Re: Post here when you beat a game. I mean it!
I finished Bioshock a few months ago, and even though it is clearly a good game that does a lot of interesting things, I felt a vague sense of disappointment throughout. It seemed like it had all the ingredients of a great game, yet I wasn't enjoying it at great game levels. Something felt off, but I wasn't able to figure out exactly what that was.
Now that I've played through Bioshock 2 I know exactly what I found lacking about the original. Even though Bioshock 2 barely adds anything new to the series, it does improve upon almost everything that was there. And even though these improvements are often incredibly slight, when added together they end up making the difference between a good game and a great one.
The most significant improvement, perhaps, is that the game is a lot more balanced now. The original Bioshock was incredibly easy, even with the difficulty cranked up and those stupid Vita Chambers turned off. The game gave you an incredibly complex arsenal to deal with your foes, but it also gave you so much health that I'm pretty sure you could brute force your way through the game using nothing but the lightning power and the wrench. There was little reason to explore the true potential of the tools you'd been given.
Bioshock 2 is a much more difficult game. Experimenting with your weapons and plasmids is no longer just a fun diversion, it's necessary for survival. As a result, I found dozens of neat little tricks that I would have overlooked in an easier game. And those tricks saved my life time and time again. For me, the game hit that sweet spot balance-wise where I felt vulnerable most of the time, yet I was almost always able to think my way out of a situation before dying.
This improved difficulty is largely due to one tiny change. In Bioshock, you could hold 9 health packs. In Bioshock 2, you max out at 5 (or 6 with the right plasmid upgrade). It's such a simple fix, yet its effects cascade throughout the rest of the game making everything more enjoyable. And Bioshock 2 is full of these tiny improvements. Almost nothing has been left untouched from the original.
The new hacking minigame (in addition to being more fun) no longer pulls you out of the world by pausing the game, meaning hacking is now a much more exciting mechanic, especially if you try doing it in the midst of combat. The brief underwater segments are simple (you don't do anything there except walk around) but they have a significant effect on the game's pacing. The new enemies aren't incredibly special, but just having them for variety does a lot for the game's pacing as well. The drill is a more interesting melee weapon than the wrench. All plasmids have been given charge attacks. The list goes on.
Also, while the story might not actually be better than Bioshock's, I found it a lot easier to get into. In Bioshock, I didn't feel like my character had any motivation to do the things he was being told to. The story eventually makes up for this in some really clever ways, but I was still left dragging my feet throughout the majority of the game. I could get behind Bioshock 2's rescue your little sister goal immediately, and I think the game is better for it.
I'm sorry for going on like this. It's just that I probably would have overlooked Bioshock 2 had a friend not insisted it was a better game than the original, and I'd like to extend that favor to others. If you didn't love Bioshock, but thought it had a lot of potential, Bioshock 2 might be the game for you.