Sunday, February 13, 2011

BioShock 2: Protector Trials (Xbox 360) Review

Released in August 2010, BioShock 2: Protector Trials was the first Single Player DLC released for the game. Not canon to the story, BioShock 2: Protector Trials once again sees players take on the role of an Alpha Series answering the call from Tenenbaum to protect Little Sisters as they Gather Adam, thereby depleting the stores available to Lamb and the Family.

There are 18 regular trials and 6 bonus, all of which are set in heavily re-structured areas from the core game's Single Player campaign. As you progress through the trials, you earn Stars which unlock bonus content such as concept art, animatics, or trailers for viewing.

Once you download the DLC from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, you can access it via the game's Main Menu by going to Downloadable Content and then selecting "Protector Trials." At first, only the first trial in Adonis Baths is available to you, and when you fire it up, you'll start in the area with the drained pool from the beginning of the level. Tenenbaum will tell you to protect the "Little One" and you'll hear a Little Sister crying just ahead.

Sadly, Bi0Shock 2: Protector Trials has no exploration to speak of, one of the core game's greatest strengths. Each map is a self contained area, and there will be one or more Health Stations, a Vending Machine and an Ammo Bandito Vending machine available to buy items from.

In the very first trial, you are only provided the Rivet Gun, Shotgun, and Machine Gun with a limited amount of Ammo and Ammo types, as well as Electro Bolt, Incinerate, and Insect Swarm. You start with 3 Medkits, 3 Eve Hypos, and $0.00, and the trial will not officially begin until you set the Little Sister down to Gather Adam. As she Gathers, the longer she goes undisturbed the higher her multiplier rises increasing the amount of Adam gathered. If a Splicer reaches her and begins harassing her, the multiplier will begin to fall. By trial's end, you'll be awarded a score based on how much Adam was gathered, so it's in your best interest to not only protect your Little Sister, but to keep any Splicer from touching her for too long.

It's always in your best interest to first run around and get used to the map's layout as well as to Hack any Vending Machines you find or even any disabled Turret (if the trial features one). Once you set your Little Sister down though, the Splicers will begin coming in force. Unlike the Single Player campaign, you can not search the bodies of fallen enemies, and instead you earn Dollars for every enemy killed. That's why it's so prudent to Hack Vending Machines and have a clear path to their locations at all times as you'll need to resupply mid-battle constantly, and you will need to use both types of machines.

The DLC seems locked on Medium Difficulty, which was fine by me, and I must admit that for the first half dozen trials or so I was really enjoying myself. It was challenging to be limited to a pre-set amount of weapons, ammo, Plasmids, and Tonics and to be forced to try new combinations to succeed. After the first several trials, however, the gameplay just became far too repetitive and honestly boring, and BioShock 2: Protector Trials became a trial to get through.

It became obvious that even though you were given different Weapons and Ammo each time, you were often given the same key Plasmids and with a little variation, you could use the same tactics repeatedly to achieve victory. In fact, of all the regular trials only one was really noteworthy for being innovative and different.

One of the last trials does not give you any weapon at all (no Melee either), and you do not earn money from killing Splicers. You have a ridiculous amount of Eve to start, but you only have 3 Medkits and 3 Eve Hypos, fully upgraded Plasmids and several Tonics (including Fountain of Youth) to complete this trial, and it was challenging. This trial completely forced you to rethink your limitations and it's just a shame that no other trial had this level of originality.

Complete all 18 trials and you unlock 6 bonus trials, one for each location, in which you get full weapons, ammo, Plasmids, and Tonics. A Gene Bank is now included in these Bonus Trials so you can swap in what you want, and basically with Summon Eleanor at your disposal, well, the bonus trials are far too simple.

The unlockables were quite disappointing as well. While the concept art was nice to look at (and was from the then upcoming "Minerva's Den" DLC), the BioShock 2 launch trailer has muffled sound and the colour seemed washed out, and the animatics of cut sequences and ideas went so fast you couldn't read any of the notes and had no way of stopping or pausing them. Coupled with the lack of any new weapons or enemies in this DLC, I must admit it left me feeling very underwhelmed.

There are 7 new Achievements to earn, most of which are quite simple and will be unlocked as you progress, and successful completion of all the trials will unlock a free bonus Tonic in the then upcoming DLC, BioShock 2: Minerva's Den. Master Protector will be available to the player and will increase the amount of time a Little Sister takes in Gathering Adam, but will increase the amount she Gathers.

While fun at first, BioShock 2: Protector Trials quickly becomes far too repetitive and uninspiring. Offering little that can't be experienced in the core game, this DLC sadly focuses on a cool concept that isn't the game's real strength and as such doesn't have the longevity and fun factor needed to sustain itself through 24 different trials.

With this DLC set to be released for free on the PC sometime later this year, I decided to pick it up on sale for 200 Microsoft Points so that I could answer the inevitable questions my father will have when he plays it. However even at this 50% discount (regular 400 Microsoft Points), I feel quite dissatisifed as I spent about 10 minutes per trial grinding through for what amounted to 7 Achievements, a bonus Tonic in future DLC, and several hours of my life that I'll never get back.

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