I’ll come right out and say it, BioShock 2 is not as good as the original, and I could find many aspects about this particular sequel to pick holes in, but before doing that I would like to add that, despite its flaws and a disturbing tendency towards harbouring some weird message about parenthood, I thoroughly enjoyed BioShock 2.
BioShock 2 drops you into the role of a disenfranchised Big Daddy, out to save his Little Sister, or daughter, or something. The mother of said Little Sister is none too happy about her daughters predicament, and even less happy about your relentless persual of her offspring, believing that such a monstrous, plasmid jacked behemoth as a Big Daddy could only corrupt the child, upon who she is performing some typically insane experiment.
This plot is joined by a handful of largely uninteresting side plots which lead you to make decisions on the life or death of some of raptures more notorious denizens, this mechanic seems to completely replace the end-of-level-boss style that BioShock 1 pulled off so well, and throughout the entirety of BioShock 2 I missed the disturbing cackle of the more insane, drugged up plasmid junkies that I faced as bosses in the first game.
Joining the ranks of distractions from the fact that there are no more boss fights is the Adam harvesting mechanic. Once you’ve acquired a Little Sister you can seek out corpses from which to harvest Adam, the trouble is that this process attracts untold hordes of Splicers all hell bent on scoring the Adam for themselves and you’ve got to plan and execute a successful defence.
A handy new weapon, trap rivets, joins the fray to aid this task. You can lay traps in strategic locations to soften up or kill incoming splicers and, of course, you can bolster your defence with hacked security cameras and drones.
The quick and easy route to scoring Adam is, of course, to simply harvest every Little Sister you come across, this will also speed up your progress through the game and is the best choice for those with a short attention span who just want to pummel their way to the end of the game and take any ending that comes.
Harvesting a Little Sister can, however, bring down the wrath of a Big Sister upon you. Like Big Daddies, Big Sisters are encased within a diving-suit like contraption, pack a punch, and don’t stop to ask questions. Defeating one is a challenge, at least at the start of the game. Once you’re sufficiently jacked up on plasmids there’s not much that’ll stand in your way.
Overall, BioShock 2 doesn’t live up to its truly brilliant predecessor. In many ways it’s a very different game, which is great because we’d complain if they had given us more of the same, and in other ways it implements and refines some of the core game mechanics, bringing more plasmids and gene tonics, more ways to get Adam, streamlined hacking and generally a whole ‘nother does of gaming fun.
What really turned BioShock 2 around for me was the Drill Specialist gene tonic. It reduces the Eve cost of using plasmids, and confines you to using only the drill. This is great when combined with a good compliment of drill upgrades and lets you absolutely wade through enemies, particularly while the drill is still fueled up. The Drill Dash ability reinforces this, and makes for a quite different gaming experience, divorced from the weapons that Big Daddies don’t tend to use, and more accurately focused on melee combat and plasmids.
I enjoyed every moment of BioShock 2, the satisfaction of leading Big Daddies and Big Sisters into rooms full of hacked security hasn’t been replicated in any other game and Rapture, again, offers plenty of opportunities to explore both the place itself, and the slightly detached tape-recording character development. It’s not BioShock, but for a sequel it’ definitely not bad.