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5 W's Review: Bioshock 2's Multiplayer

Bioshock 2.  Multiplayer.  5 W's.  Let's go.

Who made it?

Bioshock was originally developed by Irrational Games under the direction of Ken Levine.  Huge success.

When Bioshock 2 was announced, the gaming press was skeptical.  Bioshock didn't really need a sequel, and how could you possibly top the original?  2K Games commissioning Digital Extremes to add competitive multiplayer didn't help.  While some were titillated by the idea, more felt it was insulting to the source material.

Fortunately, Digital Extremes had a solid track record.  Makers of Unreal, Unreal Tournament (and it's sequels), Dark Sector; even porting the original Bioshock from Xbox 360 to both PC and PS3.

Despite such a solid MDS (Multiplayer Deathmatch Shooter) resume, it must have been difficult giving Bioshock a competitive edge while maintaining the story elements that made it Bioshock.

What is it supposed to be?

From the outside, Bioshock 2 Multiplayer looked to be nothing more then a "tacked-on" element from a bullet pointed list of game mode requirements in a post Modern Warfare industry.

Playing it, you can't escape it's obvious desire to copy Call of Duty.  Level up ranking system (swapping EXP for ADAM), weapon attachments, trials, perks; even direct match mode copies like CTF, TDM, FFA, and S&D (renamed "Last Splicer Standing").

Regardless: locations, weapons, plasmids, characters, dialogue, even story elements did, admittedly, fit well into the BS universe.

When is it good?

The mechanics may have reeked of MW but the atmosphere was truly Rapture.  I can't say I've ever played a MDS with such an interesting level of immersion before.

The map design is also quite stellar.  Every map is crafted to look and feel like a fleshed out part of the experience while at the same time being easily maneuverable.  The maps are perfect in functional design but at the same time filled with subtleties.

The highest point in the experience is the level of interaction the players can have with each other and the environment.  Throughout each level are vending machines, turrets, oil spills, water puddles, grab-able objects, and breakable passageways.  Everything is interact-able on various levels.

Doorways, for instance:

Is someone chasing you?  Shoot the doorway with Electro Shock to open it before you even reach it.  Are you chasing someone?  Shoot a doorway with the Winter Blast plasmid to freeze it and prevent it from opening.  Want to help your teammate?  Put a Geyser Trap in front of the doorway and send enemies that walk through it careening into the ceiling.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

It's possible (and proven) you can play the game successfully without even firing a gun.  No MDS in history has ever come close to that level of depth and interactivity.  You can play in a wide variety of styles while still keeping to the MDS ascetic.

What BS2MP does well, it knocks out of the park.

Where does it come up short?

I imagine Digital Extremes had a choice: either tone down everything to a point where balance is attainable and gameplay is fair or throw balance out the window in true Bioshock fashion.  They understandably went for the latter.

Every weapon, perk, plasmid, and environmental object is in someway unbalanced.  Not just slightly, every single thing is in some way broken beyond belief.  Every plasmid  stuns enemy players.  Every weapon either does frightfully massive damage (2 are single shot kills), or can be fired almost indefinitely.

Late game perks that resurrect you upon death or turn your body into proximity bombs become both annoying and punishing to lower level players.  The game breaks even further when 2 or more people work together to chain stun and insta-gib players who spawn away from their teammates; then are rewarded with further damage boosts creating a steamroll mechanic.

I won't complain about broken spawn systems because so few games have a spawn system that works; it does seem the system works fine when consistently spawning the Big Daddy suit closest to the winning team though.

How does it all come together?

If you can get past the issues on the surface, Bioshock 2's Multiplayer is both a fun and funny experience.

Fun in it's crazy level of depth and unique atmosphere.  Fun when it turns every enemy encounter into "throw everything but the kitchen sink".  Funny in it's chaotic and frenetic nature.  Funny in it's laughable brokenness.

Despite the game's obvious (and immediately apparent) flaws, I can still say it is an enjoyable experience.  It may not be a particularly long experience, but the time you spend with it is definitely memorable.

Why should I play it?

Bioshock 2's Multiplayer mode asks all the right questions in a post Modern Warfare era:

-Do we have to copy the MW format with every type of MDS?
-Can primarily single player games have engaging multiplayer modes?
-How far can we push the bounds of unique MDS without being too unbalanced or gimmicky?
-Can MDS have deeper depth to accommodate wildly different styles of play or even storytelling?

It doesn't answer any question with certainty but you can't blame it for the asking.  Bioshock 2's Multiplayer should be played by all people who consider themselves MDS fans or purists.  Even if only briefly.
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About Option1Soulone of us since 1:28 AM on 06.15.2013

Been a gamer for a long time...

Owned/Operated Consoles [in Chronological order]:

Atari 800XL
Commadore Amiga 2600
Atari Lynx
Super NES
Neo Geo AES
Panasonic 3DO
Tiger Game.com
Sega Saturn
Neo Geo Pocket Color
AMD K62-400
Bandai Wonderswan (Monochrome)
Sony Playstation
Gameboy Advance
PC-Engine CD (JAP)
Sony Playstation 2
Nintendo DS
Sony PSP
Microsoft Xbox 360
AMD Phenom II X4 965be w/Radeon 6850
Sony Playstation 3


...but actually I'm a full time Hip Hop and Soul producer when I'm not gaming.