You often wonder if the second game of a series is going to be as good as the first, but Bioshock 2 doesn't disappoint. If you've played Bioshock, you will probably find this story doesn't take you to the same depths, nor give quite the same thrill of discovery as the first, but that may be due to our familiarity with the city of Rapture and the concept of plasmids and tonics. Knowing some of what to expect also removes some of the mystery. Decidedly missing as well are any feelings of empathy for the tormented citizens of Rapture. Bioshock is a tough act to follow, so the developers deserve a lot of credit in making this sequel as enjoyable as it is. If you're not familiar with the series, you should read the Bioshock review to get some background.
The setting is still the underwater city of Rapture eight years later and you play the role of the only Big Daddy left that comes from the Delta series. Since then, improvements have been made and all other Big Daddies are from the Alpha series. Big Daddies are humans that have been genetically altered to bond with a Little Sister and act as their protector while they collect the substance called Adam, which is harvested from the corpses of users. Little sisters have also been genetically altered to collect Adam. By this time, the entire population of Rapture is hooked on this substance to varying degrees and with varying results to their chemistry. These mutants are called splicers and there are several different types and all of them are hostile. Driven by their addiction, they will attack in numbers during any collection of Adam.
As a Big Daddy, you have been bonded to a particular Little Sister named Eleanor who is the daughter of Sophia Lamb. Sophia is a psychiatrist who was brought to Rapture by Andrew Ryan, but who started to develop a religious-like fervor concerning a utopian state. This posed a threat to Ryan's vision and so he removed her from the picture by having her imprisoned. Her daughter was also eventually seized and given to an orphanage where she became the subject of experimentation with Adam and was turned into a Little Sister. At this time, Delta, also the subject of experiment was bonded to her. After Ryan was killed, Sophia had enough influence over the citizenry to take over the city and reclaim her now teen-aged daughter. Still obsessed with the idea of utopia, however, she's tampering with Eleanor's genetic make-up and grooming her as the ultimate specimen to be worshipped by all of Rapture.
Even though Eleanor is kept under lock and key, she maintains some sort of telepathic connection to you and thinks of you as her real father. Conditioned by your bond to her, your relentless pursuit to save her jeopardizes Sophia's plans, thus making your destruction her primary objective. Your goal is to find Eleanor, free her and escape Rapture. Throughout, you will find many diaries, which is the venue used to carry the story forward.
Bioshock 2 uses the same system of gameplay as Bioshock, although the method is somewhat more organized and polished. There are plasmids, tonics, weapons, upgrades, and plenty of machines to hack. The plasmids and tonics require Adam to purchase, although some of the tonics can occasionally be found. During the course of reaching your destination, you will need to kill other Big Daddies in order to adopt their Little Sisters and have them collect Adam for you. Once they have, you will be forced to choose between saving them or destroying them for greater amounts of Adam. There are more tonics than available slots, so you will have to shop carefully, although you can carry more and switch them out at gene banks. Corpses can also be searched for a variety of loot.
Weapons come in a variety of choices, each having three different forms of ammo. These can be upgraded at specific machines, but each machine can only be used once. We also have the return of the vending machines that sell health, eve, ammo and various other things. In fact, machines of all kinds abound in this sequel including health dispensers, security bots and safes and with them the need to hack. Fortunately, the hacking system has been vastly improved in this second game. To top it all off, the camera makes a reappearance and snapping pics for research while you fight different kinds of splicers will give you upgraded damage against that kind as well as other bonuses. Although you will meet some of the same enemies from Bioshock, some new types have been added to keep you hopping. You can especially look forward to your meetings with Big Sisters of the teenage variety.
The locations within Rapture are new and more detail has been added to the surroundings. The overall appearance really can't be faulted and is a pleasure to move around in. You can spend a lot of time in the same location as different things keep happening as you try to achieve your goal. This is one game that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It's great fun to experiment with all the plasmids, tonics and weapons and the many amusing ways of offing those pesky splicers.
If I have anything negative to say about this game, it would be in the controls. Although somewhat improved over Bioshock, imagine juggling a camera, five weapons that each have three kinds of very limited ammo that needs to be cycled (which is equivalent to 15 choices), eight plasmids, a melee button, a health key and your movement keys. It's a lot to handle. However, the amount of fun procured by all of these choices might suffer in their removal. None of the above seriously affected my enjoyment of the game, however, and I give it very high marks.
There are three main possible endings to the story and each with two sub endings within them as well. Which one you get is dependent on some decisions you make throughout the game.UPDATE Oct 2013: GFWL has been removed and replaced with Steamworks. As a result, if you already own the game, you receive the DLC Minerva's Den for free.