Plasmids need EVE, of course, so there are syringes dotted around, spawning in random spots to avoid camping, and you can take advantage of free top-ups at the Circus of Value vending machines - probably giving your position away in the process, and certainly running the risk of being booby-trapped by someone who's taken the time to hack in. The clown's not the only old friend you bump into either. "We wanted to bring Big Daddies into multiplayer, obviously - they're iconic," says Bérube. "We treat them as a power-up, so you get to be a Big Daddy for as long as you can survive." It's Rosie, in case you're wondering. She acquits herself well, although the rocket turret on the stage in the Kashmir's ballroom does her in. (And, perhaps hinting at the third, unnamed mode, Bérube points out that there's a Little Sister in there elsewhere. "We're not prepared to say exactly why.")
Although customisation began and ended with battle tactics and morality in the first BioShock, Digital Extremes has been careful to expand that in multiplayer while keeping the series' core values - and understated humour - in place. Your hub apartment has a wardrobe where you can change your appearance (Counter-Strike quibblers please note: bounding boxes will be consistent across body shapes), and emotes, which the team calls 'barks'. "The housewife's idiosyncrasies come across in her barks," senior DE producer Leslie Milner notes. "She thinks the Big Daddy is the family dog, so she'll yell at him and tell him to get out of the flowers."
Plus of course you can customise your three loadouts, and switch them between death and respawning. Each loadout has two weapon, two plasmid and three tonic slots, and each weapon has room for one upgrade. "When you start to really calculate everything, there's a lot of possible loadouts," says Bérube. Most of the plasmids also inherit the main game's charging action, allowing you to build up a stronger electro zap or fire blast. Some have been modified for multiplayer, too, like the ice blast, which can't very well freeze everyone it hits stone cold. Instead it slows their movement, and if you kill them while they're under its spell, they shatter.
Visually it would be easy to conclude that not much has changed, but closer inspection reveals a lot of the improvements made by the host game, and far from complaining about having to rebuild places like Kashmir from scratch, Miller and Bérube embraced it as an opportunity. "If there's anything brought over from BioShock 1, it's been rebuilt from scratch for multiplayer," says Miller. "We understand: there is a difference between multiplayer and single-player expectation and that is something we have been extremely conscious of... And the same thing - hey, I hear our guns were not the best thing ever for a first-person shooter in BioShock 1, so making sure that we were addressing that and they were even better for a multiplayer audience."
Another level, Point Prometheus, even gave Miller and company the chance to rewrite history. "In BioShock 1 it's the gauntlet level and it's more of a natural history museum, and why would there be a natural history museum in Rapture? There should be a museum, but people should be trying to make money off it, and so it became this more PT Barnum sensationalised trying-to-make-a-buck place." You fight on a statue of an octopus, among other things.
For all this reinvention though, BioShock 2's multiplayer - like the single-player - hangs precariously by its origins, especially now we have Take-Two's declaration of multiplayer-for-all ringing in our ears. But just as we got over the idea of being a Big Daddy when 2K Marin put it into context, so the idea of 'just another box ticked' dissolves within the multiplayer developers' bubbly enthusiasm.
"A thing a lot of people don't realise is that in BioShock 1 the splicers that you battled were actually supposed to have plasmid powers, and that fell by the wayside," says Miller. "One of the things we were really excited about exploring in a multiplayer component was this idea of... we're giving you all this cool s*** to do, what happens when everyone else around you can do the same cool s***?"
What's more, far from clunking together awkwardly with the fast-paced gameplay, the narrative snippets for which we'll be dinging our hearts out represent something else, perhaps even a unifying force. "I suck at first-person shooters," says Miller, "but I love playing BioShock because there are so many different options." And when I think about it, I love playing BioShock because I want to know everything about Rapture. For everyone else, there's killing each other. That's a lot of ways in. Accessibility in a multiplayer first-person shooter? That would be a story.
Check out the Editor's blog for the full interview transcript. BioShock 2 is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and has a "tentative" release date of 30th October for Europe.