|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Irrational Games, 2K Games|
|Pub: 2K Games|
|Release: November 12, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
When BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1 was first teased, 2K and Irrational Games said that the focus would be taken off gunplay. Instead, you were going to travel to the undersea city of Rapture before its ruin in order to take on a dangerous case as Booker DeWitt, private eye. This is an awesome idea. The worst parts about BioShock Infinite are the long and drawn out gun battles that feel like slogs between plot points, so taking these out and focusing on world building and exploration is exactly what the game needs. For the first half of Burial at Sea, it really feels like the design team realized the potential of this concept, but all too soon the DLC starts relying on the same shooting sequences that holds the original back, and the promise of a dark and serious noir goes out like the embers at the end of a hot dame’s cigarette.
Let’s start with the good. The beginning of Burial at Sea is a masterpiece. Seeing the new, sexier Elizabeth ask Booker for help as self-narration plays in the background gets the noir theme down perfect. The voice actors do a fantastic job of getting a more mature, adult feeling across, and the art direction of the DLC is top notch. The new Elizabeth is far more hardened than the innocent girl we knew from BioShock Infinite, and DeWitt himself has become more impatient and less ready to have chipper conversations with people who would cause him trouble. The two walk out of DeWitt’s office to see Rapture in all its glory, and the game really begins.
Then you get to do the thing we have all been waiting for. You get to walk around Rapture before it falls to ruin. You get to hear the populace mutter about Fontaine and Ryan. You get to see mentally healthy people rely on Plasmids in their day-to-day lives. You get to see marine life swimming outside of the city’s windows, and it’s all very beautiful. Even the text of the city’s signs brings back memories of the first BioShock.
Therein lies the DLC’s first strength and weakness. It relies heavily on assuming that the player has played prior BioShock titles. Early on, Elizabeth comes across some little sisters and says, “What has happened to these girls?” to which DeWitt replies, “They are Little Sisters, Adam factories.” That’s a great explanation for fans of the original BioShock, and Elizabeth’s disgust at the Little Sisters makes you feel as if something isn’t quite right with her. But to anyone who hasn’t played the original BioShock, all these words are devoid of meaning, as are the locations and NPCs that you meet.
The game’s first task for you shows how shallow the “stealth” gameplay of the DLC will be. You have to find a mask that can be in one of three shops. You are required to search all three to continue, and in every shop, Elizabeth simply distracts the storeowner, so you can sneak into the backroom and look around. That’s it. No cover. No slinking around in the shadows. Just hop the counter while the shop owner’s back is turned and search through his junk.
You then get to use the mask to speak with series icon Sander Cohen in a scene that is quite creepy and truthfully chilling. However, the aftermath of this scene lands you in an abandoned part of Rapture that has fallen into ruin. This is when the game starts feeling a bit too familiar. We are used to dark hallways with water leaking in and lights flickering overhead. That’s what BioShock is all about, and BioShock Infinite only manages to create a pale imitation of that experience.
You see, everything in Burial at Sea from this point onward is basically just putting a BioShock coat of paint over BioShock Infinite’s mechanics. You get the Sky-Hook again, except this time it has a Fontaine skin, and it’s used to latch on to water and pressure tubes. Regardless, it operates the exact same way. The Vigors are now called Plasmids again, but they too act the same way as they did in Infinite. Elizabeth can still open up tears in reality, and Booker DeWitt barely reacts before it is explained away with a hand-wavey “don’t pay too much attention to it” reason. Even the guns and gear, with the exception of one or two new items, are basically copy and pasted over from Infinite, which is what you would expect in a DLC campaign, but frankly, they just don’t feel right in the undersea world of Rapture.