Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode One Review

[As Read on GIO.]

I’ll admit it outright- I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite’s first story-based downloadable content, although I recognized that it was pretty short, and I would’ve rather had the first of the two Burial at Sea episodes made into one DLC for a longer experience and a more worthwhile one. The second part has yet to release, so we’ve been left sort of hanging- hoping that it proves to be better than this first one, however, I’ve given this one a decent score as it does well what little it does new, and keeps the same refined tone and quality for what is old that it continues. The setting returns to Rapture for the third time, or the first- depending on how you view it I suppose, and brings the almost lighter artistic style of Infinite to the previously quick dark and gothic place under the sea. A fresh coat of paint however, like the beginning of Bioshock Infinite on Columbia, does not cover up the roiling and raging problems beneath- which soon overflow violently like the seas that surround them. The same could be said about this first episodic part of the story-driven Burial at Sea content.

This particular Booker and Elizabeth are obviously not the same Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth from the main portion of Infinite’s storyline- therefore immediately solidifying the theory of infinite realities. This Booker DeWitt has come to live in Rapture- the amazing city under the sea featured in the first two Bioshock games, and manages to witness the the city in all of its splendor before and during its fall. It has yet to be reclaimed by the hellish ocean surrounding it, and yet to be destroyed by genetically mutated scavengers and the civil war breaking out like it has been seen to do across the first and second Bioshock games. However, you will see some of this begin by the end of this episode. Plasmids are not used for battle, but instead make everyday tasks simpler for Rapture’s inhabitants. Big Daddies patrol the outer hallways, making sure everything is secure as needed. Much like the introduction to Bioshock Infinite, where we witnessed the splendor of Columbia, it is a shame that we ultimately know what is inevitably coming- yet we are powerless to stop it, and can only explore and enjoy things while they last. This time around, in a shoutout to the first and second Bioshock games, you can discover audio logs around Rapture in your introductory moments as well.

The now detective-like versions of Booker and Elizabeth- of which I actually enjoyed more than the main story’s versions, model-wise, though not narrative wise- are called together to investigate the disappearance of a specific little girl, thought to be found in a prison below the majority of Rapture’s populace. As to be expected with a story-based DLC, you should focus on finishing or playing the main story first if you haven’t yet done so, before attempting to play through this one. After all, it only makes sense cannon-wise that way, for the majority of things to be seen, both big and small here. This isn’t just a rehashing of the main game though- despite the characters being the same and similar, because they’ve all got significantly different motivations this time around. Although you will have to wait for the next episode to see how the story plays out, so far, that aspect at least, is well written and well done.

Once you manage to make it to the lower regions of Rapture, you begin to see that things really aren’t as idyllic and complacent as they are above, on the surface of the city. The prison area looks just like any other area of the previous two games, with rubble strewn everywhere and corpses dangling from more locations than you can count- making every Fallout raider proud of their splicer cousins no doubt. There’s not much more to peel away from the Rapture onion, as we’ve seen just about all of its layers by now- so this new setting doesn’t really come as a shock to players who’ve already experienced the entire series, although it might for gamers who’ve only played through Infinite prior to starting the DLC. Rapture is as enthralling as ever, but it comes off as a little more of the same instead of anything truly fresh, aside from the well-penned story.

Simultaneously one of the most and least changed aspects of the DLC is is the approach to combat encounters. Combat and action oriented encounters remain mostly the same as they are in Bioshock Infinite, with rail-riding, tear traveling, and plenty of cannon fodder to quench your thirst for blood. Some tweaking though, has managed to liven combat up a little more, and address some of the main concerns about the combat in the main story as well as add in some requested things from the previous games as well. You can have more than two equipped weapons, as the weapon wheel from previous games returns with an added focus on swapping and switching weapons on the fly and as you discover new areas and enemies. However, with this new found sense of swapping necessity, there is less ammunition to be found in the noir setting- meaning you are essentially forced to swap out weapons whether you want to or not, as you will likely die otherwise. You’ll finally appreciate Elizabeth finding resources and stuff for you, as you’ll need it much more this time around.A few other interesting tidbits have been added, such as a Radar Gun that turns your enemies into exploding meat packages, and a new plasmid called Old Man Winter- essentially the same as the wintery blasts from the first few Bioshock games.

Despite these new additions however, the experience comes off as a little hit and miss for the most part, as it seeks to take the best of both worlds- or in this case the first and most recent games, and combine them together. However, it doesn’t necessarily succeed in doing so, mainly because it provides you with too few resources while exacting a higher toll in return. Sure, you get a new gun and a new plasmid option, but you start off with fewer than the ones available to you in the main story content. Overall, the gameplay remains tense and the atmosphere is excellently crafted in this faithful return to Rapture after so long, however, some things just don’t add up and should really have been addressed differently in my opinion. As it is, this is DLC of a pretty fine quality, despite some misgivings I may have concerning it, and I’m glad they’ve decided to release it- all two parts. I find myself looking forward more and more to what comes next with part two, and seeing if this endeavor pays off or not…

Concept: The long-awaited triumphant return to Rapture- not as Jack or a Big Daddy, but as a newer version of Booker and Elizabeth- this time as a noir detective duo investigating the disappearance of a special little girl.

Graphics: It’s nice to finally see the underwater would-be utopia prospering, even if it is only a guise which it covers its flaws in, and it’s nice to see some new areas that aren’t simply the destroyed sections of the previous games made new. Sure, it’s all the same and you eventually find yourself trudging through areas scarily similar to those of the first game, but it’s nostalgic at least.

Sound: Expect the same voice acting quality and caliber work of the main game to be found here, as the respective actors of Booker and Elizabeth reprise their roles with much gusto.

Playability: It’s nice to see a little hint of the old combine with the new in terms of the addition of the weapons wheel, however, nothing else has changed so much as been tweaked slightly in terms of combat and any other needed skills. Some things are new, but the core controls are all the same.

Entertainment: The combat is more of the quality work depicted in the previous games and in Infinite’s main story, and the narrative that is to be found in this brief downloadable content is well written thus far, although you’ll have to wait until episode two to see how anything pans out and plays out. I’m interested to see what comes, and I hope it comes across as bigger than this beginning story rather than some cheap thrills and parlor tricks overall.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

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