Right away I felt that BioShock 2 had two very large issues. For one, it seemed way too self-aware that it was a video game. "Levels" were just that - discrete, disconnected areas that you progressed through in one direction, faced some sort of boss encounter, then went through in the reverse direction. Every single time.
Weapons, ammo, and Eve/First Aid kits dropped like candy. Enemies were everywhere with barely of the hint of the hand-placed feel of the previous game. There were entire sections where it was basically Horde mode.
The second major issue was that it had a bad case of the "me too!"s. In stark contrast to the first point, it tried way too hard to ape the beats of its predecessor. Entire sequences seemed lifted straight out of the first game, to the point of having a persistent feeling of deja vu.
Even many of the game systems - like that of the Little Sisters or the weapon/Adam upgrade system - seemed hamfisted into the game like it was trying to say "see? I'm a BioShock, too! Look at all these BioShock elements!"
So, despite all that, what did it get right? Honestly, it's one of the few games where the back half of the story actually drew me in more than the first. It showed a surprising amount of constraint with the end sequence in particular - I half-expected a twist similar to BioShock 1, but 2 did not take the bait, even when there was a pretty obvious avenue for it.
I even liked Eleanor a lot more than I expected to, largely because she isn't the walking plot device that I initially feared her to be.
It's also hard not to admit that the combat was decidedly a lot better than the first game. However, I'm torn about how much that should matter. In the context of the obvious shooter than Bio2 is, that's great news. If you're expecting a tense, atmospheric game with the worries of a survival game...you're unfortunately out of luck
In all, it's obvious Bio2 was made by a different studio under much different guidance. It comes across more as DLC or maybe even a very high end fan mod than a true sequel. But it knew how to tell a story, and they didn't take the series into a nosedive like so many others.
Looking forward to Infinite now.
Rating: It's good and all, but let's never talk about Big/Little family members ever again