But it's so powerful that you can easily find yourself investing in it at the expense of your arsenal of guns. With a bit of investment, your drill can be modified so it's capable of freezing your foes on impact, and once maxed out, it can even be used to reflect incoming projectiles. With the right gene tonic selected, there's even an option to ditch the guns and stick with the drill permanently, the pay-off being that the plasmids used significantly less resources than before. Could you even imagine spending this much time building your stats around Jack's wrench?
As in the first game, the aforementioned gene tonics are an additional layer of customisation separate to plasmids, but still purchased with Adam. They work like trump cards, gifting the player benefits such as increased speed, a slower needle on the hacking mini-game or cheaper prices at vending machines, but the range available far outnumbers the slots you can put them in, and retailing at a comparatively low price in relation to the plasmids, they often qualify as impulse buys.
Although underutilised in the first game, a wider variety here marks a wider variety of possible playing styles, with the tonics used either to compensate for weaknesses or to accentuate the player's strengths. The result is that Bioshock 2 feels more like the FPS/RPG hybrid the series has always claimed to be, and it holds up the RPG end of that bargain even further by making the levels shorter but also a lot broader, with plenty of sidetracks and oddities awaiting the more adventurous player (our favourite being the massively unstable teleportation plasmid. You'll know it when you see it...).
Not that Bioshock 2 has forgotten to brush up on its shooting skills or anything. New additions such as the Brutes (overly-mutated Splicers who are capable of flooring you with a powerful charge attack) and the Rumbler (a new type of Daddy capable of lobbing explosive grenades down your neck) pose new problems that force the player to experiment with previously untouched plasmids, but the star of the show is inarguably the Big Sister.
These ominous siblings are solitary hunters who only appear on the map once you've 'dealt' with a Little Sister (by any means, nice or nasty), but that's more than enough for you to deal with.
The game largely continues as normal even after one has been triggered, but their presence looms so large over the player that it's impossible for you to think about anything else. Like with 95% of videogames, there are few things in the Bioshock series that could be considered truly scary, but the banshee-like wail of an incoming Sister is certainly one of them.
Despite all the positive changes, longevity remains an issue. Although the pacing is a lot better than in Bioshock 1 (the big reveals all come in the final hour), it's a slightly shorter game, and if you plan to treat it as a straight-up shooter, it may wind up being one of the shortest games you'll play this generation. There's a clearly defined beginning and end, but it lacks meat in the middle. If you get drawn into the exploration, of course, it will last considerably longer, and the powerfulness of the endings on show means that it would be almost rude not to give it a second playthrough to see how differently things could have ended up, or even just to play with a new set of plasmids.
The multiplayer modes are just different enough that it should establish at least a small, loyal online community, and the rate at which it throws new experimental plasmids and tonics at the player as they level up means that there's always another incentive around the corner to keep people playing.
To be honest, Bioshock 2 has taken us by surprise a bit, because not only has it tidied up some of the previous game's flaws, but it's also done so whilst wrapping it up in a storyline that's every bit as engrossingly mysterious, if not more so.