Basically, if you're a fan of BioShock or enjoy a strong single player, first person shooters and RPG's in general you will adore this second installment of the series. I was cautious as to purchasing this game when I first heard of its announcement, this was due to the first game being so groundbreaking and bringing so many changes to the genre that I believed this game wouldn't be able to match my own expectations. First of all it does this and more. The combat has been improved because of one simple inclusion, dual wielding plasmids and weapons. The tension of Splicers stalking you from the shadows is increased tenfold, the battles with them frantic and much more claustrophobic than the original. Ken Levine's leave from 2K has not changed what could have been, everything is possible in this super sequel. Characters are still as engaging and believable in this once utopia and Rapture is just as much a character as the inhabitants and story.
Looking at the story, you play as Subject Delta, a Big Daddy prototype seemingly killed by new antagonist Sofia Lamb only to wake up a decade later; a decade too late it seems, what remaining population is left have stripped Rapture bare and insanity has clouded their minds for far too long. The viciousness of these people is only strengthened by Lamb (now the ruler of Rapture) brainwashing the Splicers into believing in a social unity so strong, they will rise to aid the world with the help of a former Little Sister, Eleanor. It just so happens Eleanor was under Subject Delta's protection and now it's his job to find her, not to mention the Big Sister's...
Graphically, the game is astonishing, with dreary visuals of this paradise turned hell, 2K have created a noir like vision of life under the sea. Physics based combat also ups the ante and the ever-enjoyable Telekinesis and Incinerate plasmids remains joyous within gun battles. It's this spontanaeity and strategy which means no fight is ever the same, constant experimentation or basic blasting will suffice, yet the former is the best way of getting the most out of the game.
Finally, the online modes, you would think BioShock would be comfortable with its deep single player, yet online is surprisingly competetive and newbie friendly. When you begin, you're given a backdrop of 1950's, pre-civil war Rapture to flex your plasmid muscles in. Andrew Ryan makes a cameo and introduces you to what is surely a brutal blood sport. From there, you can choose your avatar and customise their looks, weapons, tonics and, crucially, plasmids. When you enter your first game, it does seem to take a while to set up when compared to Call of Duty's swift matchmaking system but once you begin it offers a more satisying and cerebral game. For example do you search out the player in the Big Daddy suit alone and armed to the teeth? Or will you lure them into traps and your teammates? Whatever the choice, the online modes are sure to bring you back to Rapture for months to come.
Overall, BioShock 2 is an amazing feat of programming and what a well established franchise can throw up for the consumer. I can't recommend this higher if only as an alternative to Call of Duty's hyperactivity or Flashpoint's stat heavy menus. A triumph in game design: 5/5