Everyone has forgotten how good the original BioShock was. Let me remind you.
It started with a plane crashing into the Atlantic. It was set in a 1950s art-deco utopia at the bottom of the sea, where crazed freaks threw knives and scuttled across ceilings. You fired fireballs, iceballs, bee swarms. You took pictures of corpses for an art exhibit. "A man chooses, a slave obeys."
That confrontation. That twist. It was smart. It was about objectivist philosophy. It was about something! It had good dialogue. It had exciting combat. It was touching. It was frightening. It was like no other game, except the very best of games. It was like System Shock. We loved it.
And then we hated it, for a bit. It wasn't as good as System Shock 2, didn't you realise? It was dumbed down. For consoles, probably. The shooting wasn't even that good. You could kill those Big Daddies just by whacking them with the wrench, couldn't you? That escort mission. That boss fight. None of this, please. Not for us, thank you. We'll pass.
BioShock 2 has the unenviable task of following one of the most praised and criticised games ever. You can't help but view it through the prism of what came before. So let's get this out the way, to restore my sanity: it's not as good as the first game. It's better than the criticisms of the first game. It is, on its own, very good. Let me tell you how good.
BioShock's most iconic image was its sad and lumbering Big Daddy. Gentle giants, the Daddies stomped around, protected Little Sisters, and let out long groans when you killed them. They were beautiful monsters.
Now you are, too. In BioShock 2 you're an Alpha, a Big Daddy prototype, created when Rapture's scientists were still trying to stop them from wandering aimlessly into the ocean or shrugging when their Little Sisters were killed.
Their solution was to chemically bond you with a single Little Sister. You were given a father's love for her, to make sure that you'd never stray. Cue father-daughter outings to the park to suck gunk from corpses, until a woman called Dr Sofia Lamb hits you with a plasmid that removes your free will and makes you shoot yourself in the head. Ten years later you inexplicably reawaken, back in Rapture, free will returned, with only one thing on your mind. Find your Little Sister. Find Daddy's little girl.
In BioShock 2, you are one half of the relationship that made the first game so interesting. You are plugged directly into the ecology of the city, and where the first game only offered you the shallow, binary moral choice of whether to Harvest a Little Sister for Adam or Rescue her for slightly less Adam, you now have the choice to Adopt.
As a Big Daddy, every Little Sister instinctively trusts you. Choose to adopt one and you'll lift her up on your shoulders. She'll yell at enemies as they attack, which is cool in itself. But pressing the button to activate 'Daddy Sense' will produce a snaking white light that guides you to nearby corpses containing Adam.
Decide to gather from that corpse and she'll climb down and start syringing. But while she's working, the process will draw the attention of a dozen angry, jonesing splicers. The first BioShock excelled at fantastic battle scenarios against Big Daddies. Each was a significant undertaking: they'd light up red with fury when you attacked, and come crashing down on top of you.
Yes, you could just whack them with your wrench, die, respawn at the nearest Vito Chamber and repeat. Not anymore. If you don't have the willpower to choose the fun way over the easy way on your own, you'll find that Big Daddies now heal a portion of their health when you die, and Vito Chambers can be turned off from the options menu.