Video Games

Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode One

     Burial at Sea – Episode One is Irrational Games’ second piece of DLC for Bioshock Infinite. It follows the arena combat of Clash in the Clouds – my thoughts on which you can read here – and it represents the first half of a two-part tale to be concluded with the forthcoming third piece of content. Burial eschews Infinite’s Columbia for a return to Rapture, the setting of the first two games in the series. It isn’t quite the same place as it was during those two titles, though, as Burial at Sea takes place before the first game, and thus before the catastrophic events that turned Rapture into the hellish metropolis players are familiar with.

I won’t get into the story too much, but players assume the role of an alternate reality Booker Bioshock Old Man WinterDeWitt, and are accompanied by a similarly “Rapture-fied” version of Infinite sidekick Elizabeth, who functions just as she did in that game. Much like the main title, you’ll control Booker as he battles his way past enemies and obstacles using guns and powers. A handful of vigors from Infinite return as plasmids so that they fit within the Rapture setting. Old Man Winter is the DLC’s new plasmid, and it’s enjoyable enough, though it’s essentially the same as Winter Blast from the first two games, allowing players to freeze and shatter enemies. As far as additions go, a new weapon called the Radar Range is a bit more interesting. It’s basically a microwave gun that cooks enemies from the inside out, eventually causing them to explode and damage any other foes in close enough proximity. It doesn’t revolutionize the Bioshock Infinite combat experience or anything, but it’s decently fun to use, especially in conjunction with vigors -Bucking Bronco in particular.

If you played Bioshock Infinite then you pretty much know what you’re getting here gameplay-wise. The sky-hook returns as the “Air-Grabber” and can be used in melee combat as well as to ride around on Rapture’s Pheumo-Tube rails, just in the same way as Columbia’s sky-lines. Such sequences are still fun but they’re rare and brief and Rapture’s dark confines strip them of the unbridled majesty they possessed in Columbia’s wide open vistas. Of course you’re battling splicers now instead of Columbia’s denizens, but like most other aspects of the game, this doesn’t really alter things in any meaningful way. I was rather pleased to see the weapon wheel return, albeit playing host to a slightly truncated arsenal. There are five firearms in Burial at Sea, and unlike Infinite proper, you’ll be able to carry them all at once. I didn’t have a huge problem with Infinite’s two weapon limit, as I thought it worked within that game’s faster, more on-the-fly combat. However there’s no denying that having the full complement of arms at all times is fun, and indeed more “Bioshock-y.” I liked having more tools at my disposal and thus more choices for dealing with each enemy encounter.

Rapture truly is an amazing place. It’s probably my favorite video game setting of all time. Returning Bioshock Burial at Seathere for this DLC was fun, and it was especially cool to experience the city before its great fall. Free of leaks and junkies, and instead vibrant, and full of NPCs – this is a fresh and cool way to experience the town. Unfortunately that particular portion of the game is quite brief and it isn’t long before you’re ushered off to a portion of Rapture that’s been jettisoned and sunk and as such is basically the exact same as the post-fall city. Even more unfortunate, this section of city isn’t as exciting or interesting as it was when it first debuted or even as it was in Bioshock 2. It’s still a strong setting that bests most of its peers, but the innards of Frank Fontaine’s department store cum-prison can’t hang with Arcadia, Fort Frolic, Siren’s Alley, and so on.

Even more unfortunate is the game’s length. To put it bluntly, Burial at Sea is very short. As with all Bioshock titles, I took my sweet, sweet time, exploring every nook and cranny, pillaging everything in sight and listening to every audio diary. I beat the game in just under four hours. After the credits rolled, I jumped back in and within 10 minutes knocked out the last two achievements I had left. Done. Game over. No real reason to go back and play again. Less meticulous players will likely reach the credits in two hours or less.

I’m assuming that most people reading this did not purchase the Bioshock Infinite Season Pass securing them all three pieces of DLC, and as such are deciding whether or not Burial at Sea Part One is worth a purchase. I opted for the pass and I feel as if this, like Clash in the Clouds is a decent buy at the reduced price. Most people who followed suit are probably fairly serious Bioshock fans who will feel at least marginally satisfied with this quick return to Rapture, for what amounts to less than seven dollars. However I can’t really recommend the game at fifteen bucks to non-pass holders. It’s just too short for the asking price. It also simply fails to be compelling enough during its quick play time. I believe even a short game like Journey can be worth a higher price if the experience is strong enough, but while solid, Burial at Sea does not achieve the same status. Hardcore Bioshock fans dying for a return to Rapture should probably just grab the pass and get this and part two when it’s released. Perhaps once paired with its second chapter this first segment will feel less awkward and more satisfying. For now, I think everyone else should steer clear.

*reviewed on an Xbox 360*