The Good: Great new additions, being a Big Daddy is fun, awesome weapons, fun multiplayer
The Bad: Plays it too safe, not enough changes, multiplayer is short lived, story isn't as memorable
The city of Rapture. Full of life, love, elegance, beauty, innovation, and Big Daddy's. Well...that's how it used to be before the civil war broke out for whom has the most Adam. BioShock 2 takes place ten years after the initial fall of Rapture and instead of playing as the nobody you play as a Big Daddy. Not just any Big Daddy though you play as one of the first Delta models that helped build Rapture. After your daughter, Eleanor, wakes you up out of a cold dead sleep you must find her and stop the evil Dr. Lamb from destorying Rapture and using the Splicers to commit her evil deeds.
The first thing I have to say is you MUST play BioShock 1 before even going into this game or you won't know what's going on. There are so many tie-ins to the original game that new comers won't have a clue. With that said this review is mainly for fans of the original. I also have to worn those fans that BioShock 2 isn't as good as the first one, but has lots of much needed improvements and a pretty fun multiplayer, so let's get to it.
The first thing you will notice is that you have a drill. Yes, a nice big drill to cut those damn Splicers up. Of course the drill takes fuel to use (sorry can't have you just drilling people away...yeah...), but the biggest change is that you can use Plasmids and weapons without having to switch. Your left hand uses Plasmids (LT) and your right hand uses a weapon (RT). This is great for faster combat and makes it less cumbersome. All of your favorite weapons from BioShock have returned but with a twist.
As you can tell all the weapons need to be handled with one hand so you get a double barrell shotgun (replaces the original pump action), a minigun (replaces the tommy gun), the grenade launcher, and instead of a crossbow we get an awesome spear gun...yes and you can even impale enemies to walls. With that said there are some new weapons that are very handy such as the hack gun (more on that later), which can also shoot out auto turrets which is great for defending yourself against hordes of enemies. You can lay traps with proximity mines, spear traps, and even some new traps from the rivet gun which you can pick up later if any weren't detonated. The shotgun has a couple of new types of ammo for you to use and this is the slug rounds which knock enemies across the room and phosphorus rounds which looks like sparklers that explode all over the enemy. You can use anti-personnel rounds, armor piercing rounds etc. for the situation at hand. When you get to Power to the People stations to upgrade your weapons a third hidden one will become available that adds an extra "hell yeah" to your weapons. For example the third upgrade for the shotgun adds electric charges to shots for extra damage.
One greatly improved element is hacking. In the original we had to do this Pipe Mania type mini-game, but that has been scrapped and everything is done in real time while playing via a moving needle on a meter. Green areas are good and red areas tripper alarms. Blue areas give you bonuses such as turrets doing extra damage or vending machines giving you free items. This is a huge improvement over the original and it keeps the game flowing.
Being a Big Daddy obviously requires you to protect Little Sisters and that's exactly what you do. Instead of just killing their Daddy then harvesting them you an adopt them and go find "Angels" to harvest Adam out of. Once the Sisters are all full you can harvest them for tons of Adam or free them. Gaterhing Adam isn't an easy task because once you start Splicers start coming out of the wood works with no mercy. Set up traps and find a good vantage point before setting the Sister down and usually you can make it through just fine. If you decide to take the merciless harvesting route watch out for the new Big Sisters which are fast mean chicks who don't mess around. They are harder to take down than Big Daddies and require a lot o firepower to be prepared.
One last little tidbit is the researching. Instead of taking pictures of enemies you now have a movie camera. You whip it out and start filming a splicer and the faster you take it down the higher research rating you'll get. Research enough and you will get special bonuses and even a secret tonic.
Now that most of the new features are out of the way you're probably asking "What hasn't changed?" A lot in fact and I could boldly say the developers played it too safe with this game. Everything is pretty much exactly the same as the original, the art style, the graphics, the menus, the sounds, and even the splicers' animations are exactly the same. The only new splicer is the Brute splicer (Tank from Left 4 Dead anyone?) and the Big Sister, but that's about it. All the plasmids are the same, tonics, with few new exceptions. You get a ton more tonic slots, but everything is the same. The other problem to is that the game get's extremely repetitive. After the first level you've pretty much seen all of what BioShock 2 has to offer. The narrative isn't as memorable as the original, but the game is still excellent. All of these things staying isn't so bad since they work, but a whole new approach would have been nice. The graphics are slightly updated, but other than that you won't see any changes there.
The multiplayer is pretty fun, but its an acquired taste. Multiplayer feels more like the first game, you can use plasmids and research other players for bonuses, level up, etc. but its kind of short lived. You can find Big Daddy suits, and there is pretty much every game type you can imagine including protecting Little Sisters and taking down Bid Daddies. The hype about the multiplayer was the narrative standpoint since that's never been down before. As you level up you will receive messages that let you know what Rapture was like before the civil war.
All in all BioShock 2 is a solid sequel with fun multiplayer, but the devleopers just played it too safe in the end. I would have liked to see some more bold moves, but what we get is a wonderful package to enjoy.
SPECIAL EDITION: If you paid the extra $40 for the special edition you're in for a treat. Being the biggest game box I have ever seen the SE packs in a lot of extras for die hard fans. The SE includes a vinyl record of the soundtrack, the CD version, four posters that represent the in game ads, as well as a 164 page book of how BioShock 2 was developed. After reading this book you can really tell every idea was scrapped and they just stuck with the original ideas. It seemed the devleopers were to scared to stray off the familiar path which was a disappointment.