Review: Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea

 

After completing BioShock Infinite, I was intrigued to find out what kind of story-based DLC Irrational Studios would come up with to expand on the grand circularity of the main game. We found out when Episodes 1 and 2 of Burial at Sea were released earlier this year, taking the mechanics of Infinite and returning it to its roots by setting the game back in Rapture.

The gameplay feels much closer to the original BioShock – in episode 1, Booker only has a few vigors and isn’t the killing machine powerhouse he was in Infinite. In episode 2, you play as Elizabeth, who’s not as tough as Booker and doesn’t have the use of tears (more about that later). As a result this episode places much more of an emphasis on stealth rather than straight-up firefights. It’s a jarring change in style that I eventually got used to, but it may be too much for gamers comfortable with the earlier gameplay.

Those longing for a return to Rapture shouldn’t be disappointed visually. The underwater metropolis is at its neon art-deco zenith, although we do spend a lot of time in the seedy underbelly of the city. While it’s fun to wander around pre-fall Rapture and see all the callbacks to the original game, some have argued that both episodes are too short with too little to do. While I found them to be of decent length for a DLC episode, I can definitely understand why someone might feel that way – indeed, the first half of Episode 1 is essentially walking from location to location with little in the way of combat.

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What I found seriously lacking in substance and cohesion, however, was the plot (spoilers to follow). With Infinite’s grand dimension-hopping and brain-bending story that puts much of modern science fiction to shame, I wondered how they would be able to build on an ending that saw Booker erased from all existence. The answer, sadly, is rather murky and contrived. Burial at Sea’s Booker /Comstock was somehow able to escape and never remember that he killed his universe’s baby Elizabeth until conveniently at the very end of the episode. The only reason all this happens is apparently just so we can play another episode as Booker – it just doesn’t make sense otherwise. The episode ends with Elizabeth watching the player get gored to death by a Big Daddy. Since this is the second time we’ve watched Booker die, this is kind of a bummer.

Episode 2 puts us in Elizabeth’s shoes as she tries to rescue a particular Little Sister from original BioShock bad guy Frank Fontaine. As a result of traveling to this particular universe where another version of her has died, she’s lost her powers of clairvoyance and tear-opening. Because, clearly, when you have an amazing video game character with unique and vast powers and abilities, you should neuter her in order to have a stealth game. The episode provides us with some interesting backstory about both Columbia and Rapture and how they’re intertwined, and in the end Elizabeth does save the little girl, but at the cost of her own life. That’s right, for the third time, the character you’ve played as the entire time bites it at the end. It was at this point I began to feel somebody was screwing with me.

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What makes the final ending nonsensical is that there’s no reason, of all the universes and all the little girls in peril, that Elizabeth would sacrifice herself in this one. We’re supposed to feel like she’s accomplished something by setting into motion events that will bring the BioShock player to Rapture and set all the Little Sisters free – except, of course, if you played through BioShock by murdering the Little Sisters to get their ADAM. I guess some clairvoyance would have been helpful there.

All in all, both episodes of Burial at Sea are fun game experiences, and if what you want is just to play in Rapture again, you’ll be satisfied. But there’s too much shoehorned continuity to make these strong additions to the BioShock Infinite story; indeed, they in essence relegate the entirety of BioShock Infinite to being a mere setup plot for BioShock 1. It’s a disservice to the amazing piece of art that Infinite remains.

 

This article was written by Jon Wells (@JonnyMicro).  If you or someone you know would like to contribute to GWW, please send an email to [email protected]

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