BioShock 2 Multiplayer Lobby Preview: Yes, The Lobby

The multiplayer mode of BioShock 2 isn't just supposed to be a fun activity for multiple gamers. It's supposed to be a prequel to the first BioShock. A prequel told through multiplayer? How absurd, I thought, before entering its lobby.

Let it be known that I have ventured no further into BioShock 2's first-person guns-and-superpowers multiplayer modes than its playable lobby. Such are the limits of preview builds of games that to play an online multiplayer session requires coordination with a game publisher that can be compromised by the flu, vacations and other stuff.

But here's the shock: Even just stepping into the lobby it seems that, well, actually, maybe this multiplayer mode actually can serve as a prequel to the first BioShock. (To slightly-latecomers, the single-player part of BioShock 2, which is a sequel to the first game was previewed on this site earlier this week. Also, please note I have no visuals to show you of what I'm about to describe. The screenshot up top is from single-player.)

The BioShock 2 multiplayer mode begins a choice. The player needs to choose one of several citizens of Rapture to be. I chose football player Danny Wilkins, though I apologise for not remembering the details of his written profile. I've yet to figure out if you can change your character, as I wasn't able to back out to a character-selection screen.

To start playing my multiplayer experience, I chose a menu option called "Prologue". This triggered a cutscene that put me in an apartment in BioShock's undersea former Utopia, Rapture. From a first-person perspective, my character picked himself off the floor, a dripping syringe of blue liquid near him. On Wilkins' black and white TV screen, Rapture leader Andrew Ryan was making an address to all the citizens of Rapture, celebrating the turning of the calendar from 1958 to 1959. "Andrew Ryan offers you a toast, to Rapture, 1959... May it be our finest year!"

Ryan was wrong, fans know. Rapture endures civil war in the year that follows. That's the content you apparently play in multiplayer.

The apartment, which presumably belongs to my character, is a 3D space like any other room in BioShock's campaign. Amid the decor was a desk and chairs, a working stereo, and a recording machine that played back a message welcoming me into the Sinclair Solutions rewards program. Sinclair Solutions makes the Plasmid super-powers available in the series. I/Wilkins was being selected to test some of the company's "home defence products in the field." Test them well and I'd be eligible for company rewards.

Standard options that you would expect in a multiplayer set-up menu screen were rendered as elements of Wilkins' apartment. At my closet, I could change my outfit and melee weapon. I had my football hero put on a goat mask and wield a football trophy as his weapon. At a Gene Bank device on the wall, I could configure and save up to three weapons load-outs. For my guns, I chose a revolver and shotgun. For my Plasmid powers, I went with Electro Bolt and Incinerate, leaving Winter Blast behind. Other weapons and Plasmids were locked, presumably accessible only when my character levels up (make that: only when my character earns more Sinclair Solutions customer appreciation rewards.)

But before I could even make all my wardrobe and weapons selections, an audio alert played, informing me that there was trouble and people should return to the safety of their homes. Yeah, right. I assumed that was my cue to gear up for multiplayer battle. To do that I'd need to leave the apartment. Before I did that, however, a tape recorder caught my eye. It was sitting on a coffee table. I activated it and discovered that it contained audio messages from my character and the others'. Each had one unlocked monologue and two locked ones. The locked audio clips had messages next to them, explaining which level my character would have to achieve to hear each one. The levels required are different for each clip, meaning that players will be steadily unlocking a new one for another character bit by bit as they level up in multiplayer, until all of the monologues are available in full. Wilkins' first one was all about how he told a young football player that the way to be as great a player as himself is to recognise that the way Danny Wilkins spells it, there is an I in team. It's no wonder this guy made it to the Objectivist, individualist paradise-to-be of Rapture.

I couldn't get more information out of this lobby/apartment.

To progress I'd have to leave, to step into the Bathysphere, located down a hallway containing a bucket catching ceiling leaks. In that Bathysphere, I'd be able to select a multiplayer mode of play - Survival of the Fittest, Civil War, Capture the Sister, Turf War or Team ADAM Grab - and proceed with traditional online multiplayer matchmaking.

I can't say, therefore, whether actually playing multiplayer advances the story and makes the mode feel like a prequel that has narrative to it. I can say, though, that the apartment will be able to serve as a means to telling some story and revealing some lore. That's already more than I expected and gets me thinking that, as with BioShock 2's single-player mode, I may have been too hasty in assuming such limited potential in the storytelling ability of the game's series-first multiplayer offering.


    I was really skeptical that this multiplayer would just feel tacked on and it would only be a prequel through the setting. Really impressed with how they've decided to tell the story. Its probably going to just blow over the heads of most people though, the thought of having to sit down and listen or just read story wouldn't appeal to a lot of players.

    Glad they went for a hub instead of menus. It really helps add to the immersion.

    Bioshock really stood a chance at standing up (and being listened) that games don't NEED Mutliplayer and can be great doing so.

    Whether the multi-player is going to good/fun or not and have a good story to go with it (which does sound odd, but understandable in a Bioshock sense) - it DOES feel like they added it to make it more appealing with more sales perhaps. Kinda mandatory is you could say, when it isn't.

    From my mates who have played Bioshock and liked it, which narrows that down to pretty much all of them - all of them have agreed that multiplayer doesn't sound right with Bioshock and would have liked it just single-player.

      Then don't play it. Problem solved! Having it as an option isn't going to ruin the singleplayer in the slightest.

        Unless they end up focusing more time and money on multiplater elements and less on the actual single player campaign.

          “focusing more time and money on multiplayer elements and less on the actual single player campaign” That’s an interesting thought because that’s the way pretty much all FPS’s are heading I think, I’m pretty sure a lot of FPS’s coming out in the next few years are going to be direct rip offs of MW2 (EA has already started) and look at MAG by Sony, that game is entirely online. Single player campaigns have already started to take the backseat in FPS games, and that really sucks in my opinion, it was the single player campaign that made all the FPS games so memorable. (the ones I’ve got anyway)

          These days it’s totally acceptable to have a story mode that lasts only a few hours. FPS games from just 4 or 5 years ago would have been laughed out the door had they not had a beefy single player mode to balance out the multiplayer. And what sucks worst of all is the fact that Australians get screwed twice as hard because of the lag we get. So yea don’t scale back the single player to make the multiplayer good, make both of them good.

          I don’t want FPS games to just be an outlet for people to rack up kills online, because that would be wasted potential

          Just a reminder, Digital Extremes is developing the MP, not 2K Marin/Aus. So there shouldn't be too much time being wasted on it, at least.

      I'm gonna agree with Michael - if you don't want to play it, simply don't.

      But seriously, what's wrong with multiplayer in addition to single player? It's not like they're forcing you to play it, nor are they stripping out single player altogether (as with the disastrous Quake:Arena), but there is usually a big increase in a game's replayability and community engagement when MP is added, so where's the harm? I'll agree that some MP efforts feel a little tacked on, but when it's poorly implemented it just doesn't get played (I'm looking at you, Dark Sector!).

      So how about we hold off on judging the strength of 2K's multiplayer effort until you've actually tried it? You may have heard nothing that makes you think it will be awesome, but I suspect that's because you haven't heard much about it at all, since previews are just beginning on it. I'd lean towards trusting the tentative, qualified opinions of Totilo over you and your mates, who haven't touched the game as yet. And my experience with the first game was good enough for me to trust that these are devs who know what they're doing - I'd expect them to be careful not to disappoint their fans, and I doubt they'd do it if they didn't think that the tie in was good.

      Ah, but if you're dead set against MP, and if you still want a poster child for SP-only games, how about Assassin's Creed? Not a spot of MP in that, and I think its sales and general awesomeness give it the voice you're looking for...

    As well designed as it appears to be, I still haven't seen anything to convince me that the actual MP gameplay is anything above average.

    And while this way of setting up the multiplayer will probably seem nice the first time around, going back through it over and over would probably get tiresome fairly quickly, at least for me.

    Quite a surprise to see that they're making the effort to at least give the multiplayer some connection to the universe in some way.

    However until I see some stuff about it, I'm still skeptical about the whole multiplayer experience. But I'll eagerly await more tidbits!

    And there we have it. That dreaded evil word for multiplayer. . . MATCHMAKING.
    Heres hoping they dont screw it up like Gears 2, MW1, MW2. . .

      Just hope they dont add in a pair of Model 1887s

    I was worried about how they where going to link the storyline up, from reading this looks like my fears were not needed :)

    It sounds like an interesting direction they are taking this, I'll definitely consider buying this one. I like rewarding developers who try different and exciting approaches.

    Uncharted 2 has proven to us that multi-player experiences don't need to take anything away from how good the single player is.

    Very clever way of making the multiplayer feel like part of the whole game - rather than a series of menus leading to some quick gameplay.

    Extremely interesting hub. I'd have to say it sounds like the best Multiplayer hub in any videogame ever, possibly of all hubs. Whether the mode itself is any fun, though, well that remains to be seen. High hopes, though.

    I don't care if there is or isn't a MP mode in Bioshock 2, but it better be very well tested and balanced. Having it end up like MW2's MP would certainly ruin the quality of the game. And I hope they add dedicated servers. That would be a major plus in a decision whether to buy it, at least for me.

    I agree with most others though, the hub idea is a good addition, especially how they've intergrated it into the game.

    All first impressions for Bioshock 2 seem fantastic so far, but Assassin's Creed taught me that first impressions can always be misleading.

    I'll probably end up buying this anyway, its looking just that awesome.

    By the way, does anyone have any idea what's happening with the Bioshock novel? Is it still coming out alongside Bioshock 2's release?

    what is wrong with mw2 multiplayer? in my opinion it is very pleasing, the only thing wrong is the servers. and after playing assasins creed i have relized once you have beat the story mode there is really no need to play that game anymore. so if you bought that game it just never gets played again and you end up going to play a game that has a good multiplayer in the end anyway, like mw2. but even though the servers are bad you still go play it because it has a good multiplayer. so i for one am glad that the are putting a multiplayer in it so i have a reason for buying the game and playing it in the long run.

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