Following up the truly brilliant BioShock was always going to be an uphill battle for 2K Marin (and friends), and the results here are much what we expected; a structurally excellent sequel which never really reaches the heights of the original.
The sequel's biggest dilemma - and attraction - is Rapture. The underwater city is undoubtedly one of the most distinct video game environments ever created, and we'd already explored it, been shocked and surprised by it, and heard much of the tales it has to tell long before Bioshock 2 existed. Revisiting the wrecked dystopia, then, was never going to carry the same impact as it did the first time around - but 2K Marin does a good job trying.
With Andrew Ryan dead and the city left to rot for a decade on the seabed, the late pioneer has had control of Rapture seized by his biggest political rival, ex-psychiatrist Sophia Lamb.
Lamb is basically the anti-Ryan; where he sought to build a society of objectivism and individual reward, the new boss believes in the greater good of a united society, sacrificing the self in name of the larger cause. Like most desperate societies, Rapture's mutilated citizens have turned to a religion of sorts - which goes under the moniker of 'The Family'.
You take control of another special member of the Rapture population, Delta - a prototype Big Daddy with plasmid abilities. As a very special Daddy, Delta was paired with a very special Little Sister before Rapture's ugly downfall - the daughter of Lamb herself.
When the big man wakes in a puddle after a ten year slumber, his sole motivation is to be reunited with his Little Sister - and he'll disrupt Rapture's precious Adam-splicing ecosystem as much as he has to so he can achieve his goal.
The sequel's premise is pretty simple, then - and admittedly doesn't carry the same sense of mystery as Jack's discovery of Rapture. But 2K Marin has done a wonderful job of weaving a deep and thoughtful narrative through the follow-up that, plot twists aside, stands tall alongside the original game.
Banter is again presented through radio messages, and this time you make contact with dozens more sane (and insane) survivors - and they're all highlights of the story.
Your main guiding light is Dr. Tenenbaum, who's still alive and safeguarding Little Sisters in the wrecked metropolis. Eventually, you talk with other colourful characters including Plasmid-manufacturer Augustus Sinclair, who helps you on your journey to being reunited with your little friend.
The majority of BioShock 2's characters are fantastically voiced (though there are some dodgy performances) and audio diaries are of excellent quality. 2K Marin offers willing players an even meatier selection of side stories, from Andrew Ryan's decade-old anecdotes to the records of a surface investigator who manages to reach the ruins of Rapture.
Because of this the BioShock universe feels more complete than ever, and level-for-level the sequel has more to offer than the original game. From a derelict train station to a 1950s-esque diner BioShock 2's rock-solid pacing never drops, and each Rapture environment introduces its own unique and interesting encounter with a Sander Cohen-style mentalist.
2K Marin's taken lots of pointers from BioShock 1's best level, and it shows. The game constantly rewards your work with chunks of narrative, whether through another burst of chatter from a mental Vicar, or an audio diary revealing the true intentions of the characters around you.