The Water Falls, Bioshock 2 Does Not
Going into Bioshock 2, I really didn't know how I felt about it. On one hand, I was stoked for some more Bioshock, on the other, I didn't really think the original needed a sequel. Having played through the entire Bioshock 2 campaign, I still stick by those two sentiments. Bioshock 2 is very good, improving on many things from Bioshock 1 but I would have been able to live without it. The main compelling things in the first Bioshock was by far the story and characters. Watching your own character progress, knowing pretty much all that you knew was exciting and left you on edge. Then there was Rapture, one of the most beautiful cities ever placed into a Video Game, slowly delving into the history of that city and its fall was so interesting.
Bioshock 2 definitely had some shoes to fill and, story-wise, it doesn't feel them entirely. Not that the story is bad, it just doesn't live up to the BIoshock 1 story. Sophia Lamb is very awkwardly thrown into the Bioshock universe as a woman that challenged Andrew Ryan on many political fronts. Lamb and crew is a very solid cast. With good voice work and nice back story. That's one of the reasons I enjoy Bioshock 2 so much, the back story on the characters is there, but not forced upon you in any way. It's presented in Audio Logs which is surprisingly very interesting. This and Bioshock 1 are the only games where I have actually been compelled to find the audio logs.
It is quite clear that Bioshock 2 is directed to Bioshock 1 fans. Throwing in Audio Logs from Fontaine and Andrew Ryan were blatantly put there just to get the mega-fans giddy. And it worked. Hearing them both again was great. It put a smile on my face and really made me realize how much I loved them. The sheer fan-service in Bioshock 1 is overwhelming. I loved it but it may be very off-putting to some of the new comers. I would definitely recommend playing the first before going into this one.
The combat has been vastly improved. The combinations of being able to use Plasmids and Guns at the same time is such a simple concept but is so helpful in the end. Playing as a Big Daddy means you get the big Drill; a great Melee weapon. It's so disturbing yet satisfying to hammer a drill into a Splicers chest while watching blood shoot out. Added to the combat in Bioshock is "Big Sisters." Which are horrible. They appear quickly and pretty much sprint at you and kill the player in no time. It's such a waste. She moves so fast, it's hard to get an accurate shot on her and when you do, it's just one shot out of the many you need to make. My strategy for these fights was to simply find a corner and just blast Plasmids at her, die, repeat. Just a terrible design choice to a game that doesn't make too many of those.
Bioshock 2 brings back the old vending machines from the first (minus the clown yelling "WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS OF VALUES" each time you go up to it), and these things never seize to depress me. There was only one time in the entire game I actually felt wealthy and like I had enough to buy a lot of stuff. And even then I blew it on Ammo. The items are way too expensive, mainly the Ammo. It's about 1/4 your bank account for 12 Rivets which you can waste on one Splicer. You can lower the value of things by doing the new hacking mini-game Bioshock 2 introduces which is a bit better than the firsts hacking mini-game but this still isn't very good. A ticker swings back and forth while you try and hit it in a certain green or blue area. It's not a horrible concept but there is points where it feels as if it just isn't working correctly. It will look as if it's in the green space when it really isn't. This never happened with the blue spaces, either. Which makes it even more peculiar.
I can't stress enough that you should really play the first Bioshock before going into this one. You'll appreciate the slight tampers and the many winks and nods that much more. As a fan of the first, I was happy to return to Rapture and very happy that it was a good experience. But, like last time, I don't feel like I need to return again.