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Other familiar devices such as hacking and obtaining Adam -- the currency of Rapture that allows you to genetically modify yourself -- through little sisters are still present, but the way they function has also changed. Hacking can be done remotely through a dart gun, and no longer goes into a Pipe Dream-style game that removes you from real-time (and is also, thankfully, considerably faster to do). And since you're a Big Daddy this time around, little sisters can now be adopted, allowing you to protect them while they harvest Adam (after which you can then choose to save or kill them as you did in the previous game). In the case of the hacking changes it's really just a minor thing that keeps the game flowing more smoothly, but the addition of the adoption feature with little sisters means that players have to make not only the choice of whether they will exploit them for their ability to harvest Adam, but also whether they will then murder them after gaining their trust. Just like the original had gamers talking to one another about whether they harvested or saved -- and often with jokes about what type of person they were based on their decision -- BioShock 2 aims to get players into a conversation, and allow some of them to show what it means to be truly evil.
You'll also encounter multiple Big Daddy iterations within the sprawling undersea complex, but they won't attack unless provoked. You can walk right past them and they won't even bat an eyelash -- er, blink a headlamp. Mess with their Little Sister and it's another story. Take down the Big Daddy and his Little Sister clings to you for protection.
Fast forward 10 years after BioShock ended, and there's a new lunatic running the battered city. Her name is Sophia Lamb, and unlike Ryan, she's dismissed all notions of the power of individualism. She preaches about collective effort and the effects of the many working in unison can have, bringing about a kind of religious revolution within Rapture. As far as I can tell, it has something to do with butterflies (there are paintings and drawings of these plastered all over Rapture's walls) and in some way these themes lock into your role and the Little Sisters. That being said, I'm not going to talk much about how the plot plays out in BioShock 2 for fear of spoiling things. I will say, however, that you'll still be hearing Andrew Ryan in the game, though it's just his voice saved on recorders and audio logs, which again are littered around the world and help to flesh out backstory.
From the first loading screen in which the snappy, upbeat lyrics of 1940s period music stands in sharp contrast to the oppressive gloom and decay you know you're back. The BioShock 2 demo saw us exploring Ryan Amusements, a learning museum for the children of Rapture. In true Ryan style, it's actually a propaganda pit: It teaches children all about the oppressive world of big government and welfare, to thoroughly scare the crap out of them in the hopes that they'll never want to leave the city.
As a Big Daddy, your arsenal consists of several weapons that were used against you in the first game, including Rosie's rivet gun and the Bouncer's giant drill. And yes, using the drill to rip enemies apart is every bit as satisfying as you're hoping it is. You can also do a devastating quick dash that, when used in conjunction with the Winter Blast plasmid, will cause enemies to explode into a shower of icy bits. Rounding out your arsenal is a new machine gun and a spear gun, though there could be more, but these were the only ones I was able to try out.
We're aboard an express train (bathyspheres are no longer the only way to travel), but the path is blocked by an iced-up door. A voice crackles on a radio, that of plasmid designer Sinclair (who sponsors your multi-player character and offers them in game rewards for 'testing' Sinclair Solutions weapons and tonics), telling us that we need to find some ADAM and buy the 'Incinerate' plasmid from a vending machine to melt the ice. The structure is very similar to the first game; as you make your way through the city, areas will be blocked requiring a detour through splicer-infested areas to continue.
Aside from the customary new weapons and plasmids, there have been some nice changes made to the overall gameplay. For starters, you now dual-wield your weapon and plasmids at the same time, and therefore aren't required to cumbersomely switch between the two. The hacking mechanic has also been completely overhauled, meaning no (Pipe Dream)-inspired mini-game, just a quick reflex-based mini-game. Additionally, you can combine plasmids now for massive damage. For example, freezing an enemy and then setting a whirlwind off underneath them will cause them to shoot into the ceiling and burst into tiny pieces, which looks great.
In Jacob Morris' apartment, you can customize your load and mix certain weapons with plasmids, so you have immediate access to them without having to switch menus in the heat of battle. To balance out multiplayer you only get to start out with one plasmid, such as quick fire or a charge shot. Obviously, this takes up Eve and this can be replenished by finding Circus of Value machines and just walking into them. This saves us from having animations hinder our ability to fight, and the same goes for hacking turrets since you just wait a few seconds and its yours. A big surprise is that every map has a Big Daddy suit, and while this makes you slow and lumbering it makes up for this in brute strength.
For those Big Daddies that take on a fathering role by saving the Little Sisters they "liberate" from the other Big Daddies, remember that they're a precious commodity. Expect splicers to come out of the woodwork at just a brief whiff of the sweet girl on your shoulder. Sure, you could have shown no mercy and harvested her yourself for a quick fix of Adam, but now that she trusts you, she's also willing to ignore child labor laws and work for her keep. Signal to your Little Sister that you wish to obtain some Adam, and she'll direct you to the nearest harvestable corpse via a wispy white trail for you to follow. Once you take her off your shoulder so she can harvest, things can get messy, fast, as she's vulnerable on the ground, and the Adam draws out a barrage of attacks from nearby splicers.
Beyond that, it was much the same type of adventure, with the need to search various containers, which might have health-generating items (such as food or bandages), money or other inventory aids. You'll still be able to go to the Gene Bank to change your plasmids and tonics; still be able to use a Vita-Chamber checkpoint to capture your latest progress and to revive yourself after an unfortunate death; and the submenu system will still offer a detailed, nested information system that's accessible in-game for such things as your current mission and the helpful map.
Playing with the Big Daddy's spear gun was definitely the highlight of our hands-on time with the game. After impaling one enemy with its projectile, which sent him flying backwards into a wall, the spear gun instantly became my weapon of choice for the rest of the demo. I stapled a few baddies to Rapture and then discovered that you're actually able to reclaim your spears from dead enemies.
Pipe Mania-style hacking is gone, replaced by a timing-based mechanic where players have to stop an arrow on a specific part of a meter, seemingly an answer to those who decried the constant break in pace during the original. You now have a gun that can decrypt security-protected objects like turrets, robots and such from a distance in real-time but why the change? (It was not done just because some people became bored with it. Doing it from a distance was more of a countermeasure against feeling too bulky as a Big Daddy and not being able to do some clever things before the Splicers come running.)