What is the difference between a game and a masterpiece? Many people feel that this difference is what separates Irrational Games' original Bioshock and its sequel, developed by 2K Marin. Like any follow-up to what fans call a landmark achievement in the medium, Bioshock 2 had quite a few steep obstacles to overcome, obstacles that - as a huge fan of the original - I didn't think it could beat. Fortunately for gamers everywhere, this game has cleared every hurdle in its way, and matches its predeccesor in many key ways while even surpassing it in a few areas.

In this entry to the series, players step into the shoes of the original Big Daddy, Subject Delta. Set about 8 years after the original game, the story chronicles Delta's journey to find his now-adolescent Little Sister. It doesn't help that her mother just so happens to be Sophia Lamb, a psychiatrist with Communist tendencies who has the splicer population in the palm of her hand. While many people feel that this story fails to match the masterful intensity of the original, I disagree. While the original is ultimately about free will and what happens when it is taken away, the sequel tackles an equally important theme: what it means to be a parent.

Just because you're a Big Daddy this time around doesn't mean that you'll just breeze through the splicer horde, though. In a move that angered many gamers, 2K Marin has decided to make your character just as weak as Jack was from the original. While a lot of people felt ripped off by this move, I feel that it was a decision for the better. Bioshock is a horror game at is core. Boiling it down to a simple action shooter would've taken some of what made the first such a masterpiece. In any case, the third act of the game finally delivers on the hopes of being a Big Daddy, with all the powers that have been acquired over the course of the game turning the player into a *** tool of destruction.

The score of the game is just as good as before, and the graphics - unsurpisingly - have improved over the last few years. In terms of gameplay, being able to dual-wield weapons and plasmids at the same time is a welcome addition that adds to the intensity and strategic potential of the game. One of the few areas where the game fails to live up to its promise, though, is in the fear factor. Bioshock 2 is definitely a scarier game than most shooters, but there's just something missing from the experience. It's probably the less-than-perfect use of sounds (a marked change from the original's stellar sound work). I also didn't like the Big Sisters. They seemed tacked-on and not as iconic as the Big Daddies were in the first game.

Overall, it's clear that Bioshock 2 has matched its predecessor's flair for great storytelling and top-notch gameplay. However, a few minor issues with the atmosphere keep it from surpassing the original. That said, it is still a game that everyone should pick up, and is definitely worthy of the Bioshock name.