spice things up: these guys move fast, pack a punch and can climb up to wherever you’re trying to hide.
The dynamic between your character and the Little Sisters has also changed. As one of the Big Daddies that they are programmed to trust, a key part of the game is escorting them safely around the city while they harvest ADAM. This leads to some of the tensest gameplay, as the harvesting activity draws aggressive splicers from far and wide who will attack in waves – more often than not from multiple directions – while you’re forced to wait. Fortunately Trap Rivets, Portable Turrets and Proximity Bombs give you the ability to build a defensive perimeter before-hand to help deal with the threats.
The other Big Daddies have also been upgraded – explained by one of the Audio Diaries as a counter-measure to the growing number of Sister attacks – and some can take a lot of work to bring down. Big Sisters are newly added, and are armored like the Big Daddies but are agile, fast and can use multiple plasmids. You get a short warning period before they arrive – a piercing scream – which is best used in preparing traps and finding a good fighting position.
The research camera from the first game makes a modified re-appearance: it is now a video camera which you start rolling before a fight against an opponent. Depending on the different ways you resolve the battle, you will gain a better research score eventually leading to better fighting techniques and plasmids.
Anyway, it’s all looking good so far and if it keeps on like this, I’d call this an early contender for game-of-the-year.