This needs very little introduction, so I’ll be brief. “Bioshock Infinite” is currently my game of the year (my review for it can be read here: http://www.whatson.uk.com/blog/2013/03/bioshock-infinite-review/ and Reuben and I have been planning a video review/discussion on the game for a while), due to its fantastic story well told, solid gameplay and wonderfully inventive world. This is the first piece of story-based DLC for the game, and it’s been hotly anticipated to say the least, particularly by me. Does it meet the incredibly high standard that “Infinite” set?
“Burial at Sea” is set in Rapture; the underwater city dedicated to complete freedom for the brightest and boldest that provided the backdrop for the original “Bioshock”. It centres on “Infinite” protagonists Booker Dewitt and Elizabeth – this time recast as a noir private eye and a femme fatale respectively – as they track down a missing girl named Sally on the day before everything went wrong for Rapture- December 31st 1959. Unlike the original “Bioshock” the city is still intact and thriving, and for a little while it can be explored to your heart’s content. The first part of the DLC is all exploration and taking in the city, and it works well. The city has been built from scratch with “Infinite”‘s engine, and it looks lovely- bustling nightlife, shops to visit and one particularly memorable moment involving a waiter who uses a plasmid to teleport around to better serve his patrons. It’s great to revisit the underwater city, but unfortunately it features no areas from the original game that I was aware, and so did feel very different. The whole DLC feels very much like it takes place “Infinite”, which isn’t a problem, but anyone hoping for a return to the original game may be disappointed (more on that shortly). For now, I’ll talk about the story.
Minor spoilers for “Bioshock Infinite” ahead
As I said, the story involves Booker and Elizabeth tracking down a missing girl. What’s most interesting here is how it plays off “Infinite’s” revelation that there are literally infinite universes in the series, and without wishing to spoil the plot of this DLC, it what happens if the story followed a different thread, with interesting consequences and a whole load of new questions. The rapture shown is an interesting one, with themes relating to wrongful imprisonment for political gain, a different side to Booker and Elizabeth and an ending that was genuinely shocking and pulled the rug out from under my feet. It’s a good mystery story and the noir elements are implemented well. It’ll only really make sense to those who finished “Infinite”, but if you did, this will be a treat. It’s a continuation of the game’s themes while exploring a different path, and it does so admirably. Particularly impressive here is Elizabeth, who while fulfilling a similar role to the one she did in “Infinite”, the DLC does enough with her personality in both gameplay and story segments to feel different and interesting once again. It’s an interesting side story that uses the characters in interesting ways, but I do wish they’d used Rapture more from a story standpoint. The narrative focuses on Booker and Elizabeth, which is great, but the city could have been used more.
The spoilers for “Bioshock Infinite” have ended now. Besides, it came out ages ago. If you haven’t finished it yet, why not?
Moving on to the gameplay side of things, it’ll be instantly familiar to anyone familiar with “Infinite”, as things haven’t changed much. The combat is pretty much the same frantic mix of gunplay, vigors (this time called “Plasmids” due to the change of scenery, although they’re still drinkable, and so don’t come in the original game’s big, nasty syringe form) but with two main differences. Well, three really, but I’ll get to the third in a minute. Firstly, you are no longer limited to two weapons at a time. You can now bring up a radial menu a la the original “Bioshock” to select from a number of weapons, however you can only quick select between two at once. This is a nice addition that helped me out in a few firefights, and was definitely welcome. The other main change is that ammo is far more limited this time around. This combined with the third change in that you’re fighting splicers (the original game’s enemies- people who took one plasmid too many and became crazed psychopaths) give proceedings more of a horror feel, and this definitely works in the game’s favour. You can feel secure, but never fully comfortable. Ammo in vending machines is cheap, but you can’t hold much and you’ll use it up rather quickly. I mentioned earlier that people hoping for a return to the original “Bioshock” will be disappointed, and that’s because it still doesn’t feature any hacking, and has very limited plasmids. It plays very much like “Infinite”, and if you didn’t enjoy how that game played, the change of scenery won’t help you. Skyhooks also return with a different look and a new name, and are this time mainly relegated to reaching high areas rather than combat involving zipping around on skylines. I felt they were used just enough given the setting, but if you loved the skylines you may be disappointed.
The main negative point is that the whole thing isn’t very long. It can easily be completed in a couple of hours, and at £11.99 (in the UK) it may seem like a pretty bad deal. However, like the “Dead Space 3” DLC I reviewed a few months ago, I say that if you are interested in the DLC, you shouldn’t let this stop you.
Overall, Burial at Sea is a triumph, but slightly disappointing in places. The characterisation of Booker and Elizabeth is interesting and very well done, and feels different enough to “Infinite” to be noteworthy. It’s nice to be fighting splicers again, but the length and fact that the city isn’t used as much as it could be made me really want to play through the original game again. It plays a lot like “Infinite”, but that’s by no means a bad thing. It’s a very interesting side-story with good gameplay, a good story and great presentation.
By James Lambert