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BioShock 2: Minerva's Den DLC hands-on

The upcoming Minerva’s Den DLC is its own little mini-adventure, taking place during the same events of the main BioShock 2 game, but all the way on the other side of the city from Subject Delta’s rampage. This time, in keeping with the whole prototype Big Daddy thing, you’ll play as Subject Sigma. Things begin along the lines of BioShock’s main theme of choice and control – you’re lumbering along as a mindless Big Daddy, not in control of your actions, when something not entirely clear happens to break you out of your stupor.

Right off you’re immersed in Rapture’s dangerous world – except this time, it’s even more dangerous, because Minerva’s Den, an area of the city that’s been essentially sealed off, is host to advanced splicers – splicers who can use plasmids. To help you out, you have two new items at your disposal: the Gravity Well plasmid and the Ion Laser. The Gravity Well doesn’t really function much different from the Cyclone Trap – it sucks enemies (and debris) into the air. The difference, however, is hilarious: splicers, once sucked into the air, orbit around the well comically, and of course you can take pot shots while they fly around.

The Ion Laser obviously shoots a continuous beam of death – a yellow one, which is a color usually neglected in laser weapon design. Anyway, it’s horrifically powerful, tearing down life bars in a second. Again, functionally it’s not so different from a machine gun, but it has the fun factor. It also can be outfitted with alternate ammo, like the Burst Cell, which changes the laser color to blue and allows you to charge up one big super-shot, which is handy for finishing off a Big Daddy.

The theme of Minerva’s Den is computing technology. With the time period still in 1968, computers aren’t the sleek, small tech we’re used to in games. There are banks of computers running up to the ceiling, full of blinking Christmas lights and looking suitably archaic. Charles Milton Porter, the designer of Rapture’s computing tech, will play a major role in Minerva’s Den. He’s the mind behind the sentries and other security systems we’ve come to know over the course of the series, so it’s pretty cool to finally see where all this stuff comes from.

Along these lines, we’re promised to get some answers to questions left hanging from BioShock 2, such as the unresolved fates of certain characters. One new character we get to meet is the Thinker – the brain of Rapture, so to speak. During our play we only got to hear a polite greeting from the Thinker’s voice, and it was creepy in a GLaDOS kind of way. We’re hoping to get into an epic confrontation later on, or maybe a cool super hero team-up.

There’s also the new Big Daddy type – the Lancer. He’s another “skinny” Big Daddy like Delta and Sigma, and he’s armed with the same Ion Laser you have, so he’s pretty scary when he starts cooking your goose with ultra-precise beams from afar. He also has one special move you don’t – a blinding flash of light that works like a flash grenade. If you see him charging up to do it, you can look away to keep from getting blinded.

Note that while Minerva’s Den features lasers and computers, it doesn’t feel so high tech as to be incongruous with the rest of Rapture. It actually fits in perfectly, and has the usual crumbling plaster and water leaking in everywhere. It contains three distinct areas to it, and will constitute a size comparable to a decent portion of the main game – the devs are hesitant to say how many hours it will take since everyone plays at a different pace. The DLC is expected to become available in a few weeks.

Aug 26, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.