BioShock 2 Remastered: How to Bypass 2K Launcher (Windows Only)

On August 31st, 2022, 2K released an “update” to 10 games – Bioshock 2 Remastered included – that did little more than integrate a new 2K launcher and 2K account integration. This guide will describe how to bypass that launcher.

 

Foreword

We’ve already paid for our game. Isn’t that enough? The Parasite says “NO! Not only will you pay us for a game that is bug-ridden and has gone unfixed for years, we’re also going to force you to provide us with your play metrics against your will!”

On August 31, 2022, an update was pushed to numerous 2K games. This update apparently did nothing to address the stability issues in games such as Bioshock 2 Remastered, but it did force the use of a new 2K launcher as well as new EULAs that allow for data collection. Some, rightfully, don’t agree with this change but Steam does not provide a means to bypass these intrusive changes. Windows does, though.

PLEASE NOTE: This guide is written solely for Windows users. I do not own any Apple products and have no experience with Linux/Proton. If the following guide is possible in other operating systems, I encourage users to write guides with instructions specific to those systems.

Launcher Bypass

Bypassing the launcher is relatively easy using Symbolic Links.[en.wikipedia.org] By creating a symlink pointing from where the launcher should be directly to the game executable, Steam will directly launch Bioshock 2 exactly as it did prior to the “update”.

Steps:

  1. Identify your Bioshock 2 Remastered install directory: You can do this easily by right-clicking Bioshock 2 Remastered in your library, then going to Manage>Browse Local Files.
  2. Back up LauncherPatcher.exe: The launcher is located in the 2KLauncher directory in the Bioshock 2 Remastered install folder. This can be accomplished one of two ways – either rename the file to something identifiable such as “LauncherPatcher.old” or create a new directory and move the file into said directory.
  3. Open Command Prompt as an Administrator: First, hit WIN+R to open the Run menu. Then, type “cmd” and hit CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER. This will force Windows to run the designated command (cmd – Command Prompt) as administrator.
  4. Navigate to the launcher directory: In the Command Prompt, navigate to your Bioshock 2 Remastered launcher directory. If you have Steam installed into the default directory, the command will be:
    cd Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Bioshock 2 Remastered\2KLauncher

    If you have changed the Steam install directory or use a library directory on a different drive, you will have to change your commands to navigate to your specific install. For example, I have my library on my F: drive in the Steam Library directory, so my command structure is

    cd f:
    cd Steam Library\steamapps\common\Bioshock 2 Remastered\2KLauncher

    You will know you are targeting the correct location when the command prompt lists the full directory ending in 2KLauncher before your cursor.

  5. Create a symlink between LauncherPatcher.exe and Bioshock2HD.exe: Bioshock2HD.exe is located in the Build\Final directory of the Bioshock 2 Remastered install directory. With the Command Prompt pointing at the launcher directory, “mklink” will be used to create a symlink, telling Windows to route any requests for LauncherPatcher.exe directly to Bioshock2HD.exe instead. Assuming Steam and Bioshock are in the default install directory, the command would be:
    mklink LauncherPatcher.exe "c:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Bioshock 2 Remastered\Build\Final\Bioshock2HD.exe"

    Naturally, if you have changed your Steam install directory or are using a different library directory, you will have to adjust your target directory. For example, since I am using “F:\Steam Library” as my install, my command structure is:

    mklink LauncherPatcher.exe "f:\Steam Library\steamapps\common\Bioshock 2 Remastered\build\final\Bioshock2HD.exe"

    If you successfully and correctly run the command, you will see two things happen: a “new” LauncherPatcher.exe will appear in the 2KLauncher directory, and the Command Prompt will read

    symbolic link created for LauncherPatcher.exe <<===>> <your Steam install>\steamapps\common\Bioshock 2 Remastered\Build\Final\Bioshock2HD.exe

    Naturally, <your Steam install> will be wherever your Steam library is located, be it the default C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam or anywhere else.

Next time you launch Bioshock 2 Remastered from Steam or a Steam-generated shortcut, it will now launch the game directly. But, there’s another step you may want to follow.

Firewall Rules

Even if you’re not using the launcher anymore, the game is still calling home whenever you launch it to connect to the 2K account service whether you want it to or not. We can change that using Windows Firewall.

  1. Launch Windows Firewall: Hit WIN+R to open the Run window, type “wf.msc” and hit ENTER.
  2. Create Inbound Rules: Click “Inbound Rules” then “New Rule…”. Select “Program” if it isn’t already, then “This program path:” and hit “Browse…”. Navigate to build\final in the Bioshock 2 Remastered install directory and select Bioshock2HD.exe. Finally, select “Block the connection” and leave all check boxes checked.
  3. Create Outbound Rules: The process remains the same, except start in the “Outbound Rules” section of the firewall window.

Now, Bioshock 2 Remastered, a wholly single player experience that has no reason to communicate outside since the PC version had its multiplayer mode stripped, has no way to communicate outside!

Reverting Changes

In the unlikely event that 2K reverts these changes, or the more likely event that the launcher and/or game executable gets renamed or moved, reverting these changes is simple.

Symlink

The symlink in the launcher directory is treated just like any other file. Deleting it and then restoring your LauncherPatcher.exe backup will restore the launcher to its original state. If Windows throws an error when attempting to delete it the “modern” way, an administrator Command Prompt will work:

  1. Launch a Command Prompt as administrator as previously described.
  2. Navigate to the 2KLauncher directory.
  3. Input the following command:
    del LauncherPatcher.exe
Firewall Rules

There’s very little that “delete” won’t fix. Open up Windows Firewall and delete the rules you created for Bioshock2HD.exe in both Inbound and Outbound.

Final Notes

When you first launch the game after the update, you will be presented with a demand to accept the new user agreements. Surprisingly, even without the launcher and firewall changes, you can decline and still play the game, so do so. That’s it, you’re all done! Enjoy Bioshock 2 Remastered without the intrusive launcher or phoning home behavior!

NOTE: With any update that updates the Launcher or any time the game is validated by steam (invoked by you or not), the symlink will be broken. Simply follow the process again to recreate the symlink.

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