BioShock Infinite was almost universally adored when it was released earlier this year. Sure, some people – myself included – had small problems with the combat, but overall it was a solid game with an absolutely stunning story. So when Irrational Games announced that they would be adding to the story, with an episodic piece of single-player DLC, people were understandably over the moon; who wouldn’t love to get back into the crazy world of BioShock, accompanied, once again, by Elizabeth? However, is this the same Elizabeth that we all fell in love with? Who knows.
The game starts out like a 50’s private detective noir. Elizabeth walks through the door of Booker’s office and asks him for his help in tracking down a young girl called Sally. It’s quickly evident that this young girl means something to Booker, although it isn’t immediately revealed what the connection is. That’s the fun of it though: from the moment you step back into the shoes of Booker DeWitt, you know that something isn’t quite right. If you’ve played through to the end of the main game, you’ll understand completely why things don’t sit right. Elizabeth has walked through your door, but she’s different, she talks different and walks different. She’s not the same innocent young woman that you rescued from the clutches of the Songbird, she’s a feisty woman who knows exactly what she wants and exactly how she’s going to get it.
The story, as has come to be expected from the BioShock series, is excellent. While the DLC on the whole is rather short – with a very abrupt ending – you really can’t fault the story and the revelation at the end. It doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the ending to the BioShock Infinite storyline, but it’s certainly enjoyable and well worth the two hours or so it’ll take to get there. Whether it’s worth the £11.99 price tag, however, is up to the individual.
In addition to the story, Burial at Sea still has the same visual charm that the main game did. This time, however, we’re returning to Rapture instead of the floating city of Columbia and – to be honest – it’s a little bit disappointing. The visuals are impressive in Rapture, being able to look out of the windows and seeing skyscrapers crowding the ocean floor is fun, but it’s not even close to the grandeur of Columbia. The architecture was more visually appealing and, for once, we weren’t playing a first person shooter in a variety of dimly lit corridors. While it’s nice to revisit Rapture, a clear fan-favourite, it does feel like a little bit of a step back in terms of design.
Rapture isn’t exactly as people will remember it, though. A lot of it is, but in order to allow for the advancements in gameplay that BioShock Infinite made – including objects such as the Skyhook, now called the “Air Grabber” – some of the rooms have been fitted with sky-rails. This can be a little jarring at first, especially for people that may have been expecting the Rapture that they knew and loved, but the additions have been made to keep the entire experience more in line with BioShock Infinite rather than the first game, so it will be seen as a change for the better for many.
Everything else is exactly as you would expect it to be back in Rapture. The enemies you’ll be facing off against are the Splicers we love to hate and the powers you’ll utilise to take them down are Plasmids instead of Vigors. There’s even a brand new Plasmid to add to your arsenal in the form of Old Man Winter, a Plasmid based on an idea from a Reddit user that was modified into a pretty crucial aspect of the game (and people say developers don’t listen to their community!). Old Man Winter allows Booker to freeze particular sections of water to make a bridge Elizabeth and he can cross, whilst also freezing the enemies in his path, allowing him to smash them into tiny pieces with a swing of the Skyhook/Air Grabber. While this new Plasmid certainly is fun to use, the rest of the powers at your disposal will have been used all the way through BioShock Infinite.
If you’re the type of person who likes to wander off of the beaten path from time to time, you’ll find a couple of things to keep you occupied in Rapture. There are Kinetoscopes dotted around the area, little videos for you to watch and collect, contributing towards an achievement that’s attainable once you’ve collected them all. There’s nothing as interesting as the behind the scenes videos from Clash in the Clouds, but it’s still something for the player who likes collecting stuff. The audio logs are back too, and are slightly more interesting than the videos – mostly as they can often add interesting titbits to the story – but they’re often in difficult to reach places. Good for the player who enjoys seeking them out, not as good for the player who wants all of the story without having to play through the game two or three times to find them all. There’s something here everyone will love, but there’re also plenty of things that could have been done just that little bit better.
VERDICT: The main gripe that people are going to have with Episode One of Burial at Sea is the paltry length of the story. Many will be able to reach the end in less than two hours, and almost 30 minutes of that has no combat whatsoever. The story is stunning, as we’ve come to expect, but it doesn’t quite scale the heights of the main game’s campaign. It’s nice to see Rapture again, but I hope that if there’s any more DLC after Burial at Sea is completed with Episode 2, the developers see fit to return to Columbia, or even give us something completely new.
Still, despite the short length of the DLC, and the pretty hefty price tag, you’re getting an amazing single-player experience with characters we’ve come to adore, and there’s no doubt that the ending of Episode One will leave you frothing at the mouth for the second outing.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.