Beta’d Review: BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA Episode 1
by Malik Forté on November 13, 2013
PlayStation 4 this, Xbox One that, everywhere you turn, one of the new consoles is somewhere in the discussion. Not to be veiled by the cyclone of anticipation from this week’s jump into next-gen, Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea is out and aims to expand on one of this current generation’s most solid titles. The second of three DLC releases and the first of a two part series, Burial at Sea takes players on a trip to very familiar territory. Does Irrational Games succeed at again delivering that Bioshock level of excellence? Let’s take an in-depth look at the first episode of the spanking new story-based DLC.
We return to everyone’s favorite highbrow, Art Deco inspired, underwater utopia, Rapture, to further frolic about with our hero Booker DeWitt (a seemingly different Booker than the one in Infinite). He arrives in the city hours before the civil war that imminently ravages it is to begin. Right off the bat, you run into Elizabeth, whom as you can imagine doesn’t recognize you, but rather requests your assistance in locating a little girl named Sally. All the makings of a noir-esque sleuth drama are crammed into the beginning of Burial At Sea and are a welcome change of pace for Bioshock.
For the first time, we get the delight of witnessing Rapture in its heyday, when the city was flourishing and overflowing (no pun intended) with the elitist ideals Andrew Ryan always babbled about in the original game. It’s a thing of beauty, and proved to be quite successful in immediately vacuuming me into the atmosphere. But not too long after being absorbed into this neo-Rapture, you start to hear the townsfolk speak ill about Andrew Ryan and his ambitions. You also learn that Sander Cohen (the devious artist mentioned in the previous games) is still breathing, and from that point on, everything in Burial At Sea takes a rapid turn to tedium, as your very brief visit to golden aged-Rapture is halted abruptly when Booker is deployed in a ruined, abandoned corner of the city.
This is where the fighting begins, and you’re now able to utilize the game’s combat system, which has changed slightly from what you may have remembered. Plasmids have been reintroduced, replacing Infinite’s “vigors” and adding a new ice plasmid to the mix. The Skyhook has also been replaced with the “Air Grabber,” which is functionally identical (and most of the time unnecessary) to its Infinite counterpart. Given that you’re back in Rapture, you’re once again able to exploit the environment to gain the edge on opponents. Electrocuting enemies who like to hang out in puddles of water, for instance, is still absurdly effective and pleasing.
The two-gun limit that made Infinite a pain in the arse has been remedied, and now Booker can haul his entire weapon loadout with him. Not that things are any more challenging this time around, as the amount of enemies you square off against has been quite noticeably reduced. Dispatching them is as easy as picking up and eating a good ol’ floor-sandwich, especially when you utilize Elizabeth’s bizarre, Samurai-summoning tear abilities. I’m sure Irrational was aiming for a certain style of pacing by reducing the amount of enemies, but the end result saw the chapter becoming far too simple, tedious and boring.
With the combat not selling the game in full scope, I was heavily reliant on the narrative aspects of Burial at Sea to bring some freshness and authenticity to the mix. This didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated, as the storyline proved to be very predictable, following the same storytelling methodology as Infinite. Not to say the plot-line was unsatisfactory, but it was certainly not compelling, due to the fact that as the story progressed, I found myself subconsciously preparing myself for the steep climax that would to come to fruition.
I blame most of this on Burial at Sea‘s length, which is only a short two hours of gameplay. While two hours is a good length for story-based content, the connect-the-dots approach to storytelling isn’t as engrossing when there’s so little time to flesh out plot points. I appreciate Irrational Games’ willingness to take risk with their narrative, but Burial At Sea‘s developments felt like forceful yet unnecessary attempts to captivate in a small time frame. Overall, this DLC turned out to be a small chunk of “more of the same,” lacking a true cliffhanger by using predictable plot-twist to enthrall players. The downside to that is that one can only take so many unwarranted twists before they become dizzy, disoriented and annoyed.
Burial at Sea goes the distance in terms of fan service. It’s an immensely scenic trip back down Bioshock memory lane with Infinite‘s unique combat style, pacing, and memorable characters. But the trip back to pre-devastated Rapture was all too short, and the gameplay and story that followed the small bit of tourism failed to validate the existence of this DLC expansion. This is just episode one of two, and there’s still a slight chance Irrational Games could somehow make this DLC story interesting. If you’re a die-hard Bioshock fan looking to return to the city where it all began, you’ll likely find fulfillment in the Burial At Sea adventure. Otherwise, this add-on lacks anything gripping enough to warrant an immediate journey back into the wonderful world of Bioshock.