Of the three “BioShock” games, “BioShock 2” is widely regarded the weakest.
It makes sense. After all, it's the one game in the beloved video game series not directed by the franchise's creator, Ken Levine.
Still, having played each “BioShock” game several times, I believe “BioShock 2” is as good as the game that started it all—well, almost, anyway.
The “BioShock” games—especially the first two—are creepy and unsettling.
Taking place in the underwater city Rapture that went to hell after its residents got hooked on gene-altering drugs, the first two games have plenty of opportunities for scares.
Both games are pretty freaky, but I think “BioShock 2” has overall better environmental storytelling that really drives the creepy factor home.
For instance, near the end of the game, you get to see through the eyes of the Little Sisters that roam Rapture and extract from dead bodies the gene-altering goo known as Adam. Instead of seeing the dark, gloomy, corpse-filled world players do, the girls see light, warmth and angels. It's unsettling, to say the least.
“BioShock 2” also features an amusement park that gives you better insight into the beliefs of Rapture's founder, Andrew Ryan, through interactive displays with animatronic characters. It's a clever way of building on the game's lore.
In “BioShock 2,” you don't play as a regular dude lost in Rapture as you do in the original “BioShock.” Instead, you step into the role of a Big Daddy, one of the big, lumbering brutes dressed in old diving gear and armed with an enormous drill.
Naturally, being armed with a giant drill allows for a lot of cool combat mechanics.
“BioShock 2” also doesn't repeat “BioShock's” arsenal of weapons and instead offers new firearms with which to play. Some of the powers between both games are the same, but “BioShock 2” wouldn't feel like quite like it belongs in the series without them.
In “BioShock,” you can only wield a power or a weapon at any given time. In “BioShock 2,” you can wield one of each simultaneously, making combat that much more fluid and fun.
RESEARCH AND HACKING
In both “BioShock” games, players can research enemies to unlock new abilities and other bonuses.
In the original “BioShock,” this is done by photographing enemies during combat. This quickly gets annoying because you have to take photos when you should be attacking.
In “BioShock 2” research is done by filming enemies during combat. Simply start filming before initiating a fight and you don't have to worry about stopping combat to take a photo. It's a streamlined process that makes researching that much less tedious.
“BioShock 2” also makes hacking less time-consuming. In both games, you can hack vending machines to get items or turrets to make them fight on your side. The “BioShock 2” hacking minigame is much quicker and, therefore, better.
The one area where “BioShock” is undoubtedly superior to “BioShock 2” is story.
I won't spoil either game here, but “BioShock” tells an engrossing tale with a huge plot twist that breaks the fourth wall in a way as if to speak to players directly and question what a video game really is. It's one of the best plots in video game history.
That's not to say “BioShock 2's” story isn't good; it's just doesn't chalk up to the original's. Maybe that's the sole reason fans don't like “BioShock 2” nearly as much as the first game. But considering all the things the sequel does well, I just don't think that's fair.