Bioshock 2 is not the worst game ever made. That would be Heavy Rain. It is, however, an uninspired and very average sequel to Bioshock. It tries to emulate its predecessor to an uncomfortable degree and fails to bring anything truly memorable to the table. Now, I hope you played both these games because we might be going into spoiler town for this one.
1. The story
Bioshock 2 takes place in a magical undersea kingdom steampunk-influenced underwater city called Rapture. It was created by a man named Andrew Ryan, a reject from Atlas Shrugged who wanted to build a capitalist utopia free of government and regulation. In less than a few years it became a hell-hole overrun by genetic monsters and mechanical abominations. Guess the invisible hand of the free market likes abominations.
You start the game with a flashback to your character who is one such genetic freak of nature: a Big Daddy. Contrary to the name, you are not some kind of armor plated pimp. You are a genetically engineered person whose sole task in existence is to protect another type of mutant called a Little Sister. These modified little girls go around harvesting special genetic material called ADAM from dead bodies. They have to be protected while doing this by Big Daddies, cause otherwise they'd be raped, murdered, and butchered for the ADAM in their stomachs.
Who the fuck wrote this?
Anyways, your little sister is kidnapped by some woman claiming its her daughter. You beat up some things and then are mind-controlled into killing yourself.
So really, it's a very short game. It could even be interpreted as a metaphor for life. That no matter how hard you work to protect what you care for you ultimately fail and- Oh....Wait....It jumps forward eight years.
At some point during your eight year dirt-nap, Rapture erupts into a massive civil war that finally ends with all the major players dead, including Andrew Ryan. Sections of the city explode, shit blows up, people die, and by the end of the first game you are left with the impression that the city doesn't have long to live and is fated to be swallowed by the cold dark abyss of the ocean.
At least until your character, the Big Daddy curiously named Subject Delta, wakes up. Turns out being "swallowed by the cold dark abyss of the ocean" means that coral starts growing on the walls and things leak a little more. Which makes no goddamn sense. As much chaos and destruction your one-man army in the first game causes, there should be very little left of Rapture. Sure, you didn't see the WHOLE city, but you caused so much damage to areas that one would think would be vital, like the central command center or the giant hellish thermal vent area that powered the place or something. Plus after eight years of no coordinated maintenance, any minor leaks are going to get worse and worse until the whole damn place is compromised.
Anyway it turns out your assigned Little Sister is still alive and your genetic programming compels you to find her. Shes in the clutches of her biological mother, a woman named Sofia Lamb. She serves as the Karl Marx to Andrew Ryan's Ayn Rand. She was apparently brought on as a psychiatric councilor for the city, despite her massive differences in political and socio-economic theories to everyone else. She was apparently arrested shortly before the events of the first game for being politically subversive. This makes no sense. If she was such a dangerous influence and building a network of followers, then we should have heard something about her in the first game, even if it was in passing on audio tapes. Do the writers really think we'll just accept a "she's been there the whooooole time" explanation and like it?
Apparently so because this game sold a ton of copies.
2. The Gameplay
It's basically a first person shooter with minor RPG elements, much like the first Bioshock. In fact, it's almost identical to the first Bioshock. You have the same Health meter, the same EVE meter to power your ADAM fueled super powers...Wait, EVE? ADAM? You think there's some kind of symbolism going on here?
What the game does differently is put you in the heavy boots of a Big Daddy. Sort of. You see, Subject Delta is THE prototype for Big Daddies, so he got a lot of fancy upgrades that later models didn't. He can pick up and use any weapon he comes across. He can shoot up some heroin plasmids to gain super powers. He's also a bit more free-thinking than later Big Daddies, to explain why he doesn't just plod around like a moron like the others do.
That might sound like it makes for an interesting game experience, but it really isn't. The only real difference between your character here and in the original is that Subject Delta is slow. Every step you take will be accompanied by your heavy, metal footsteps. Walking around for a while, you'll start to feel like Robocop, only without an immunity to small arms. Despite being clad in heavy armor, the cities mutated inhabitants, nicknamed Splicers, are still as lethal as they were in the first one. At least until your weapons and plasmids are upgraded and you turn into a demi-god.
Even though you'll have access to some Big Daddy exclusive weapons, you won't use them too often. For the most part, you'll be using firearms dropped by all the badies and upgrading them at little vending machines just like in the first game. You'll buy your health and supplies from vending machines like in the first game. You'll get your plasmids from vending machines like in the first game.
The only significant difference I could find was a section where you took control of a Little Sister. You discover that, from their point of view, that Rapture is a golden paradise inhabited by extras from Eyes Wide Shut. Its kind of neat and slightly unsettling in a Stanley Kubrick kind of sense, but it's almost jarring to see it after playing through 3/4s of the game as a gritty shooter.
You could argue that this game has a greater sense of moral choice. If you think that, you're fucking stupid. In the first game you had to choose between harvesting Little Sisters for ADAM or rescuing them from their condition for less ADAM. The same choice exists here except instead of rescuing them, you just protect them while they collect a certain amount of ADAM, making it much more tedious. There are also three individuals along the way who supposedly provide a moral choice, but it boils down to kill them or don't kill them. Guess which choice is the good one and which one is the bad one?
3. The Design
Well, I can't argue this point too much. It's still a pretty looking game and I've always been a sucker for retro fifties themed crap. Just like how I love Fallout 3 despite the fact it is grossly inferior to the originals. My only gripe, again, is that the game makes Rapture look less like a city on the verge of permanently collapsing and more like they slapped some pretty looking coral on the walls and added some deeper puddles.
The occasional song from the 30s and 40s really triggers some nostalgia. It reminds me of when I met my first wife. Before she turned into an ugly shrew who had to die in a car crash.
Now, there might be a few things here and there I haven't mentioned, but quite frankly, they really aren't worth mentioning because it doesn't contribute anything to the game. If Bioshock were a PC game released in the early- to mid-nineties, then Bioshock 2 would have been released as a slightly cheaper expansion pack instead of a wallet gouging stand-alone game. Unless you really, really, liked the first game, then you would have no reason to buy this one.
Now you might be thinking, "PizzaRolls, if its so similar to the first one, why'd you give it a decent rating?" The answer to that is because I'm old and I don't like things that are different.