November 20, 2013
Unlike BioShock Infinite, where we spend almost all of our time on Columbia, Burial at Sea takes fans back to Rapture; a very different Rapture to the one we came to know in BioShock. Instead of being a disheveled city that’s fallen foul of corruption, Rapture is a thriving city beneath the sea. Booker is still a detective of sorts, haunted by images that keep appearing in his mind. He meets Elizabeth who is very different from the Elizabeth we know in Infinite. Instead she’s much more mature looking, with a much cooler demeanor. She hopes to help you find the little girl you’re looking for, but she has a mission of her own as well and she refuses to disclose anything about.
Everything’s going fine until you run into a younger version of the artistic psychopath Sander Cohen from BioShock, whose murderous antics are still just as terrifying. He requests that Booker and Elizabeth take part in his latest piece, but unfortunately their performance doesn't match Cohen’s standards and as punishment, Booker and Elizabeth are sent even further under the sea to a condemned part of Rapture where splicers have now begun to dwell.
As a whole, the story in Burial at Sea is pretty unfulfilling. Although it’s nice to play alongside a much different version of Elizabeth, it’s definitely lacking in build-up and doesn’t leave much to be desired. The nostalgia aspect of Burial at Sea is great, but it would've been nice to have revisited Fort Frolic where Jack spent most of his time with Cohen in BioShock, as opposed to a completely different area in Rapture.
Having said that, see how Rapture once was, filled with self-centered people whose greed and vanity have reached all new levels, does bring back the nostalgia. Also there are some citizens earlier on using plasmids, which certain enemies in BioShock also use. This all leads up to the actual gameplay that takes place once submerged deeper under the sea, but unfortunately it takes about half the episode to even get there.
Once in the condemned part of Rapture, where Frank Fontaine’s failed department store now resides, it’s very much like the Rapture of the original BioShock. There are a few plasmids available to use right off the bat like the Devil’s Kiss (only available in the Premium and Ultimate Songbird editions of BioShock Infinite) and the Bucking Bronco. You don’t even get access to Shock Jockey until well into the game. The controls still remain the same as in the previous title, and the gameplay is pretty much the same, but it’s only DLC so major additions weren’t expected. Still, it’s good to see certain elements return, such as Elizabeth helping from time to time. You can also use her tears, which give you access to items that can help you when you’re in need of some Eve/Health.
As for presentation, it’s almost strange that they have gone in the direction they have. After playing BioShock Infinite, the story of the DLC pretty much follows the same pattern, but the coloring of the characters and the overall feel is more akin to that of a film noir instead of the action adventure that was in BioShock Infinite. It just doesn’t seem to suit the original setting as well, but that’s more personal preference than anything else.
Still, it’s worth noting that this experience only lasts for a few hours tops, and half of that is just walking around. For the price, you’d expect something more substantial. Sure, the nostalgia is great, but expansions like this need to offer a lot more because the replay value of this expansion is pretty much non-existent.
Although BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea offers some nostalgic charm to fans of the original BioShock, it unfortunately does not deliver much else. The story isn’t extremely engaging and the artistic style doesn’t seem to work as well in Rapture. The gameplay, although fun, still suffers some of the same issues as the previous title and it’ll be interesting to see what Irrational Games does with the next episodes in the series. For the moment it might be better to wait it out a bit or at least wait until this DLC goes on offer.
BioShock: Infinite Burial at Sea - Episode One was reviewed on the Xbox 360.