Wednesday, August 4, 2010

DLC review: Bioshock 2 Protector Trials

Following hot on the heels of Bioshock 2’s Rapture Metro Map Pack, 2K has released the Protector Trials, a series of single player challenges that require the player to protect a Little Sister from waves of splicers as she extracts ADAM from a corpse. There are six distinctly different levels to choose from, and each level has three challenges to complete, for a grand total of eighteen challenges. Here’s the catch: players are only granted use of a predetermined set of weapons, plasmids, and occasionally tonics to use on any given challenge. With a variety of different combinations the game allots the player, no two challenges will play out quite the same.

Each challenge is built off a preexisting area in the main single player game of Bioshock 2, though slightly retooled for the Protector Trials. None of the Protector Trial challenge areas will see as drastic a change as their multiplayer map counterparts, but elements of the environment are moved around for the sake of providing cover for both the player and the splicers, making trap placements more practical, and making vending machines and health stations more accessible. The Protector Trials maintain much of the main game’s eerie charm, as pieces from both original and licensed soundtrack start up over Rapture’s loudspeakers each time a trial is commenced.

While players are not granted any money at the start of a trial, they can rack up funds quickly by killing off enemies. Since looting bodies for ammo and money is no longer necessary, it makes the trials a lot more fast-paced and fluid. Also, the longer a Little Sister goes uninterrupted in removing ADAM from a corpse, the higher the ADAM reward a player receives.

As previously mentioned, there are three challenge styles for each area, designated by a number of stars for its degree of difficulty. These use the same layout, but change up the weapons and plasmids a player can use from the previous iteration of the same trial. For instance, the first trial on Atlantic Express Train Upkeep has players using the hack tool, machine gun, security command 2 plasmid, and handyman tonic, the second trial has players using the rivet gun, grenade launcher, spear gun, electro bolt plasmid, cyclone trap 2 plasmid, decoy 2 plasmid, and armored shell tonic, and the third trial has players using the drill, insect swarm plasmid, and armored shell, drill vampire, and drill power tonics. The types of ammo players are allowed to use is limited as well, with trap rivets and proximity mines in trial two. On occasion, a trial will make further restrictions on the player, such as denying them the ability to earn money to use at vending machines. However, these only come into play in the three star trials and there is always a tradeoff in these instances, such as a considerably larger EVE bar.

Technically the Protector Trials are tied into the overarching story of Bioshock as much as the multiplayer mode is. You play as another Alpha-series Big Daddy and are working along with Tenenbaum in order to extract as much ADAM from corpses around Rapture and slow the progress of Sofia Lamb’s Utopian project. In this way, the Protector Trials are essentially a side story to the main events of Bioshock 2. Aside from explaining where Tenenbaum disappeared to after her brief appearance at the start of the game, however, it’s kind of a weak attempt on 2K’s part to tie it into everything else. That said, this aspect has zero effect on gameplay, so it’s a very minor complaint at worst.

For 400 Microsoft points and $4.99 in the Playstation store, the Protector Trials is a fantastic deal, especially in comparison to what some other games charge solely for map packs or new weapons/characters. There is plenty of incentive for player to complete the challenges, as (aside from seven new achievements/trophies) players can unlock concept art galleries, Bioshock 2 trailers, and animatics for content that never made it into the final game. The Protector Trials are an interesting twist on the formula set forth by the gather sections of the main game and provide plenty of challenge for players, requiring them to be strategic in completing each trial.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)*

*(rating applies solely to downloadable content, not its inclusion with the content on the original game disc or other downloadable content)

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