The slow descent into the underwater city of Rapture remains one of gaming's most epic introductions. And it's on that note that gamers wondered how BioShock 2 would top its predecessor.
The game takes place a few years after the events of the first title, with players stepping into the diving suit of the first Big Daddy to be successfully paired with a Little Sister, that is, if she dies or gets taken from you, you die. Unfortunately, the little girl just so happens to be the daughter of resident psychiatrist/cult leader Sofia Lamb.
The game constantly reminds you of the big brute you are, with the sound of water running over your metal diving suit and your heavy footsteps. One advantage of wearing the diving suit is that the game also has a few underwater levels, with only the occasional shark breaking up the almost-supernatural setting.
BioShock 2 retains the stunning, dark and dystopian setting of the original, with little details everywhere silently shedding light on Rapture's fall, from the eerie chalk writing on the wall to corpses of residents who were literally at the end of their tether.
The game introduces a number of changes over the original, with the most noticeable being the ability to use your plasmid powers and weapons simultaneously. It's a simple but less frustrating approach to combat that makes for some slick moments as you incinerate splicers and seamlessly follow that up with shotgun blasts.
You can also adopt Little Sisters as well, seeing that you're now a Big Daddy yourself. If you're feeling particularly evil, you can harvest the girls for Rapture's most precious commodity, called ADAM ? a process that kills them but gives you more of the gene-altering substance.
There are also a decent amount of new weapons and plasmids to toy with, with the speargun and drill being the two big additions. Especially the latter, which will save your life quite often (and cost you a few lives when you realise you've run out of fuel).
And use the drill you will, especially when it comes to the scariest enemy in the game, the Big Sister. These female enemies combine lightning fast speed with the sheer brutality and strength of the Big Daddies to create an almost perfect adversary. These hellacious enemies are most often encountered after successfully saving or harvesting a Little Sister, with their ear-piercing, soul-shuddering screams being one of the most hair-raising sounds you'll ever hear in a video-game.
The storyline, despite its occasionally predictable nature, is an emotionally draining experience that will make you second guess humanity at times. The script is also a winner, with every voice actor giving it their all, as evident by the audio tapes in particular. And you'll find yourself caring about the characters, such as the outsider looking for his daughter among Rapture's ruins. Even the Little Sisters deliver some eerie and occasionally funny lines, such as their cries of "Look Daddy! An angel!" when they find an ADAM-filled corpse.
Graphically, BioShock 2 doesn't look all that different from the original, with water still looking as awesome as ever. One particularly cool effect is seen in the rooms linking you to the sea floor, with water bubbling and frothing as it rises and falls. Lighting is also used to great effect with fire illuminating rooms and water gushing from the city's ruptured walls. While the game looks awesome for the most part, the death animations are stiff as a tree, with enemies juddering as they fall over.
Despite these minor niggles, BioShock 2 is an enthralling, addictive, scary and tense experience from start to finish. The excellent multiplayer, complete with a Call of Duty-style progression system and plasmids, also ups the longevity exponentially. It may not be as big a leap as the first title, but BioShock 2 is worth every cent.