BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 1
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 11/12/2013
BioShock Infinite has already had one major DLC release with Clash in the Clouds. However, it wasn’t the kind of DLC that many fans wanted. It focused purely on creating a series of combat challenges rather than significantly adding to the lore in any way. I still liked it though.
Burial at Sea is seemingly the answer to fans’ prayers. It’s story driven content created by the original developers that tie Infinite with the original BioShock by setting it in the city of Rapture. It sounds like a recipe for certain success, but there are some major problems with this offering.
The story starts off with Booker DeWitt getting a job from Elizabeth to find a girl named Sally. The big reveal is that the year is 1958, and that the duo is actually in the underwater city of Rapture instead of the airborne Columbia. Things are a little unclear at the start. Elizabeth is shrouded in mystery. She seems to know a lot about some things, but has never heard of the little sisters before. She can also open up tears through space and time, but she claims this is simply a new plasmid.
The first half of the episode is all about immersion into the city of Rapture. At first glance, it does a heck of a job. The streets are bustling with activity, a friendly waiter uses plasmids to perform his job as if there were nothing abnormal about teleportation, and everyone is talking about the political battle between Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. However, it’s all window dressing. The citizens are nothing more than mannequins that perform for you when you get close. After they’ve said their lines, they simply stare off into nothingness. Once you realize this, it kind of takes you out of the experience.
It starts off as a pure adventure game. You can’t use weapons or plasmids. The goal is to speak to Sander Cohen, who fans of the original game will remember with a certain amount of trepidation. You simply need to explore around a bit to find yourself an invitation into his party. After that, you’re sent off to an abandoned part of the city and it’s back to the combat heavy craziness.
The story is interesting, but it kind of goes by in a blur. It feels like a short story that could have been told in a page or two, rather than a full blown DLC release. A bit of dialogue in between bits of hectic combat is all you’ll get after the introduction. The end kind of comes out of nowhere, and it feels like it was cut short right when it was starting to get interesting. While I appreciate what this side story represents, I’m not wholly on board with how it was delivered.
One thing worth noting is that you’ll use the same abilities and weapons that you did in Infinite. They might be called plasmids now, but they have the same features/names of the vigors you used in that game. Also, you ingest them instead of injecting them into your bloodstream. While this might seem like a contradiction, it all makes sense if you remember how Infinite ended.
The key here is that the Rapture you’re exploring in Burial at Sea is an alternate dimension, and not the exact same Rapture from the first game. This is to allow for all of the anomalies that come up. For example, you’ll still be able to use the sky-hook, even though there seemingly wouldn’t be a way to zip around Rapture like you did in Columbia. There are some fun audio logs that you can find that help further this concept.
Mechanically, the game is identical to Infinite in nearly every way. The controls are all the same, you’ve got your handy shield, and you won’t be able to carry around restorative items. However, you’re no longer limited to two weapons. The weapon wheel is back and is a welcome sight indeed. To balance the ability to carry half a dozen guns at once, your maximum ammo is limited.
There is a whopping total of one new plasmid and one new weapon in this game. Old Man Winter is a basic ice ability that can freeze enemies and create ice bridges in certain areas. It’s useful, but not too exciting. The new weapon, on the other hand, is kind of cool. Dubbed the “Radar Range”, this weapon was originally designed as a device to cook meals instantly. Instead, you’ll use it to cook enemies until they explode. While it takes a bit for this to happen, splash damage is guaranteed. It’s a fun weapon that would fit in a Ratchet & Clank game if it wasn’t so grisly.
If there’s one thing this DLC has in spades, it’s atmosphere. “Rapture Reminders” return, as do the Kinetoscopes. Nifty jingles play in stores to help sell you on new plasmids, Patsy Cline plays out of a jukebox, and splicers mumble complete insanities until they notice you.
Let’s talk about those issues. For starters, the game feels split. The first half is completely about exploration and exposition. The second half ditches the story in favor of a lot (and I mean a lot) of hectic combat. It makes for an uneven experience that feels like a letdown. Also, you can complete the DLC in less than two hours. This is a fifteen dollar expansion that fans have been waiting the better part of a year for. We deserve more than that. Also, while it’s still fun to play and all, the game doesn’t do a particularly good job of merging the two BioShocks. There’s no hacking, you can’t collect Adam, you don’t get resurrected in a Vita-Chamber, you don’t get any classic plasmids or weapons, etc. It’s basically just Infinite in Rapture. While that’s OK I suppose, it doesn’t really meet up to expectations.
Also, the trophies I should have earned didn’t unlock. That’s just silly.
Short Attention Span Summary
In the end, Burial at Sea can’t meet up to expectations. It seems overpriced, uneven, and underachieving. It can’t decide if it wants to be a detective story that harkens back to classic film noir or a combat fueled trek through a series of connected chambers. Instead of trying to merge these ideas into a fun game, it simply separates them with a contrived plot device. While fans of the series are bound to get at least some enjoyment of what this DLC offers, it simply can’t match expectations. Let’s hope that changes whenever episode two is released.