For starters, the modes on tap only extend to free-for-all, team deathmatch, and an unannounced thing. A lot is riding on that mystery mode, because as it stands, BioShock fans likely won't find the deathmatch to be any more than a one-round curiosity. It's not that Digital Extremes isn't bringing anything new to the table. The whole multiplayer mode has been placed in a fairly attractive wrapper. Users play as a character inside Rapture, with a 3D apartment serving as a pre-match hub. A bathysphere attached to the pad serves as the gateway to actual multiplayer matches. It's an optional element--players can skip to the action if they wish--but certainly more interesting than the gameplay itself.
Inside the well-modeled apartment, audio logs from plasmid development company Sinclair Solutions introduce new weapons and abilities. As you level up in the multiplayer--accomplished by earning ADAM via kills and other tasks--Sinclair will dole out the rewards and add them to your cache. Players can pre-set three weapon and ability loadouts, and switch between them while inside the modes.
But that wrapper is eventually torn away, and the gum inside is unsurprisingly stale.
The live demonstration of the free-for-all mode included six people slogging around in a BioShock area and randomly killing each other. Maybe it was the lacking skill on display in the demo, but I couldn't imagine a more dull application of the BioShock license in a multiplayer setting. Players meandered about the levels, blasting away with plasmids and pistols, and at the end there was a scoreboard, and none of this is exciting to anyone who has played any other multiplayer game ever made in the world.
There are a few twists to the mayhem. Plasmids can be combined as in the singleplayer combat, and also used on the environment to sabotage unwitting deathmatchers. Turrets are around to hack, and a power-up that spawns randomly throughout levels will turn one player into the Big Daddy for a time.
The team deathmatch mode--cleverly tied into the story by way of the Rapture civil war--may produce some interesting strategic play with the combination of plasmids, but at the end of the day, the success or failure of Digital's multiplayer is riding on that last mode. One hopes for something unique, but at this point, I'm focusing my anticipation squarely on the singleplayer meat of the package.
BioShock 2 hits the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on November 3.