Note: Star full // Bioshock 2 boxart // Star full
BioShock 2 received positive reviews. On Review aggregator Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 across its released platforms.
GamesRadar's Charlie Barratt awarded the game with a perfect score stating that "The weapons are better. The plasmids are better. The enemies are better. At some points, even the storytelling is better. What's most amazing and surprising about BioShock 2, however, is that by diving deeper into Rapture's tortured history and exploring more of Rapture's haunted world, it actually manages to make the original BioShock better, too."
Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scored the game an 8.25. He criticised the game for being too similar to its predecessor, saying that "For roughly 10 hours, BioShock 2 follows directly in its forefather's footsteps, too fearful to inject anything new into this twisted world." However, he praised the game's ending, stating that "Eventually this disappointing adventure does turn a corner. It takes 10 hours to get there, but the final two acts (lasting approximatetely three hours) are brilliant." He concluded with "BioShock 2 eventually becomes the sequel I hoped for, but spends too much time getting there." In 2013, Liz Lanier of Game Informer included Dr. Sofia Lamb among top ten female villains in video games, stating that "an extremist obsessed with the "greater good," Lamb will sacrifice anything and anyone for her own agenda; whether that means brainwashing or murdering to create her utopia, she's down."
IGN scored the game a 9.1/10 and said that "anyone looking for a first-person shooter that offers more than flat, stereotypical characters and copy-and-paste supersoldier plots, one that attempts to establish a sense of right and wrong and loops you into the decision making process, and one that's set in one of the most vividly realized settings around should pick up BioShock 2. It's a game in which story, setting, and gameplay are expertly blended to create an experience that's as thought-provoking as it is entertaining." IGN's review also stated that the game does not look as visually impressive as its predecessor, but it is still one of the best-looking games around because of its unique art style. In a round-table style video chat, IGN editors said that Rapture was less mysterious because players have seen it before, and that was a major strike against the game. Since the original had such an eerie mysterious feel to it, the twists and turns seen in the sequel seemed less surprising.
Tom Price of TeamXbox gave the game an overall score of 9.2/10 saying that "BioShock 2 remains one of the most original, exciting, subversive and intriguing shooters out there for you to play, and you shouldn't miss the experience of doing that."
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell was more critical of BioShock 2. Though he scored the game a very positive 8/10 overall, he noted that "The single-player campaign... will and should be damned for its long, slow start, during which the game struggles to make its intentions clear, but once past that the developers find a new tempo that wrings just enough extra quality out of the existing framework to justify your patience, even if the game still feels flat in the context of more daring and elaborate sequels like Mass Effect 2 and last year's Assassin's Creed follow-up."
In contrast to the first BioShock's focus on libertarianism and Ayn Rand's philosophies, BioShock 2 focuses on collectivist ideals.
Lamb's philosophy of altruism is based on that of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill. "Her motto is ‘Make the world your family’ meaning force your mind into becoming loyal to the world in a way usually reserved for your child, and that’s intellectually daunting," said Thomas. In comparison to the first game's questions of free will and destiny, Thomas said that the player character is "almost the ultimate individual" whom Lamb goads to fulfill her goals.
Professor Ryan Lizardi draws parallels between BioShock 2's themes of community versus the individual and the issues of McCarthyism and the hippie movement that occurred around the time period of the game's setting. "As this sequel is an extension of the first game’s storylines and characters, there are direct contrasts between the extreme politics of Andrew Ryan’s objectivism and the extreme religion/politics of Lamb’s collectivism," he writes. "Bioshock 2 specifically asks players to question all sides of debates when extreme stances are taken, and asks players to weigh their decisions in an alternate and complex history. "